How lucky we are to have one of Phnom Penh’s most beautiful venues right on our doorstep. There are surprisingly few bars in Tuol Tom Poung – despite the large community of expats living here – so Long After Dark has quickly become a neighbourhood favourite. Co-owners Nathan and Brendan (who happen to be friends of ours) met while tending bars in Melbourne. After finding their way to Phnom Penh, the pair decided this would be a perfect opportunity to open their own venue.
Long After Dark’s interior is completely new, but the space is still recognisable as a traditional two-storey Khmer house. (My favourite spot is the landing at the top of the spiral staircase where you can appreciate the craftsmanship of the cantilevered top room with its wood-paneling and picture window.) Inspired by ‘Southern-style whiskey bars and speakeasies’, the custom fit-out is the work of Alchemy Design Co., beautifully complemented by Nataly Lee‘s design flourishes.
The first of the bar’s four discrete spaces is a downstairs room that opens out onto the quiet and leafy Street 450. In a typical Khmer house (or business), this area would be left unfinished and used for off-street motorbike parking. Here, the space functions as an enclosed courtyard and features bold colonial-style tiles, drop-leaf tables, heavy potted plants and wooden shutters
Long, narrow and largely devoid of natural light, the main bar makes good use of contrast and shadow. Counter seating stretches almost the full depth of the room – as does the well-stocked liquor shelf – giving way to a generous kitchen beyond. Here, the bar’s signature textures of brushed concrete and waxy hardwood are most pronounced. Sourcing timber in Cambodia can be an ethical dilemma since much of it is felled illegally; but all the raw materials used for Long After Dark’s interior were reclaimed from old boats and houses.
The upstairs area is light-flooded and a total contrast to the cloistered bar. An open-air terrace overlooks the suburban street and features a long communal table. At the rear, a cozy room with booth seating (no doubt a former bedroom) functions as a more intimate space.
The bar has a friendly neighbourhood feel – probably because it’s surrounded on all sides by Khmer family homes and modest apartment blocks. The menu has a home-style feel as well: Toasties plied with baked beans, mac and cheese arancini, chicken parma, and one of the best beef burgers I’ve ever tasted (on Tuesdays, the burgers are $5). My pick of the cocktails is the Long Applejack: frosty cold apple juice poured over whisky. Kingdom Breweries’ chocolate beer is also worth trying. Cider and a rotating range of craft beers are on tap, and there’s an excellent wine list featuring French and South African bottles.