Travel Report: Wild Bar, Siem Reap.
Wild Bar, Siem Reap.
May 2020. Back in January Sladja and I were wandering down Wat Damnak Road when we came across the most beautiful jungle garden. Peering through the gated entrance, we spied several groups of diners spread out across various bed-tables on the perfectly manicured lawn. Curious, we made our way inside along the pretty stone path, pausing a moment along the way to admire the large, painted wall mural.
“Oooh, sounds dangerous” I whispered, my interest having been suitably piqued. Hence we pushed on towards the bar to have a look at the menu.
It makes me chuckle to think of my initial reaction on that first visit to Wild. “Uh…. it’s all spring rolls. Hm, ok.” But let’s be clear, dear reader. No matter where you have been in the world, I’m confident you’ve never had spring rolls like these!
In fact, as soon as I saw a filling called Wild Wild West, I had an instinctive feeling Sladja and I were in for a culinary treat. In case you’re wondering, it’s a tantalising mix of beef, cheddar and caramelised onions.
With plenty more creative spring roll fillings to choose from, we decided to make a night of it and really go to town. Speaking of creativity, Wild also offers their customers the opportunity to dine in a very cool tree house! Feeling adventurous, we figured what the heck and climbed the ladder to experience dinner up in the branches.
Wild Bar, Siem Reap.
Our Wild Bar tree house experience was a hoot! All our dishes were delivered in a pulleyed basket, hoisted by the waitress from ground level. “Cheese and Basil!” she called, joyously. Yes, that’s right, a plate of spring rolls stuffed full of cheddar cheese and chopped basil. They were delicious!
Our meal at Wild Bar ranks among our top five Siem Reap dinners. In addition to Wild Wild West and Cheese & Basil, we also went for a plate of Taco Loco, a mix of chicken, bell peppers, tomatoes, cheese and Mexican spices.
Finally… just because… we added a round of Duck with local vegetables. Fresh, crunchy, moist and lovingly presented, all the varieties were flawless.
It was one of those meals that’s so good, it actually puts you in a great mood for the rest of the night. Moreover, we were so impressed I knew I had to find out more. Who are the architects behind this deliciousness? And how the hell did they come up with everything?
“The idea for Wild actually started as a joke!”
Wild Creative Bar and Eatery is the passion of Lorraine and Renaud, a French couple who left their homeland for Cambodia in 2017. Lorraine had been working in communications for the Publicis Group, Renaud in Yield Management for Accor Hotels.
Constantly exhausted, they felt as if they were working themselves into the ground in jobs they had grown out of love with. One Friday night, on a train back in France, it was Lorraine who first joked that they should “leave everything behind and open a bar on a beach!”
Lorraine and Renaud first fell in love with Cambodia during a holiday here back in 2015. Thus, when they began dreaming of a new life adventure, it was Cambodia that sprang to mind. Before long, visions of a beach made way for a lush, green jungle garden.
“We both love imagining new spaces”.
Regarding the restaurant’s design, they say it was “enormous fun” laying everything out, especially the garden, which they wanted to feel “like someone’s home”. In the early days, they used to live onsite in the old Khmer house they renovated. So it’s no surprise that they were so successful in sculpting such a cosy feel.
“Spring rolls were our typical Sunday dinner with a movie”.
Their incredible dishes came about, they say, through fearless experimentation. Firstly, they started with fresh spring rolls, laying rice paper out on the table and “filling it with whatever came into our minds”.
Then they reimagined their creations deep-fried. As a result, they realised they could wrap anything they wanted into a compact package of fried yumminess.
Lorraine and Renaud applied this same spirit of playful tinkering to their cocktails. Both are self-confessed “cocktail lovers” who claim to know, by heart, the menus of the best cocktail bars in Paris.
When they first got to Siem Reap, the couple spent hours in local markets discovering the best produce. From there, they began working on recipes and holding “test evenings” to gauge reaction.
Wild Bar, Siem Reap.
We can certainly vouch for the cocktails we’ve had at Wild. I ordered a refreshingly icy Mojito Mule, comprised of rum, mint, ginger syrup, lime and ginger ale. Sladja’s choice was the Midnight in Paris, with benedictine, extra dry Vermouth and Absinthe.
As with most of our favourite Siem Reap restaurants, Wild is passionate about helping the local community. They financially sponsor a local primary school and act as “godparents” to the NGO-run Bayon School. Basically, they offer advice on all kinds of stuff, including efficiency and menu development.
Proceeds from their little shop at the back of the restaurant also go to Soulcial Trust, who work on the social reinsertion of people with disabilities through sport.
Lorraine and Renaud had been “living the dream” until COVID-19 came along and wiped out “90% of our customers”. With no tourists, an expat community who largely stayed at home and a workforce to protect, Wild made the tough decision to close its doors for a while.
But now… drum roll… they’re back (!), with an improved layout and some changes they believe will make customers feel more comfortable in this new era of social distancing.
Wild Bar, Siem Reap.
Fancy wolfing down a batch of Planet Earth’s most delectable spring rolls? Grabbing some cocktails up in the tree house? Or maybe just chilling in the garden with coffee, beer, wine or a homemade soda? Whatever you feel like, why not swing by… treat yourself… go Wild.
For more on Wild Bar, take a peek at their beautiful website.
You can also get in touch with Lorraine and Renaud through their Facebook page.
For more on Siem Reap’s excellent cafe, restaurant and bar scene, check out my detailed guide on Where to Eat and Drink Siem Reap.
You can also read my exhaustive overview of What to See and Do in Siem Reap.
Looking for a roof over your head? Check out my articles on Where to Stay in Siem Reap.
I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.