Housed in an elegant renovated 19th-century building, the newest Khéma restaurant – a French-inspired eatery from Thalias Hospitality Group – is the latest addition to the revived Post Office Square.
Khéma La Poste had its soft opening two weeks ago, marking the beginning of a planned expansion of “the Khéma brand” across Cambodia, said General Manager Nov Sambo.
Since opening a location two years ago, on the ground floor of the Arunreas Hotel on Street 51, the French-styled eatery has established itself as a gourmet deli-restaurant among Thalias Hospitality Group’s other high-end brands like Topaz and Malis.
Much like the Street 51 location, the new and much larger Khéma La Poste will offer patrons a selection of European cheeses, cold-cuts, pastries and breads at its first-floor deli counter. Of course, beyond the deli it’s a rather fancy sit-down affair, despite Sambo’s insistence that it’s “mid-range”.
It will also give customers living in Tuol Kork and on Chroy Changvar closer proximity to Khéma’s offerings, Sambo said.
The menus at both restaurants will be uniform after the scheduled grand opening of Khéma La Poste on the second of next month. It features the expected French fare such as faux-filet and entrecote steaks made from Australian beef served with salad and fries ($8 and $12), which, combined with a glass of the house merlot ($4.6), makes for the kind of hearty lunch a Parisian office worker might enjoy.
Departing somewhat from strictly French cuisine, the restaurant also has its share of pastas and salads – such as the all-American Cobb salad ($8) – as well as Cambodian classics such as kuy teav (noodle soup, $3.50) on the breakfast menu to cater to the area’s wandering tourists. To finish, the lemon tart ($2) – a favourite of Sambo’s – makes for a satisfying and not overly sweet choice from the pastry shelf.
While the some might argue the expat-filled Boeung Keng Kang area is “the heart” of the city, Sambo said the historical charm of the former French quarter has potential for a revival of sorts.
“People who come to Phnom Penh especially like to pack their sight-seeing [in] with Phnom Penh’s history, and apart from Royal Palace and National Museum, Wat Phnom is the city centre, actually,” she said.
This, Sambo continued, is despite the neighbouring red-light district, which has been the subject of incessant questioning from business partners and friends.
“Why not bring up this area to be livelier, and not think about the red light district?” she asked.
According to records obtained by Thalias, the building itself was once the freight storehouse for the Messageries Fluviales de Cochinchine (Cochinchina Riverine Shipping Company) established in 1881 – the front end of which no longer exists.
Prior to its purchase and subsequent transformation last year, the building had been a Moroccan-themed nightclub, of which there is hardly a trace besides some patterned mouldings and metal fixings. The soft but brightly lit interior sports an otherwise modern European aesthetic with decorative arches and exposed brick.
The upstairs, which is not yet fully opened, features a skylight, giving it an atrium-like feeling, as well as several private rooms.
Whether for a lunch in which you can comfortably look out on the old structures of the Post Office square, or for your takeaway, cheese and charcuterie needs, Khéma La Poste is a welcome new outpost of Arnaud Darc’s Thalias Group. It won’t be the newest for long, however, with another location planned for Siem Reap by the start of next year.
Khéma La Poste is located at #41 Street 13, on the corner with Street 98, and is open daily from 6am-10:30pm. Tel. +855 (0) 15 841 888