Arch Lounge: The hidden gem of Phnom Penh’s worst kept secret

Lanka Lane – dubbed the new Bassac – is perhaps Phnom Penh’s worst kept secret. From the city views available from Patio’s Elephant sky bar to quality draft ale mixed with old school gaming at Embargo, Lanka has something for everyone.

But, and it’s a small yet significant but, one tiny bar located right in the heart of the winding lane is causing all the fuss. Arch Lounge, a cosy and intimate venue at first glance, is at the forefront of the reasoning for the lane’s explosion in success. 

Themed fancy dress parties, oyster & Texas BBQ nights, full on DJ sets until 3am and Phnom Penh’s only ‘James Bond’ night, if you want to say Lanka Lane has it all, Arch Lounge epitomises it.

Naturally, Khmer Nights had to explore, and we started off with a signature cocktail named the ‘The night at Arch’ and sat down with owner Lida Dim.

“The Arch came from the concept of bridging the gap between Cambodia and westerner. I wanted it to be a place where the two worlds could connect, but in a unique way”.

Sorry, did we mention the teacher & student, burlesque nights, safari, gentleman and ladies’ nights? 

Indeed, unique is best way to describe it.

“People love to dress up, and it’s a good way to break the ice and get people talking. I wanted my bar to be place people could have a good time and feel comfortable.”

Arch Lounge, which seats only around 12 to 15, definitely gives off the cosy vibe, with the small bar arched – as the name implies – around a glass centre piece of spirits from around the world, much like its customers. 

“I’ve travelled around South East Asia and Europe, and I tasted the cocktails and thought, I could do better. It puts a smile on my face when people try my cocktails and say they like it.”

Its not only customers that are getting in the spirits, whiskey heavy weight Johnny Walker also hosts sponsored events at the venue, with the small bar making big waves in the capital.

“My bar is small, but I get a lot of big names and high-profile people coming in. Embassy staff, movie stars, influencers, and even other bar owners. But the bar is open to everyone and everyone is welcome.”

While Arch Lounge is frequented by the rich and the famous, the prices are not astronomical, with the average cocktail being a respectable $5 and a bottle of beer costing only $2.50.

“Whether tourist, expat or local, I want my prices to be acceptable for everyone.”

Speaking of tourists, the Lounge didn’t go unaffected by some 90% drop in visitors during the pandemic. However, it is testament to Arch Lounges local feel that kept it going during the downturn.

“The wheels in my bar which hold the lights are made from 50-year-old Cambodian wood by hand, which I got from my dad. They have survived through the sun and the rain all these years because they are strong. They mean a lot to me because I grew up riding a cart with those wheels, it made me understand I need a strong mind, and to build my business strong so it can survive.”

“I manage everything, from staff training to finances. I do all my own marketing for the events and I rely on myself to make it a success. Everyone told me my bar too small and I can’t do anything with it but I believe you have to be confident and trust your mind.”

Lida, who has worked in everything from real estate to restaurants in the past, says Arch Lounge is just the beginning.

“For Arch, I have lots of events lined up. We have a games night launching soon with connect four, Jenga, cards and some traditional Khmer games, as well as a themed Swing night. But I also have a lot of plans for the future”.

“One day I want to open a resort. I know I am capable of it from all the experience I have. But right now, I am just happy with where I am now and grateful of the regular customers and friends who I have around me who have supported me and Arch Lounge.”

The air of friendliness surrounding Arch Lounge is refreshing because unlike lots of Phnom Penh venues, it is not a clique, but a sociable vibe, which has not only kept the buzz going in the venue but matches the feel of the Lanka Lane strip. 

“Lanka Lane is like a family, My Way bar is like my sister place and it makes me happy to be part of this thing that we have, and witness us growing us together and offering good quality hospitality to our customers. I hope more people can come to Lanka Lane soon!”

She laughed, and finished, “anyone who has not been to Arch Lounge before and mentions this article can get 10% off their next drink”.

*Psst, we recommend the Lida Twerk*

Tom Starkey
Author: Tom Starkey

Tom Starkey is an International Development graduate from Sussex University with 12-years of experience across 4 continents, Tom's goal is that he wants to showcase his love for Cambodia, where he lives, works and now happily calls home.