A full-service deli with a penchant for Italian roast, the new Cafe Fresco is quietly amassing a following of coffee connoisseurs.
Because there’s no way to know what challenges the day ahead will bring, those at Cafe Fresco believe each morning might as well start with a cup of pure perfection.
“Cafe Fresco originated out of the need for a quality coffee shop in Phnom Penh,” says owner and founder Anthony Aldersons. “That’s the main message: contemporary design and absolutely great coffee. We’ve brought in Illy — an Italian gourmet coffee — and trainers from Thailand to come teach the art and science involved in making coffee. We’ve worked hard to make sure we have a world-class product.”
But Cafe Fresco, which opened its sleek glass doors in early November, is much more than just a coffee shop. It’s a futuristic eatery with a feel-good vibe; an efficient, fast-paced spaceship of a place that combines old-school delicatessen with an upscale urban environment. Cafe Fresco may well be the next step in the evolving culinary culture of Cambodia.
A different approach
Alongside the dizzying array of coffee options, Fresco also offers a wide range of exciting cuisine, freshly baked pastries and wireless Internet access — all within a uniquely upscale ambiance. The ultra-modern decor features gleaming glass and chrome contrasted with polished wooden panels and luxurious, earth-toned leather furniture.
Head Chef Lucy Dengate, a 32-year-old Australian who designed the menu and trained the cooking staff, describes Fresco’s menu as a “light and different approach.”
“What it’s about is quick, fresh sandwiches,” Dengate says. “We want to get out fast food that looks good and is quick and easy to get.”
Pastries for all people
From carrot juice to chocolate cake, Cafe Fresco’s diverse menu promises something for every diner.
The health conscious will appreciate natural homemade yoghurt, fresh-squeezed juices and a mixed-up world of blended drinks: smoothies, frappes and lassies.
The more indulgent diner may be apt to sample the ever-revolving selection of pastries, cakes and cookies.
“There aren’t a lot of places where you can go to get a brownie or a piece of chocolate cake at any time of day,” says Dengate.
The neighborhood deli
Gourmet sandwiches range from classics like the Reuben to irresistible fusion offerings such as the salmon gravalox and cream cheese panini or the tuna nicoise wrap complete with capers and egg.
For the creative-minded set, the option of creating a make-your-own sandwich from hard-to-find international ingredients is available.
“A main theme is that customers can create their own sandwich,” Dengate says. “It’s like in a deli where you can see all the ingredients in front of you, but these items, like the imported meats and cheese, are very unusual to find in Phnom Penh.”
Open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Cafe Fresco does breakfast, lunch or dinner.
“We’re the busiest between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.,” Dengate says. “Breakfast is usually pastries and yoghurts, lunch is a lot of sandwiches and salads, and dinner, so far, has been a relaxed, ‘snacky’ type of meals.”
Jody Bradshaw, a 33-year-old tourist from California, and his wife Michelle have started each of their five days in Phnom Penh at Cafe Fresco.
“We live in Sausalito — so we know about good coffee,” Bradshaw said recently above a frothy cup of Illy-brand coffee. “This is by the far the best cup we’ve had on our trip. This is close to our hotel and it’s clean and friendly. If it has everything we want, why should we go anywhere else?
This story was originally published in The Wires, January 2006.