At noon on Saturday, light streams in from floor to ceiling windows overlooking a tree-lined street, highlighting the bounty on display as guests enter. Piles of pastries, meats, cheeses, shellfish meet the eye and foretell the abundance about to come.
The host greets us and shows us a private booth with a direct view of the tree-lined street and the four-piece band playing jazz and pop tunes in front of it. Seated at tables in between us and the quartet are little girls in party dresses eating with other generations of their family; small groups of 20- and 30-somethings; a father and son; a couple toasting a special occasion.
Located on the first floor of the newly-opened Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh hotel, The Mekong restaurant is an all-day dining restaurant, mostly catering to hotel guests and business lunches. But on the first Saturday of the month, the eatery transforms itself into a destination for families, foodies, special occasion celebrators, and those looking for a relaxing Saturday with good food.
The all-you-can-eat brunch goes from just before noon until 4pm and is billed as the longest in town. It abounds with everything one could possibly want. There’s nothing moderate about this meal – either in offerings or duration.
The buffet-style circular food bar means one can start wherever one fancies. There are traditional entrées – an Asian salad bar (including banana leaf and green mango salads); a mixed greens salad bar; olives, cheeses and charcuterie; loafs of bread, dinner rolls, breadsticks, croissants, muffins. But in case you happen to find yourself on the other side of the room, next to the custom omelette station, there’s another table piled with baguettes and crudités.
Same goes for the seafood; I was thrilled to see crab, mussels, squid and prawns next to my favourites, lobster flown in from Canada and sashimi. And then as I made the rotation, I found that cater-cornered there was another seafood section with a different variety of prawn and several kinds of clams on the half shell. Similarly, the carving station features a beef tenderloin with a Kampot pepper sauce on one side and an entire roasted suckling pig on the other.
Because of the copious amounts of food offerings, one may have the urge to skip over items that are seemingly common – but this is folly. For example, the simple chicken and capsicum skewers burst with juicy flavour, as the chicken tastes as if it has marinated for hours. And the noodle soup bar has enough options to make a fish soup exactly to one’s desire.
Take your time, savour the flavours, enjoy the pleasant upbeat music, sip on fresh juices or cocktails – and then when you’re ready for it, go to the adjacent room that is devoted entirely to desserts. Rounding three walls, the dessert buffet is a veritable cornucopia of French pastries: profiteroles, éclairs, macarons, petit fours, crème brûlées, truffles. Each is decorated and plated beautifully; I asked from which pâtisserie they ordered and learned that everything in the brunch buffet was made in-house.
After having sampled each item in the lunch area, I found that I needed to be (relatively) judicious in choosing my sweets. I passed by the ice cream station, with a wide selection of nuts and candied fruits for toppings, and opted for the pistachio panna cotta topped with a raspberry glaze and healthy shaving of dark chocolate. As well as a profiterole with caramelized crunch on top. And, for an Asian flavour, a sesame ball.
There is no pretence here, just a satisfyingly comfortable and relaxing atmosphere. It is all smiles amongst patrons and staff as plates pile up, glasses empty and music and chatter float about the room. To experience this bliss, call to make a reservation, or simply walk in – The Mekong staff are always happy to greet you.