At The Galley, it’s all tall ships and thrash metal

By: Nicky Sullivan

Olivier Roulin originally wanted to do a straight-up pirate-themed bar.

“But when Florian came on board and said ‘please, can we do metal?’ Because he’s a huge metal fan, it seemed like a good fit. They work together, don’t they?”

And thus the concept for The Galley came into being, Siem Reap’s first rock/metal/pirate bar, which opened upstairs at The Harbour just two weeks ago.

Roulin, a long-term Siem Reaper and tattoo artist, and Florian Gleich, a graphic designer who moved here in the middle of last year, have teamed up for the venture, with each one bringing their own unique creative sensibilities.

Roulin’s vision for The Harbour, which he opened in October last year, has always been an organic thing. It is a creative centre, an entertainment venue, a tattoo and piercing parlour, a shop, and, for a while, home to a jazz bar, until that closed this March. “Metal tavern” is just the latest theme attached to the venue bow, and more ideas are bubbling away inside Roulin’s head.

“I want it to be somewhere people can just come, open up and be themselves,” he said. “And metal ties in well with that. It’s very inclusive, organic music. Plus, we don’t play it loud. It’s actually perfect in the background, because it’s strong but doesn’t overpower.

Gleich is the real metal fan though. “I think he knows every single band there is,” said Roulin. They aim to host movie and TV nights that play on the theme, screening films like Metalocalypse, A Headbanger’s Journey, and even Beavis and Butthead.

In keeping with the name, the get-up is distinctly maritime, with ships and naval paraphernalia scattered around the wooden bar, which is open-sided to the east and west. Inside, long benches and a giant chain spool, which Roulin picked up last year thinking it might come in useful, serve to bring people together.

“Already people are saying they feel at home when they come here,” said Roulin, adding with a grin, “plus I have a bell for the bar, so that I can ring it and give everyone a free drink if I want to.”

Because they only open for three nights a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – they don’t run a formal kitchen. Thursday and Friday are “snack” nights, with Roulin and Gleich themselves manning the Galley’s galley.

For Saturdays, they’ve hit on the idea of inviting chefs to come in and prepare reasonably priced “all-you-can-eat” menus, which The Galley will promote. So far, Simone Santolini from Mammashop has taken the bait, and a number of other chefs and restaurants are already lined up, including Belmiro’s, Michael Foidl from Cambodia Catering Company, and Steven Halcrow from Siem Reap Food Tours. Chefs wanting to take part should contact Roulin directly.

“It’s going to be easy going, we want it to feel almost like a family night, with food being served from big pots and getting the chef out there to connect with the people. They can use the opportunity to go beyond their usual working boundaries and experiment a little too.”

Roulin is keen to add that they won’t be playing metal every night. “It’s a small town, we can have our idea but also we need to open up to other ideas too. There’ll also be a lot of rock and indie, too.”