Going out for a night on the town with friends is guaranteed to put you in a good mood. And discovering a hidden gem – one that feels like your own secret place – in the capital can make the evening truly unforgettable. Writes Lim Sonalis.
One such place is the Back Street Bar, located inside a block on Sothearos Boulevard. The drinking venue’s story began three years ago when bar owner Thida Keo, fed up of being underappreciated by her then employers, secretly rented out the space.
“My bosses said I was nothing without them, so with very little cash I started this venture,” says Thida.
In its first incarnation, the place was a café/shop, until a friend helped her to transform it into the popular bar it is today. But it came at a high cost, with society’s negative view of women licencees.
“I lost friends, family and even my own mother,” Thida confesses.
She faced an even bigger challenge because she had very little knowledge about the ins and outs of running a bar. But Thida is not one to run away from obstacles and quickly got up to speed.
Her hard work and determination has paid off and now the Back Street Bar is a popular spot, known for its chilled and speakeasy-like atmosphere. Inside, the dimmed lights and cosy décor has a warm, welcoming vibe – the perfect space to relax and hang out with friends while sipping on elegant cocktails.
And in keeping with the trend for upcycling, Thida has turned old car tyres into tables and disused paint containers into chairs painted black. With her limited budget, Thida had to be thrifty, as she explains: “I had to get everything I needed while spending as little as possible. So everything you see in the bar is either what was thrown out by a hotel nearby or stuff I could get for the lowest price.”
In the spirit of research, we tried out some of the cocktails and speciality beers. First up was a cocktail so new it has yet to be named. A blend of rum, orange liqueur and lime delivers a sweet taste with a sour undertone. Half a passion fruit, clinging to the rim of the glass, allows you to adjust the flavour to your liking.
We followed that with another yet-to-be-named cocktail – just ask for ‘the special one’ and staff will know what you’re talking about – and you’ll be given a zingy vodka, orange liqueur and lime concoction. The fresh mint garnish adds a refreshing aroma as you sip.
Cocktails are a reasonable 5$-6$ each, and there is a wide selection of beers and wines to choose from, too. Music has a decidedly ambient vibe.
If you’re not up for a late night, Back Street Bar offers a happy hour between 4-7pm, Monday-Thursday. And on Mondays and Saturdays, it’s Ladies’ Night, so prices are even more reasonable. See you there!