1. The story so far
Before the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), designed by British architect Gary Fell, took over this riverside sprawl in the 1990s, the elegant mansion beside the Royal Residence in Siem Reap served as the home of the French colonial governor. Almost thirty years later, the Tropical Modernist DNA of Fell’s design – clear lines, straightforward shapes and vistas that seem to draw the outside in – remains evident even after the latest renovation led by Bangkok-based interior designer Malee Whitcraft. The Dutch-born Whitcraft worked in collaboration with Phnom Penh-based firm Bloom Architecture on plans that included an expansion of the hotel, from 29 rooms to 80. When the FCC Angkor, under the management of Avani Hotels & Resorts, reopened in July, it debuted a refreshing contemporary layer of style over the original structure’s colonial bones, where a Scandinavian-chic canvas of muted colours and simple lines meets Khmer artistry and detailing.
2. Jungle oasis
Abundant tropical flora is as much a feature of the hotel as its main building. Across its three iterations (as a private house, a small hotel and now a mid-sized urban resort), property designers have shared the same reverence for its natural surroundings, building around towering century-old trees – with one quite literally cutting through two storeys – and adding pocket gardens that feel at once wild yet studied. Fragrant lemongrass lines shallow ponds under wooden walkways; lush canopies of mango, banyan and tamarind trees cool the courtyard where a long in-ground saltwater lap pool sits as a centrepiece; and a thick shrubbery of banana trees, night jasmine and fan palms do double duty as natural pathway borders framing a soothing view.
3. Retro glamour across the decades
Timeless nostalgia appears to be a running theme throughout the hotel. The spread of contemporary low buildings built of concrete, natural sandstone, hardwood and floor-to-ceiling glass walls recalls the stylish bungalows of the ’70s. Rooms feature trendy industrial, copper-hued bathroom fixtures and drop lights with bare bulbs, as well as ’60s-style Cambodian ceramic tiles – a once-fading tradition that’s found new life in this age of retro revival. You’ll also find vintage paraphernalia everywhere, ranging from antique-inspired rotary phones to Groma typewriters dating back to the ’50s. The main building, the property’s social nucleus, houses a restaurant called The Mansion, where woven rattan peacock chairs, slatted French doors and a spacious second-floor balcony create the atmosphere and flavour of a luxe tropical summer home.
4. Khmer craft and heritage
Exceptional craftsmanship is a cornerstone of Khmer culture, evident by their stunning and enduring temples, and Whitcraft made sure it maintained prominence within the hotel’s concept. A wide variety of handmade accoutrements was sourced from local artisans – from throw pillow covers of woven fabric to bamboo furniture and ceramic dining ware. Handcrafted natural rattan baskets from MANAVA, a social enterprise that provides training and employment to Cambodian women, further decorate the property.
5. Cocktail culture
One of the FCC Angkor’s biggest draws, and its most direct reference to the generations of cocktail-loving literati that frequented the mythicised FCC of yore, is Scribe, a gorgeous alfresco lounge – with a square-shaped bar and seating spread across the ground floor and the mezzanine – shaded by sugar palms and frangipani trees. Scribe serves light salads and grilled meats, along with signature cocktails inspired by legendary journalists who frequented the FCC’s original Phnom Penh outpost all those years ago. A daily Gin O’Maniac special from 5pm to 7pm offers a selection of four refreshing tipples using the locally distilled Seekers Mekong Dry Gin; start your sundowner session with a cucumber gimlet (gin, salted cucumber juice, lime juice and coconut nectar) or a glass of Seeking Paradise (gin, tepache, pineapple juice and egg white), before heading up to The Mansion for dinner, where the fish amok is among the tastiest in town.
This article was originally published in the October 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine