Photo: Wat Lanka, Phnom Penh.

Bassac Lane

Brilliant bar hopping

Bassac Lane, Tonle Bassac

Bassac Lane

The narrow lanes around the leafy residential area of Tonle Bassac are home to a slew of cool bars and hot restaurants that are sleek, intimate, modern and buzzing, and the coolest of them all are to be found on Bassac Lane.

On a narrow little off-shoot from the leafy, once mainly residential Street 308, 2015-minted Bassac Lane is a neat little enclave where a motley collection of what can only be described as boutique bars sit shoulder to shoulder. Here is a home away from home for Phnom Penh’s in crowd, and a respite from the clamorous streets for the rest of us.

Books and wine at The Library. There is more to life, sure, but why?

Books and wine at The Library. There is more to life, sure, but why confuse things?

We tried to mind the fact that it almost looks like someone opened up a bar design catalogue and randomly decided on “that one, that one and that one”; these places are so highly conceptualised they virtually squeak. But there’s something about the scale of them that overruled our reservations. They’re all small spaces, and the result is that on quiet early and mid-week nights, you feel a sense of almost clubbish intimacy, while on busy weekends, the social atmosphere is infectious, spilling from one bar to the next as indeed you might yourself.

Harry's - Martinis and antiques; our cocktail glass runneth over.

Harry’s. Martinis and antiques; our cocktail glass runneth over.

Centre of them all, Hangar 44 is a dark cavern of sleek metallic lines and modish motorbikes. Hangar 44 is much more cool than hip, and we love it all the more for that, though don’t ask us to define the distinction, please. The motorbikes are not just there for show either, they’re for sale. This is also the showroom for Moto Cambodge, a custom motorbike outfit, in case you get an urge to take the long way home.

Next door, Harry’s offers up an eclectic array of antique exotica, all of which is also for sale. It’s a gorgeous soft wooden space and the most naturally sophisticated of the lot. Great fun to explore, though be careful, the mixture of beautiful objets and one G&T too many could get costly. Upstairs the rooftop martini bar is a generously open space that offers a great deal in small party potential.

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Cool urban vibes at Meat & Drink.

On the opposite side of the lane, The Library is a cool haven for bibliophiles, or those looking for involved conversations that last all night. It’s an open space around one long table that allows you to get intimate with your friends or branch out and connect with others. With all the book titles on the wall to choose from, opening lines are going to be a cinch. Or you could take a place at the window, and watch the crowd at Meat & Drink while they watch the guys at Hangar 44.

Meat & Drink offers up a cool metal and glass-fronted space with a more urban feel, and is the only bar in the area that serves food and delicious air-con. Their burgers are very highly recommended, or you can customise your own salads and wraps. We love the interior, but on cool nights their outdoor terrace is a great spot from which to soak up some vibes.

For more sophisticated souls, the gin and wine den at Cicada offers a smart space designed around gentle distinctions in black and white. This is less “party” than the other spots, which is not to say that it doesn’t get lively too on the weekends.

seibur1

Aperol, lemons and a whiz of a bartender at Seibur.

There are many contestants for smallest bar in the world, and while the space at Seibur might not win the crown on dimensions alone, if loveliness were an additional factor then it would certainly be in with a chance of a win. The space, which is roughly big enough for a party of 15 good friends who don’t mind standing, might be tiny, but it is in no way naif, and offers a quiet sophisticated spot in which to get your night rolling. It feels a little like a mini-yacht club, albeit without the loud braying. At least, there was none on the night that we were there. There’s more room outside, which also offers a prime people-watching platform.

Chez Flo, where everything feels easy.

Chez Flo, where everything feels easy.

If none of the above swing your boat, you could always check out Red Bar or Chez Flo on Street 308. Red Bar is as straightforward as it gets in this part of the world, and a favoured hang-out for Phnom Penh media junkies. Beers and margaritas are cheap here, and we’re not saying that has anything to do with it. Meanwhile Chez Flo is a relaxed, slightly quirky and very friendly little green space that sits comfortably in our short list of favourite bars in Phnom Penh. On top of a short wine, beer and cocktail list, they also offer meat and cheese platters, and have specials nights with oysters and more.

All of the Bassac Lane bars are open Tuesday to Sunday, from 17:00 to 23:00. Red Bar is open daily from 17:00 to midnight, while Chez Flo is open Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 14:00 and 17:00 to midnight, and on Saturdays from 17:00 until midnight. And do note that Irina's is just up the road if you're after a more substantial meal -- some pelmeni could be just the ticket to fill one's tum before a few cocktails; or try some dumplings at Mama Wong's.

Hangar 44, Harry’s, The Library, Meat & Drink, Cicada, Seibur Bassac Lane, Tonle Bassac. T: (077) 555 447
Red Bar Street 308, Tonle Bassac. T: (010) 729 655
Chez Flo Street 308, Tonle Bassac. T: (012) 986 270


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Bassac Lane
Bassac Lane, Tonle Bassac

Location map for Bassac Lane