A bar, restaurant and cinema
The streets behind Phnom Penh‘s riverside are a microcosm of the city — there’s karaoke, street food, hostess bars, fast food joints, hairdressers, hotels and tailors. In all the excitement, it might be easy to overlook The Empire, a small bar, restaurant and cinema squeezed into a regular sized shopfront two blocks from the main promenade. Which may explain why there’s a rather large banner outside, to make sure you can find it.
The two outside tables are perfect for whiling away an hour or so over a long lazy lunch, while inside has air-con and WiFi. The walls are lined with favourite cult movie posters, a nod to the bijou cinema upstairs. In the evening, the cool blue lighting and drinks specials make this a perfect place for dinner or a pre-film aperitif with nachos (which you can order into the cinema too).
The menu gives very good value for money — the Empire Curry ($5) is served up in a big clay pot and should satisfy the hungriest stomach. Even better, the daily specials take the meals into the crazy good value zone, with Mad Monday providing a 50% discount on a nominated dish. We like the recommendations of wine to accompany each Khmer menu item, and the selection of local soups and salads alongside the mains. Western tastes and steak lovers are catered for too, and there’s ice-cream to completely finish you off. If you’re not a wine drinker, invite the lime mint cooler to have a little party in your mouth or try the signature Empire Cocktail made from fresh sugarcane juice, vodka, Bacardi, Triple Sec, lime and a sugarcane stirrer.
Make a night of it by rolling upstairs to their cinema and get yourself comfy among the cushions. A good film is a great aid to digestion, and with a cover charge of $3.50 per day, not per movie, you can always stay for the second (or third) showing. See screening times.
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 1st February, 2016.