The Wonderful Wild Bar in Siem Reap.
Wild Bar, Siem Reap.
In the spring of 2020 Sladja and I found ourselves stranded in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap. Like so many others we had tried to exit when the global pandemic exploded. But in the end, following numerous failed escape plans, we decided to simply stay put. The decision turned out to be a good one, especially thanks to our boutique hotel (more on that later) which for the most part we had to ourselves, cut-price. From there we could sit tight, work online and monitor world events.
It didn’t take long for us to see how damaging COVID was for the locals. The famous Angkor Temples, for example, sat largely devoid of tourists. Pub Street, once a hive of activity, promptly shut down. On the occasions we dared to dine out, we learned how the virus had decimated Siem Reap’s food and drink scene.
Keen to support local businesses with a little blog love, we set about meeting the city’s cafe and restaurant owners and documenting their stories. The people we met, the tales they told us and the hospitality we received was incredible, something Sladja and I will remember for the rest of our lives. So let’s kick off this new Siem Reap series with a look at the wonderful Wild Bar & Creative Eatery.
Back in January of that year Sladja and I were wandering down Wat Damnak Road when we came across the most immaculate jungle garden. Peering through the gated entrance, we spied several groups of diners spread out across various bed-tables on a perfectly manicured lawn. Curious, we made our way inside along the pretty stone path, pausing a moment along the way to admire a large, painted wall mural.
“Oooh, sounds dangerous” I whispered, my interest 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. “Uh…. they only do spring rolls”.
However, what I didn’t realise was that these were no ordinary spring rolls. In fact, I’m confident most people have never tasted spring rolls like these. Looking through the descriptions, I had an instinctive feeling Sladja and I were in for a culinary treat. “Wild Wild West”, I read, my eyes widening. “A tantalising mix of beef, cheddar and caramelised onions”.
With plenty more creative spring roll fillings to choose from, Sladja and I 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 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. 11 out of 10, if you will.
It was one of those meals that’s so good it actually puts you in a great mood for the next 24 hours. 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, Lorraine and Renaud felt as if they were working themselves into the ground in jobs they had fallen 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 an old Khmer house they renovated themselves. So it’s no surprise that they were so successful in sculpting such a cosy feel.
Their incredible dishes came about, they say, through fearless experimentation. First, 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 pretty much anything they wanted into a compact package of fried yumminess.
“Homemade spring rolls were our typical Sunday dinner with a movie”.
Lorraine and Renaud have 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.
We can certainly vouch for the cocktails we’ve had. 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 so many 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. This involves offering professional advice on all kinds of stuff, including efficiency and menu development.
Wild Bar, Siem Reap.
Furthermore, they donate to several local NGOs, such as APTBY (A Place to be Yourself), connected to the good people of Krousar Cafe. Proceeds from their little shop at the back of the restaurant, meanwhile, goes to Soulcial Trust, who support 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 then… drum roll… they reopened with an improved layout and some spatial changes they believe will make customers feel more comfortable.
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.
UPDATE: October 2022. Wild Bar is one of few Siem Reap success stories to come out of the pandemic. As you will read throughout our series, so many of the city’s wonderful restaurants had to close their doors.
Not only did Lorraine and Renaud manage to save their business, they have also opened a new restaurant in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. Congratulations guys, you’ve all done a magnificent job. 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.
Well done, Leighton – a great report, a great read: inspiring!
Thanks Nick, I appreciate the read and comment. Many of the cafes and restaurants I’ve written about in this series has an inspiring story behind it. Looking forward to putting everything out over the next few months.
I look forward to reading.
Have a good day, Leighton.
OMG, how I wish I’d read about this place before we went to Siem Reap – we would have been there like a shot! The various spring rolls sound amazing (especially the duck) and the setting is gorgeous. I suspect we’re unlikely to return (too many new places to see) but if ever we did this would be top of my evening to-do list 🙂
Thanks for joining me at the start of this series Sarah. Wild Bar felt like a suitably impressive place to kick off our look at the city’s amazing food and drink scene. I’m really excited about sharing these stories, hope you enjoy them and good luck with your upcoming trip!
I discovered this place while there! It was amazing! The best food and the most amazing cocktails ever! You’ve done an amazing report Leighton. I hope more people see this and definitely visit if they visit Siem Reap (I need to get my lazy/busy ass into gear and start writing!! )
So glad you got to eat at Wild Anna. Did you meet Lorraine and Renaud? What were your favourite spring roll flavours? Was it busy when you ate there? Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy the rest of the series.
No I didnt get to meet them. It was reasonably busy when we were there around 2pm… maybe 6 separate tables of foreigners. We had a special of the day mushroom and truffle oil, the mexican one and the duck. Sooooo good! Would have gone back but wanted to try other places too!
