A magical wardrobe in the well-known fantasy novels The Chronicles of Narnia, where the protagonist enters a wardrobe that immediately transports her into a very different world, illustrates what people feel upon entering the Odom Garden Park.
As the road fronting the park is noisy, busy and hot, few might think it would hide a cool 4,000sqm family and dog-friendly park – probably the only one in Cambodia – surrounded with trees and a cafe right smack in the centre of the city.
It’s a perfect spot for animal lovers and their four-legged friends to unwind. The park has a fenced-in area for dogs to run around to their hearts’ content while owners chill surrounded by the lush tropical greens.
Sven Adler, a project manager for Urban Living Solutions (ULS), the developers of the garden, tells The Post: “We went to have a look at the undeveloped space, saw all those mature trees and felt the micro-climate there. It was a fantastic space right at the centre of Phnom Penh.
“We thought it would be a shame to bulldoze the place and let it go to waste. So we decided to open it to the public and in the meantime make it accessible for the community before our construction project begins.”
But the park does not have much time to exist. A commercial and residential complex is set to begin construction at the spot in April next year.
Adler said they have carried out some maintenance and a few improvements to attract more people to the park for the time being.
“If it’s just a green space one might just go for a short walk and then leave. We want to give people a reason to stay longer. And we thought it would be nice if people can sit and have a drink or a meal. That’s when the restaurant came into being.
“We then came across Botanico as a potential partner in the park project, and they were excited to open their second venue here,” he says.
The park has held events and open fairs where assorted goods were sold. Yet it does not charge any entrance fees. Access to the entire park is free to the public, including dog lovers.
People go to the park with their furry friends to enjoy the area, while children conquer the playground, the swing and water pipes to cool their legs. The park is also suitable for those who wish to work on their computers, study, read or do yoga.
Botanico general manager Greg Beshers says: “The park and the restaurant opened on August 1. It all happened at once so when people arrived, they could enjoy the food and drinks and of course the open space, too.”
Beshers says he has a smaller menu at Odom Garden Park compared to Botanico’s other outlet in Phnom Penh. Botanico Odom Garden Park serves chicken wings, burgers, fries, sandwiches, hummus and more.
“We always try to come up with other items on the menu to give it some variety. With the help of ULS, we have twice played music and offered food to accompany it, too.
“The first was an American barbeque matched with an American country music concert while the second was a German food fair paired with German classical music,” he says.
Beshers says he considered offering local dishes such as beef loklak at the park, but after much thought, he decided that if someone wanted to have a local dish they would surely know best where to get it.
“So if they come here, they might want to try something a little different from our menu while enjoying the park, too,” he says.
Among the dishes that Botanico serves, Beshers says the best sellers are the mini burgers, club sandwich and hummus.
The mini burgers are made from 100 per cent Australian beef that’s magically ground to perfection for the popular “sliders” with cashew pesto sauce which sell for $7.75.
Their club sandwich for $7.00 is two meals in one and comes with grilled chicken, pork-belly strips, cheese and fresh greens.
The hummus is described as a timeless Mediterranean “mezze” centre piece served with a sliced baguette for $5.00.
Many types of events, are scheduled for the upcoming months. The Odom farmers market occurs monthly and offers an exciting array of locally made products.
There will be an organic produce fair, more fresh food and those of the vendor variety too such as homeware. Children’s books, fashion accessories, fast food, and so much more!
Adler and Beshers remind people to keep an eye out for upcoming events on the ULS and Botanico at Odom Garden Facebook pages where weekly events are promoted.
“The park is always open to the public. Anyone curious is welcome to visit. We intend to have the park easily accessible to allow everyone to enjoy it.
“We use the stage once in a while when we have a live event. Soon, we will add picnic mats, too. So far, the feedback that we’ve received is that people love the green space. Some even say they feel as though they are up a mountain.
“It’s fairly safe here. Parents appreciate that they can have their children and furry friends running around without having to worry that they might get hit by cars or motorbikes,” says Adler.
Odom Garden Park and Botanico Odom Garden are open from 8am-10pm from Monday to Thursday and until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. They close at 7pm on Sundays.
The park is located at 158-160 Norodom Boulevard in Phnom Penh.