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The Tastes and Tales of the FCC

By: Kathryn Michie Posted: January-01-2006 in
Kathryn Michie

If restaurants could talk, the FCC would tell some interesting tales. As one of Phnom Penh's most established restaurants, it has witnessed much of Cambodia's tumultuous history. Enviably positioned right on the riverfront, the FCC is the capital's pre-eminent meeting place for tourists and expatriates.

Mike, the FCC's food and beverage consultant from England, entertained us with anecdotes about the restaurant's history, including the story of a recent lightning striking that hit the restaurant, leaving customers and staff dazed but unharmed. Mike's stories continued as we enjoyed some of FCC's divine fruit shakes. I had trouble choosing between the banana and coconut blend or the passion fruit and honey so my friend and I ended up sharing both - still unable to decide which of the two we liked best.

The staff at the FCC come from a diverse range of backgrounds, and all have their own fascinating stories from over the decades. According to Mike, whilst the rest of Phnom Penh was virtually empty in more turbulent days, the FCC always remained bustling.

One day the restaurant was understaffed and the kitchen could not keep up with the customer's orders. The manager ran out onto the road, waved down the first cyclo that came past and in the quickest recruitment process of all time, begged the driver to come wash dishes for the day. That driver came back the next day, and the next, and today he is one of the leading chefs in FCC's kitchen.

Whilst some of the veteran staff remain unchanged, the menu at the FCC has recently been revamped. My friends and I sampled some of the beautifully presented bar snacks from the new menu whilst enjoying the view of the Tonle Sap.

One tiny drawback was that there only a few vegetarian options available, so I, as the veggie of the group, was limited to the vegetarian spring rolls whilst my friends munched on spicy chicken brochettes and salt and pepper calamari. However, the chili vodka and lime dipping sauce and the jalapeno and sugar palm salsa that I stole from my dining companions' plates went just as well with the spring rolls as they did with the meat.

The kitchen staff were also able to adapt the spaghetti with salami, artichoke, olive, goat's cheese and roasted bread crumbs into a vegetarian version. Although the dish was tasty enough and came beautifully presented, it was perhaps not the most successful blending of flavors I have ever encountered in a pasta sauce. The scent of the famous wood-fired pizzas (which do have a good range of non-meat options) made me wish I had made a different choice from the dazzling display on the menu, but of course there is always next time.

As well as stories from the past, Mike shared with us some of FCC's plans for the future. Whilst many of the dishes on the menu require imported ingredients (such as the delicious goats cheese), the FCC aims to source as many ingredients locally as possible. For example, the salt and pepper squid is made with pepper from Kampot province and the FCC is trying to increase the amount of locally-grown vegetables used in their meals.

No evening at the FCC would be complete without trying some of their cocktails, which become even more appealing during the 5-7pm happy hour. I was particularly impressed with the creative passion fruit and mint caprioska, whilst my friend enjoyed a margarita.

It may not be the cheapest option in Phnom Penh, but the FCC remains a beacon for travelers and residents alike with its unparalleled views of the river and the National Museum, its open French colonial design and its fine full bar. It is a landmark restaurant.

So whether you come to watch the sun set over the river whilst sipping a cocktail, or enjoy a pizza or shake and the cool breeze the establishment enjoys on Phnom Penh's hottest days, you are sure to encounter a busy and bustling atmosphere. Don't forget to bring some of your own stories to share and add to FCC's colorful history


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