Serve a great cup of coffee, and the caffeine connoisseurs will come.
That's the lesson behind the newest Café Fresco at Central Market, which opened to little fanfare over Thanksgiving.
Central Market has been closed since December for renovations. And with a plan for a few quiet weeks to uncover any operational miscues, Café Fresco Central Market has gone without marketing during the "soft-opening" phase.
But already Fresco is filling tables. And on a recent Thursday afternoon the seats inside and out were all taken, and the upstairs lounge was filling. It has been anything but quiet.
"Fresco Central Market is definitely our best one," says FCC Operations Director Michelle Duncan of the new outlet. "The space, the view, the architectural lines and lighting — it all came together for us here."
Like other Café Fresco locations, comfort and quality are playing a big part in the new eatery's success.
Plush leather sofas and spacious seating areas make relaxing easy. As with all Café Fresco locations, tables are available outside for al fresco dining. Downstairs on the patio, tables offer a glimpse of bustling market streets. Upstairs on the terrace, two semi-private tables offer rare views of an empty Central Market, at least for now.
Including the terrace tables the upstairs lounge comfortably seats 30. Privacy walls help separate table areas and give the room a spacious yet intimate feel. Warm natural lighting helps temper the effects of the brand-new air-conditioning units.
Like the Illy coffee served downstairs, the art at Café Fresco is also world-class. Siem Reap-based artist Jerry Swaffield — who Time Magazine called "one of Asia's most unusual and gifted artists" — created a series of large murals that hang upstairs. Renowned Australian artist Stephen Eastaugh contributed several more smaller pieces.
Since the first Café Fresco opened in November 2005 beneath the FCC Phnom Penh, the printed menu has changed little. The coffee is still dark-roast Italian Illy, and the drinks menu still comprises fresh fruit juices, smoothies and lassies. Additionally, a large selection of gourmet teas has been added.
On the meals side, deli-style sandwiches and counter items make the dish-fillers upon which Café Fresco has built a reputation.
With a diverse list of ingredients to make most lunch-counter classics, the create-your-own sandwich menu satisfies most appetites. For something different, a selection of gourmet sandwiches offer diners a unique spin on timeless favorites -- chicken and bacon wrap with cheddar, salmon gravalox bagel, and lamb souvlaki pita top the list.
In addition to meat-and-bread dishes, the lunch counter offers a focused selection of hot and cold items that change regularly. Current favorites include vegetarian lasagna and the meatball crusty.
An eclectic list of salads exists to compliment center-of-the-plate items. Inside the glass display case you'll find a tangy nicoise, the pleasant pamanella bread salad and the unusual and punchy potato salad with bacon and mint.
While the sandwiches and salads are certainly delicious, the most tempting part of the menu belongs to the bakery, from where irresistible temptations emerge daily — from the endless jars of crunchy biscotti and chocolate-hazelnut cookies to the creamy indulgence of chocolate marble cheesecake, tangy fruit tarts and other diet-shattering delights.
The grand opening of Café Fresco Central Market is scheduled for January 30. The party is invitation only. Subscribers to The Wires are all invited (download an invitation here).