You’re probably thinking: “Just what Phnom Penh needs, another coffee shop!”
The new Spinelli on the corner of Streets 63 and 282 – introducing one of Singapore’s premium coffee chains to Cambodia – is simply the latest to try their luck. A purpose-built two-storey structure, it has plenty of space to accommodate truckloads of customers.
With several pretenders to the throne having already crashed and burned in Boeung Kang Kong 1, to see another brave the waters – especially after a lengthy and expensive fit-out that suggests considerable confidence – has you wondering what they are smoking?
It is certainly, however, well-positioned for exposure, at least to cars driving past. There is also considerable ‘off-street’ parking ( a bane in the Penh) if, as the well-heeled locals do, you regard the footpath as parking space.
Inside, it has the standard feel of a American-style coffee chain, replete with a counter area that is vaguely reminiscent of a fast-food joint. As the outside suggests, the interior is expansive and includes an upstairs area, while the glass-curtain walls allow views of busy Street 63. Unfortunately, the main landmark on the adjacent corner is a decrepit wooden building that houses a metal workshop, behind which looms one of the Penh’s new landmarks, a ghost tower.
The large windows also mean that shade-cloth-style curtains are necessary to try and keep out the sun (and also the view) for much of the day. The power bill for the air conditioners must be huge. Sit too close to the windows, however, and you still bake.
Otherwise, the décor is standard-issue Spinelli, identical to its numerous outlets in Lion City, although the use of vinyl fake-wood planking on parts of the floor that appear to lack a gloss finish, means it is almost impossible to hide the footprints as customers track in dust on their shoes, spoiling the spotless appearance that is part of the “look”.
Brown, the nearest outlet is just around the corner on Street 57, have established a new benchmark for coffee in the Penh. Unfortunately, Spinelli has chosen a very mild – what is known in the trade as an American Roast – and are sparing with the quantity of each shot. As a result, many coffee aficionados may be disappointed. And the prices make their drinks less than a bargain by Phnom Penh standards.
The food on offer is also sparse: just a few cakes and pastries. The scone came without butter (“sorry sir, we don’t have any”) and tasted overwhelmingly of baking soda. Oh, dear.
Only one unisex toilet downstairs could be another challenge for customers – assuming the café ever gets busy – although there are two more on the first floor, if you’re willing to master the stairs.
Now that Spinelli has transplanted its full Singaporean model here to Cambodia, it will be interesting to see if they are able to adapt it to the new environment or whether, as some wags are saying, the whole thing is really just a real estate play.