The Wild Bar looks like a gorgeous place to sample some of their delicious spring rolls and to sip their cocktails. Intriguing to have your food delivered up into the treehouse though probably best not to drink too much with that ladder to come back down! I’d probably trip up.
Ha, you’re quite right Marion. We made sure not to overdo it with the cocktails for that very reason. Thanks for checking out Wild Bar in Siem Reap, it’s a really special place.
this is truly next level blogging leighton. to take the time to meet business owners, hear heir stories, sample their cuisine and then share with the greater world. i’m intrigued to see where this series might head have enjoyed this look at wild bar. if i could only have one plate it would surely be wild wild west.
You’re very kind Stan. This was our big pandemic project. It certainly kept us busy and out of trouble. We met some fantastic people, ate some amazing food and heard some fascinating stories. Hope you enjoy the series!
Great find, we’ve found most Asian restaurants normally have exactly the same old boring stuff so why go anywhere different but this sounds excellent.
Thanks Gary, I haven’t come across anything quite like this place over the last 20 years of world travel. Their flavours are just fantastic.
What a beautiful place, and I love that you’ve introduced us as readers to the people behind the business. Love the mix of diners in the images too- couples, families, groups of friends. Food, drink, good company and a good heart. I’m glad Wild came through the pandemic.
Love the idea for this series of posts. You and Sladja were still managing to connect with people when the world was pulling further and further apart. I really like that!
Aw thank you, Helen. It did feel like we’d stumbled upon a special and worthy project at the time. I’m glad that comes through, thanks for reading as always and contributing to the discussion.
This is definitely a place I would have to go back to multiple times. Took a look at their menu and I want to try them all. Even the fresh spring roll salads look fabulous. How early do you have to get there for the tree house or can you reserve it? Don’t know about the bed tables though. I’d have to have a large delivery basket hoist to get up and down. Great job!
Hey Memo, that first evening we walked right into the tree house without any reservation. It was being ignored, with most customers going for the lawn tables. But I guess a reservation would be smart, as there’s only one tree house. Thanks for checking in at the start of this series.
Siem Reap definitely sounds like a great spot to be stranded during the start of the pandemic. It must have felt eerie to see the city without the usual crowds of tourists, but as you said, it’s a great way to interact more with the locals. The Wild Bar sounds like quite the dining experience! Glad to hear that their business survived the pandemic.
Hey guys, thanks for reading the story of Wild Bar and its lovely French owners. It was a strange time to be in Siem Reap for sure, but we were glad to have gotten so much positivity out of it in terms of writing and sharing these stories. By the way, I sent you guys an email a week or so back, but not sure if you got it. Could you drop me a line at email@example.com
That’s awesome. It’s wild how different the world was during the early days of the pandemic. Glad to hear that you made the most of it. I just found your email and have sent a reply. Many thanks for reaching out 🙂
That sounds like such an amazing stop, and the food looks absolutely delicious! That is really sweet that this business also supports their local community as well.
Hey Allie, thanks for checking out my piece on Wild Bar. I honestly had no idea that spring rolls could taste this good! And yes, as you say, their work in the community makes everything taste even better!
When the bosses are excited and passionate about what they do and how they do it, it filters down to the staff and the product. Good on them for finding a way to keep doing what they do best…making people smile. Good on you for sharing this amazing experience Leighton. Allan
Yes this is definitely one of those places where the feel good factor seeps through everyone and everything. Wherever we’ve been in the world over the last few years, we often dream of teleporting ourselves to Wild Bar for dinner to get our fix of their delicious spring rolls. Thanks for dropping by Allan.
What a great idea for a series, i think this will mean alot for the community! You really bring out the sense of what Wild Bar is, great work. Can i ask, are you going to write about Miss Wong’s?
Hey Grim Reaper! Thanks for reading this article and for your encouragement. Yes, Miss Wong’s will be in the series, Dean the owner was one of the many people we interviewed. Hope you enjoy my upcoming articles!
Okay, so now I’m hungry – practically drooling over your photos. I can assure you there is nothing like Wild here, and we live in a city that has the one of the highest numbers of restaurants per capita in the U.S. Do you think Lorraine and Renaud would like to open a Wild in West Texas? I looked at their menu, and I can honestly say there is nothing on it that I wouldn’t try, including the drinks. I love that you and Sladja made the best of a hard time and are sharing how you did it with us. I always enjoy your posts.
Hey Kellye, I’ll let Lorraine and Renaud know that their business might just take off in West Texas. Maybe they could even come up with a Texan inspired spring roll flavour. What would you suggest? Thanks as ever for your infectious positivity and hope you enjoy the many articles from this series over the next six weeks.
Barbecue would likely be a hit! And I already know I will enjoy your articles – I always do.
Dinner in a tree house – well, that’s wild! And you’re right, these are no ordinary spring rolls – they’re spring rolls deluxe! Thank you for sharing the inspirational story of Lorraine and Renaud – they are, what I will describe, adventurous with a passion for what they do (and a kind heart towards their fellowman)! What a lovely story to read!
