Expat life is associated with a peculiar kind of nostalgia; every change comes with twice as many complaints about the way things “used to be.” For pampered expats in Cambodia’s capital, this nostalgia is particularly strong around wine and cheese nights.
For several years, the flagship “wine and cheese night” was immodestly hosted by the Intercontinental Hotel on the last Wednesday of every month. A selection of imported wines and cheeses that could not be found at local grocery stores were set out, as well as fancy nibbles like smoked salmon and raclette with ham, potatoes, and gherkins. For a long time, this two-and-a-half hour event was a relatively affordable $25, making it the place to be seen and catch up with expats across the spectrum from Embassy workers to teachers. In 2013, the price started creeping up to $35, and the crowd thinned considerably. Finally, the Intercon’s monthly wine and cheese night came to an end in December 2014, in favor of less regular “Wine, cheese and All That Jazz.” But at $45++ for only three hours to get your fill, the sparkle was off. The most recent “All that Jazz” was in March 2015 and no others have been announced since (we’ve been checking).
Khema in Aeon Mall was the new hope of wine and cheese lovers in Phnom Penh (and one of the only reasons besides the movie theater and Japanese dollar stores we brave the parking lots at Aeon). Khema offered a $20 wine, cheese, and charcuterie night every Thursday, and rightfully suggested phoning ahead to make reservations after word got out in its first few weeks. Although the only wine on offer was their Hobnob “house” red or white, the staff were generally friendly and attentive about refills of wine, bread and meat, and cheese. Unfortunately, this also seems to have been unsustainable, as Khema Aeon has closed. Khema is to have a second incarnation on Streets 51 and 242 in the ground floor of the Aruneas Hotel (across the street from International SOS Clinic) with a deli and wine and cheese offerings, but it remains to be seen whether the $20 wine and cheese nights will return in the new location.
New on the scene is a cheese and charcuterie boat cruise aboard the Kanika on Wednesday evenings for $20. You can request either a mixed meat and cheese board, or just one or the other each time. Drinks are not included, but the house red was decent and $4 per glass, and draft beers and cocktails are also available from the bar onboard. We found the staff a little slow — the whole hour and forty-five minute boat ride allowed only two rounds of cheese, meat, or cheese-and-charcuterie — but the selection was generous and very tasty and our feedback about the service seemed constructively received so look forward to great bang for your buck here. The meats are from French-Khmer butcher and charcutier La Tradicion and the cheeses are imported from France. The Kanika leaves from the tour-boat section of Riverside (across from Wat Phnom) at 7 p.m., and reservations are recommended.
Have we somehow missed an underground Phnom Penh all-you-can-eat-and-drink wine and cheese event? Please let us know! Until then, we will keep buying our wine and cheese retail (stay tuned for a post on where to buy the best cheese and charcuterie in Phnom Penh).
Sisowath Quay, north of Street 94 intersection, Phnom Penh
T: 017 915 812; 089 848 959