The Elephant Bar in the Raffles Hotel
There are hotel bars, and there are hotel bars. And then there’s The Elephant Bar, the number one must-snap on the agenda of any Instagrammer or visitor to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. No place oozes elegance, nostalgia, and panache like the bar in Raffles Hotel Le Royal.
Wicker chairs and leather sofas bask behind high French windows and arched colonnades in a true colonial style. Built in 1929 as the east wing of Hotel Le Royal, this room has long hosted the rich and the royal, the jokers and knaves. You get the impression that if this bar could talk, oh what tales it might tell!
As The Elephant Bar’s keepers juggle behind the sturdy oak bar, you can almost catch a passing glimpse of Charlie Chaplin and his entourage, who frolicked here in 1936, or the shadow of Somerset Maugham, pensively pacing the squeaky panelled floor.
But perhaps the most myth-inspiring of all visitors was Jacqueline Kennedy, who visited Cambodia in 1967 at the invitation of King Sihanouk, and in whose honour a signature cocktail was created – the Femme Fatale – a concoction of Champagne, cognac, and creme fraise. Legend has it that a wine glass still visible in a display case just behind The Elephant Bar was the glass Kennedy drank from. Check out that smudge of pink lipstick left behind on the rim, or so the story goes, by the former US First Lady.
A night of Champagne and cocktails at The Elephant Bar might ultimately cost a pretty penny. But then again, they do run a half-price happy hour every evening from 4pm until 9pm, so redemption may be within sight.
Le Royal commemorates its 90th anniversary this year. So if you just happen to be in Phnom Penh, surely you can find at least one sly reason to celebrate in style at The Elephant Bar?