These small touches were rather unexpected, especially in a rustic and laid-back city like Siem Reap, Cambodia. And only the Raffles brand is able to bring modernity into a storied French Quarter without desecrating its distinctive art-deco interior.
A refreshing facelift
Located next to the National Museum and just 15 minutes away from Siem Reap International Airport, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor provides a luxurious oasis for visitors who are in town to explore, of course, Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Formerly known as just The Grand, it was designed in the late 1920s by architect Ernest Hébrard in French colonial style. The hotel’s interior combines Khmer art and furnishings with art deco influences.
Renowned for its wrought-iron and timber elevator, it served as an early base for archaeologists, explorers and visitors to the rediscovered temple complex of Angkor.
The Grand was taken over in 1997 at the invitation of Cambodia’s HRH King Sihanouk by Fairmont Raffles Hotels International. Thus, transforming into Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor.
Both the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor and the also recently refurbished Singapore counterpart are imposing in their architecture and share the same white-paint-coat DNA.
Most of the facilities and interiors such as the iconic Elephant Bar and the record of having the largest pool in Siem Reap are kept intact, save for some technological upgrades like the inclusion of automated coffee machines and furnishing swaps (comfy Simmons-branded beddings). So, the haven may look familiar yet updated.
Travel into 1932
Now onto the latest addition to the hotel, 1932. Conceived as the landmark property’s signature fine-dining restaurant, it is the only venue in Siem Reap where you can sample royal Khmer cuisine. Just two establishments in Cambodia are permitted to serve it, the other being its sister Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh.
Led by Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor’s executive chef Angela Brown, the Royal Khmer Menu features textures and exotic flavours that whet the taste buds.
Highlights are not limited to mango and prawn salad, spicy and sour lobster consommé, grilled lamb chops in ginger sauce, and red chicken curry in coconut. The winning dessert, pumpkin custard, is made from scratch.
Originally from Brisbane, Australia, Brown earned her chef stripes in a number of Sofitel kitchens around the world including London and Bangkok but eventually settled down in Siem Reap for nearly three years. “Khmer cuisine is a combination of refined, simple, delicate flavours. They pop out but don’t knock you over. Unlike Thai recipes”, says Brown.
Crafting traditional Khmer recipes with a modern approach, Brown elevates local well-known dishes into tasty spectaculars. “Not fusion, but dishes that can be adapted to a Western palate,” Brown adds.
First impression counts and Brown’s amuse-bouche is an open-faced spring roll presented in a playful approach with the sauce and peanuts hidden from sight. Totally unexpected and you get to see the crucial ingredients that make up the ubiquitous spring roll.
No Raffles is complete without a sling. And here, it’s aptly named Grand Hotel d’Angkor Sling, gin-based with a twist of galangal and ginger, which is offered as an aperitif.