Eat and meet
GeorgetownPenang is famed for its rich diversity of world cuisine thanks to its long history of being settled by migrants, and Georgetown is where you'll find the island's best restaurants. You don't need to pay top dollar to eat well here and you'll often come across an amalgam of different cuisines under the one roof -- don't be surprised to find Chinese, Indian and Indonesian cuisine all offered interchangeably.
Along with its foreign imports, Penang has its own unique dishes and you should take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy some new tastes while grazing in Georgetown.
Some must-try dishes that set Penang food apart from the rest of Malaysia include nasi kandar (steamed rice accompanied by a mix of rich curries), char keoy teow, (fried noodles), hokkien mee (egg and rice noodles with prawns in a fragrant soup with condiments), assam laksa (seafood soup with white noodles), durian ice cream and traditional Chinese-style pao pork buns with black coffee.
You'll be able to sample all the above in typical hole-in-the-wall restaurants, but also at any one of Penang's many hawker stalls. Some very interesting stalls are found on New Lane on Jalan Macalister, Gurney Drive and Jalan Kimberly. Bee Hooi Garden has some of the best fried noodles in town with another, more accessible hawker market being Red Garden Food Paradise on Lebuh Leith, not far from Jalan Penang.
This is the heart of the backpacker eating scene where you'll find no shortage of affordable meals. Aficionados may baulk at the lack of authenticity of some of the dishes, but for simple, crowd-pleasing food, it is difficult to go wrong. Almost every guesthouse or bar has a pretty stock standard menu, backed up by a small kitchen out back. Not all are made equally though and some do serve specialities -- you'll also find a few hawker stalls at Chulia's intersection with Lebuh Carnavon.
For open-air eating with an international flavour, a relaxing option is Coco Island Travellers Corner, just a few shops down from the Jalan Penang intersection. Here you'll find possibly Malaysia's only real Mexican food and we can vouch for the enchiladas -- the portions are massive.
A couple of shophouses up is Ecco Cafe, an old shophouse transformed into a well-designed home-style kitchen. A popular spot during weekends among locals as well as travellers, the menu offers pizzas and pasta but they also serve a state-of-the art brunch well worth the price. The facade is arty looking, with little square tables adorning a tiled floor inside.
Down at Lebuh Armenian you'll find a row of heritage buildings hosting some very original hideaways. One is the very friendly Swiss/Malaysian owned Edelweiss Cafe, serving some awesome steaks and an absolutely massive jumbo chicken sausage at very reasonable prices.
Little India boasts a huge number of curry houses to choose from, ranging from South Indian to Punjabi and Bengali. Curry Kapitan does a tasty tandoori chicken and nan bread plate for only 5 ringgit and is popular with locals. You know you are there once you see the blue mosque on the other side of the road.
Other favourites include Khaleel and Kassim Mustafa where you can fill yourself with cheap and tasty Indian food along with the locals.
Another original Penang eatery is the roadside Special Famous Penang Roti Chanai, specialising in this Southern India dish of folded fried bread, usually eaten with a curry dip. Only open in the morning and tricky to find, this place is well worth seeking out. Take Jalan Transfer until it meets Jalan Ariffin and you'll spot the blue canvas shadings covering the tables and the steady flow of staff shouting orders back and forth. At 1.25 ringgit, a piece or two is usually plenty.
Penang walking street
When you get tired of eating on the road or sharing Chinese steamboats go a bit crazy at one of the many upmarket places. Penang's hip eateries are concentrated along Upper Penang Road walking street. Here you'll find Segafredo Coffee along with candlelit restaurants hosting a range of Western, fusion, Japanese and French cuisines.
The Eastern and Oriental, a posh historic hotel, delivers on its promise of fabulous food. Flipflops and singlets may be frowned upon so be sure to dress smart. If you fancy an amazing view then pop around the corner to the Bayview Hotel, which has a revolving restaurant perched atop their 320 rooms.
Popular watering holes on Chulia include Betel Nut, Hong Kong Bar and BBQ Cafe where tables and chairs stretch out onto the street and bring a Penang type cafe style to the area.
Georgetown's prime nightlife area is ensconsed on Upper Penang Road, where English pubs like The Tiger Arms and the music pumping nightclubs of Momo, Glo and Slippery Senoritas stay open well into the morning. Soho Bar on Jalan Penang nearby is also a favourite for people missing their neighbourhood pub back home. Uptown looks like a traditional city centre British pub and has live music every night from 22:00. It's popular and you will find many of the 30 stagefront tables reserved.
Bayview Hotel: 25a Lebuh Farquhar, Penang. T:(04) 2633161
Coco Island Travellers Corner: 422 Lebuh Chulia, Penang.
Curry Kapitan: 13 Lebuh Chula, Penang. Open 24 hours
Eastern and Oriental: 10 Lebuh Farquhar, Penang. T:(04) 222 2000. Open 14:30-22: 30.
Ecco Cafe: 402 Lebuh Chulia, Penang. Open 11:30--15:00 and 18:00-22:30.
Edelweiss Cafe: 38 Lebuh Armenian, Penang. Open Tue- Fri 12:00-15:00 and 18:30-22:00, Sat 12:00-22:00 and Sun 12:00-19:00.
Famous Roti Chenai: Jalan Transfer next to Jalan Ariffin, Penang. Open 06:30-13:00.
Red Garden Food Paradise: 20 Lebuh Leith, Penang. Open 17:00-23:00.
Segafredo Coffee: Jalan Penang, Penang. Open 10:30-02:30.
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