Mar 07 2013
Many restaurants in Penang have attempted to take the relaxed continental cafe vibe and transfer it to the Asian setting, but none more successfully than Mews Cafe. With excellent coffee, a simple but stylish interior, varied menu and personable service, it gets the balance just right and successfully combines the best of European and Asian.
Located on bustling Muntri Street and housed in what was formerly a rundown mews stable block, the building has transcended its utilitarian roots to become one of Georgetown’s most popular venues. Where horses once chowed down on oats and hay, you can now munch your way through a varied bistro-style menu and relax with a coffee that would make any French cafe proud.
Mews Cafe’s other main draw is that it is one of only a handful of places in Georgetown where you can sit outside, and this adds to the continental feel. The granite-paved courtyard, with its lush green foliage, is an unexpected and welcome contrast to the densely-packed shophouses that surround it and while it provides a sanctuary from the street, it is still close enough to see and hear all that is going on, for those who enjoy people-watching from a distance.
Meanwhile, the inside is light, airy and well air-conditioned, with cool white marble floors and table tops, and glazed doors overlooking the garden. The antique counter and other furniture, as well as the traditional Chinese porcelain, give the cafe an established feel.
The menu is a good mix of Western and Asian, and the kitchen serves up homely chicken pies, burgers, fish and chips, salads and pasta dishes as well as Penang favourites such as curry mee, nasi goreng with satay chicken, beef rending and their best-seller, the nasi lemak bento.
The specials board changes daily and is worth checking for more unusual Malay dishes, as well as fresh fish and seafood. Main courses start at 18 ringgit for local dishes, going up to 28 ringgit for international cuisine. Light snack plates of samosas and rice paper rolls start at 12 ringgit, and the varied dessert menu, including tiramisu, berry crumble and sago with molasses and coconut cream, are between 8 and 13 ringgit.
Of course you can eat more cheaply elsewhere, especially if you are after Asian food, but the emphasis at Mews Cafe is on the freshness and quality of the ingredients, generous portions and attention to flavour. The cafe has a loyal following of locals, who keep coming back for the Asian dishes, and in a town where people really know their food, this says everything about the quality. The mix of Western and Asian fare is also helpful, as there is something for everyone.
The beverage menu is three pages long and includes an astonishing variety of drinks, from cooling pineapple and mint frappes and mixed berry ice teas to mocktails, cocktails, a decent beer and wine list and, of course, every style of coffee. Soft drinks start at 7 ringgit, fresh juices and mocktails are around 15 ringgit, and coffees between 7 and 15 ringgit. Wine and cocktails start at 22 ringgit.
The staff is friendly and relaxed, but also attentive, keeping your glasses topped up with iced water infused with refreshing lemon and cucumber. It is attention to detail such as this that really makes it worth paying a bit extra.
Lunchtimes tend to be very busy, especially at weekends, and Mews Cafe has built up a deservedly good reputation. It is vibrant enough for those who like a bit of atmosphere, but it’s also a great place to come and relax, especially during the afternoons when the lunchtime crowd has cleared. There is often live music in the garden on Saturday evenings, and booking is advised if you want to secure your spot and make the most of a balmy Penang evening.
Above and behind the cafe is the ever-popular Muntri Mews (Agoda), whose generously proportioned rooms, chic fittings and little luxuries offer all the comforts of a high-end boutique hotel at flashpacker prices. Room rates are from 300 ringgit, including tax and service charge.
After refuelling at Mews Cafe, it’s only a five-minute walk to the famous Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion on Leith Street. You are also just up the road from the Hainanese Temple in one direction, and the Goddess of Mercy Temple in the other, and are also well positioned for the street art trail, which starts down on Jalan Penang.
Mews Cafe and Muntri Mews Hotel
77 Muntri Street
T: (04) 263 5125
Open daily, 10am to 10pm
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