Sebastian Rodriguez (left) and Adrien Adi at the bar, which opened earlier this month.
Sebastian Rodriguez (left) and Adrien Adi at the bar, which opened earlier this month. Hong Menea

At La Pétanque, having a ball à la Francaise

On Tuesday this week, Adrien Adi was putting the final touches on the bar he co-owns and just opened – a hangout spot dedicated to the French game of pétanque. It is the only bar in town that provides its patrons with the sand pit and apple-sized iron balls that are the key components to the game, which is also called bocce or boules.

“We’ve just opened for one week, so there’s a lot to do,” Adi said, as he installed hooks to hang black-and-white photographs of his countrymen playing the game, while also keeping an eye on his 3-month-old French-Cambodian daughter. His business partner, Sebastian Rodriguez, was at the bar preparing for the evening service.

When the two would-be restaurateurs arrived in Cambodia to visit a French-Cambodian friend after a Southeast Asia travelling tour, they discovered that starting a business, even for foreigners, is relatively easy in Cambodia.

So they settled in Phnom Penh and helped to open Banh Mi & Bros, a restaurant serving Vietnamese sandwiches that opened on Street 63 before expanding to Russian Market. They have since sold the restaurant and have shifted their focus to the bar business.

“We wanted to do something different,” Rodriguez said. “We wanted to do something we are really passionate about.”

Since they were boys running around in Paris, the two friends have loved playing pétanque. Rodriquez used to play almost every day in his hometown and the game is one of Adi’s favourite hobbies, along with watching and helping his mother cook. They quickly discovered that French colonialism had left an impact on local recreation and that Cambodians still enjoy playing the game, which inspired the idea for the bar.

The sand pit, where patrons can play pétanque with friends.
The sand pit, where patrons can play pétanque with friends. Hong Menea

In true French style, Adi and Rodriguez recommend sipping Pastis ($1.5) or Ricard ($2) while playing, but they also offer cocktails like caipirinhas and margaritas ($3.5 each). The menu includes snacks like chicken fingers ($3.5), as well as a charcuterie plate ($6.5) with chorizo, cured ham and dry cured sausage, along with a baguette, olives and salted butter.

“My mom’s home-cooked food is really good, and we are trying to do the same here,”Adi said. “Our food combined with simple decoration gives the clients a warm, homelike atmosphere.”

There are also other games to play at La Pétanque, such as UNO, darts and Jenga, but the main attraction is clear.

“In our country, pétanque is for holiday, summer and having fun,” Rodriguez says. “People here also love it, so we want to give them a nice place to play.”

La Petanque is open every day from 4pm to midnight. It is located at #203, Street 155 in Toul Tompoung. Tel: 096 785 8641

Additional reporting by Cindy Co