Thanks Corna, your description of Lorraine and Renaud is spot on. I’m excited about kicking off this series as now, with all the sights of Siem Reap published, I can concentrate on the local residents and their delicious food. By the way, I recently sent you an email but it seems you haven’t received it. Could you get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
Our contact e-mail on the blog seems to have a problem, so you are welcome to send an e-mail to the following address: email@example.com
Oh and wanna say, it’s great that you are giving back to the community of Siem Reap.
Oh wow this is straight in the must-do list – we would absolutely go a bundle on this place. Great food in a terrific setting, sounds pretty good to me!
Cheers Phil, I look forward to hearing your verdict one day!
Wild Bar looks so colorful (*ahem Instagrammable)! The back-story behind it is heartwarming to read, and it’s wonderful that it survived the pandemic! Never would I’ve thought that spring rolls would be the only thing on the list, but if you make them so well, why not just go with it, haha? I do enjoy these food posts from you, seldom as they are, and it’d be cool to see more of them from you!
Well, I’ll definitely be making up for seldom in this series Rebecca. Plus, if I can please a foodie like you I’ll know I’ve done an ok job. Cheers for checking out Wild Bar!
Wild was not open when I visited Siem Reap, I would have been interested to eat there once. I still remember the Cambodian amoks, I haven’t found the equivalent in Cambodian restaurants outside the country yet.
Ah, you can’t beat a creamy amok for sure. Thanks for joining me at the start of this new food and drink series from Siem Reap!
We really explored all around Cambodia. Siem Reap was such an amazing area we visited. I love you enjoyed your time there. Thanks for sharing this. Anita
Thanks for your comment Anita.
I had dinner at the Wild a couple of years ago. It is a truly wonderful place. I love that mural and the garden is such a green and tranquil space. They seem like a lovely and kind-hearted people, passionate and dedicated to their project. I’m so happy to read that they not only managed to survive Covid, but to thrive during the difficult time.
How lovely to receive a comment from one of my favourite movie characters 😉 Thank you for reading this piece Amelie, I’m glad you also got to visit Wild Bar and that you seemingly enjoyed it as much as me.
What a great restaurant and good to hear of a covid success story. We’re in Brazil now and most businesses seem to have made it through but in Bolivia most tourist style restaurants didn’t. I’m craving spring rolls now though. Maggie
That sounds pretty rough in Bolivia. Glad to hear your trip is still going, I need to check in with your adventures soon. Thanks for reading about Wild Bar, Maggie.
Great post! I love this look behind the scenes and a chance of getting to know the owners and hear their story. I am in the midst of planning a February trip to Cambodia which will include a week in Siem Reap. I am so happy to have discovered your blog with an abundance of content on Siem Reap temples and cafes. You manage to show with your articles that Siem Reap has a lot to offer. I’ll have to have a dinner at Wild Bar.
Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy diving into everything here and wish you a fantastic trip in February.
What a cool spot!! I love how colorful it is and the food looks amazing! I can’t imagine being away from home during the pandemic, but you guys made the most of it and created so many great memories.
Thanks for stopping by Lyssy, I’m sure a concept like Wild would also be a hit in NYC.
An enjoyable success story! How long did you remain in the town during the pandrmic? Wow, you have reported on all the temples, and now, all the eating places! What is next on the menu!,
Hey Geoff, we were in Siem Reap for around six and a half months. That certainly hadn’t been our plan when we arrived in January. Next on the menu will be revealed on Wednesday 😉 thanks for reading and for your comment!
Aw this is a lovely series, and such an important thing to do. Wild Bar looks great, and I’m so pleased it managed to survive COVID. What an amazing place and couple behind it.
Thank you Hannah, I appreciate that. This series will be packed full of interesting stories and fascinating people, it’s been great fun putting these articles together.
What a great way to support local businesses during such a rough time! Good on them for going out on such a limb only to find a great success in it! I love the style of the place and the food is making me hungry as I read about it. Looking forward to the other places like this in this series 🙂
Thanks for checking out Wild Bar, Meg. Having now opened a second branch in Phnom Penh, I wonder how far they could expand. Or indeed if they have any interest in doing so.
What a unique and creative restaurant and I love how they support the local community as well. I’m a big fan of spring rolls and will have to visit this place if I ever get to visit Siem Reap.
Thanks for checking in, Tricia. Wild Bar deserves all its success and then some. Hope you are all well in France!
Thanks Leighton! We’re in Italy at the moment and will be heading to Greece in a few days.
[…] The Wonderful Wild Bar in Siem Reap. […]
What a great discovery, and fun post!!
Cheers Ruth, here on Halloween night we would do just about anything to have a platter of Wild’s spring rolls to go with our scary movie.