As the sun goes down over Toul Tom Pong, the lights on a little lane to the south of Russian Market start to twinkle, beckoning all those who’ve been slaving feverishly over hot computers all day to get together in one of the most convivial — and, dare we say, congenial — gathering spots in town.
Until just eight months ago, Toul Tom Pong Lane was a blink-and-you-miss-it little cul de sac where market traders stored their wares. But then Seb and Adi took over a space at the end and opened Le Pétanque, a super social bar complete, naturellement, with Phnom Penh’s only pétanque pitch. If that seems a little too energetic, they also have a darts board though given the prices of their cocktails ($3 to $3.50 for a range of classics such as mojitos, caipirinhas, white Russians and margaritas), who knows what could happen later in the evening.
A little while later, two more bars joined in, with Fizz from the people behind Miam Eatery and Drinks on Street 278, and O’Tapas pulling up their shutters, thus establishing the trend that looks set to continue. Supreme Burgers and Cheesecakes is already mid-way through putting together their new outlet, and we don’t doubt that more will soon follow.
Fizz is a cosy cocktail and shots bar which, we are reliably told, serves up one of the greater G&Ts in Phnom Penh. They also make a specialty out of a unique range of punch bowls to share ($14 for 4 people, $18 for 6), with blends you won’t find on many other cocktail lists, such as a Fish House (cognac, apricot brandy, lime, bitters and soda) and a Polish Spring Punch (vodka, Chambord, lime, sugar and sparkling wine).
Next door, O’Tapas is a modern, open space offering smooth beats, cool drinks and bite-sized snacks. A delicious tapas selection (from $1 to $8) includes teriyaki cheesy beef skewers, patatas bravas, pan con tomate, a charcuterie platter, and even a roasted Camembert. The dessert menu features ice cream and sorbets and classics such as a banana split and Dame Blanche. They also do excellent specials taking in the flavours of the world, such as a recent grilled chicken with green sauce (mayo, parsley, garlic, pepper), okra and roasted banana ($4.50).
From a sleepy side-street, this little lane is transforming into a genuine social hub, with the intimate feel of a shared secret and a growing array of choices. The atmosphere is relaxed, gentle and utterly lacking in pretension, a comfortable and comforting foil to Phnom Penh’s trend-driven path to gentrification.
The lights go on on TTP Lane seven days a week, starting at 5pm.