Photo: Simple but delish.

Eat and meet



Along with her UNESCO World Heritage-listed sister city Melaka, Penang fights it out for the title of the food-iest locale in Malaysia—and we reckon it probably just edges in on winning the title.

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Introduction

A long history of multicultural diversity is the basic ingredient that spices the pot: You’ll find Chinese food from every region, Malay, Indian, Thai, Portuguese and British fare straight up or in traditional Peranakan style, along with more contemporary takes on the mix. You don’t have to spend big or dress up to enjoy a sensational gastronomic experience in Penang. Some of the best meals the town has to offer can be found in low-brow, no-nonsense hawker centres or right on the street with throngs of diners jostling for space.

Welcome to Penang.

Welcome to Penang. Photo: Sally Arnold

Many visitors come just for the food, and Penang residents are just as passionate. Eating is possibly the most popular local pastime, along with talking about food. Ask any Penangite their favourite place to eat and be prepared for a lengthy list of suggestions. There’s even a popular, somewhat kitsch museum displaying giant plastic recreations of celebrated cuisine. Most vendors are known for one particular dish, and each specialty has its most renowned version, usually recognised by the outlet’s name: “The Famous Penang (insert food)”.


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Popular attractions in Penang

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Penang.


Local dishes

Asam laksa, char kuey teow, and Hokkien curry mee are the holy trinity of Penang’s street food scene, but dozens of other equally lip-smacking dishes are ready to be sampled. Head into a traditional coffee shop or hawker centre, where you’ll be surrounded with individually-owned stalls selling a variety of options, with each usually specialising in one or two items. Order from the stall that takes your fancy, then find a seat (if you can). These centres are generally owned by the drinks seller (hence the name “coffee shop”), who will soon be at your table to take your order. If you don’t order a drink, many of Penang’s coffee shops levy a 50 sen to two ringgit charge for the privilege of taking up valuable table space.

A promising sign.

A promising sign. Photo: Sally Arnold

Generally, your food will be brought to your table, and you pay individually for food and drink. Stalls signboarded “self service” mean no table service. It’s often hot, crowded and noisy—you sit at plastic tables and chairs, if you’re lucky. If not, you might just have to stand and eat outside and hope a seat becomes available. If you are looking to linger and have a relaxed chat, head instead to a cafe or restaurant (there are dozens of these, too).

Night markets are also a great place to sample a variety of flavours. Popular spots include Lebuh Chulia (near Rainforest Bakery), Lebuh Kimberley, New Lane (Lorong Baru) off Lebuh Macalister, Lebuh Presgrave, and further afield Gurney Drive and Pulau Tikus. As well as these regular haunts, weekly and monthly markets are worth checking out for street food, along with cultural and art events. Hin Bus Depot #, the city’s arts hub, runs a regular Sunday pop-up market from 11:00 till 17:00 (try the homemade ginger beer), Occupy Beach Street # (Legally) closes this usually busy street to traffic every Sunday from 07:00 till 13:00 and often plays host to a two-ringgit mini-food carnival, which is excellent for a graze. Fight the selfie sticks of folks photographing the street art to check out the stalls at Armenian Street’s Got Talent # every Saturday evening. If you visit Penang on the last weekend of the month, LFSS (which stands for last Friday Saturday Sunday) organises free tours and occasional food-related events.

Settle in at Gurney Night Market.

Settle in at Gurney Night Market. Photo: Sally Arnold

Pick up the Penang Street Food Map from Penang Global Tourism # for a self-guided tour. Be warned that the variety can be overwhelming; you don’t have to eat at “The Famous Penang (insert food)” to experience a great meal—you can follow our suggestions, or head out with a true expert by joining one of Penang’s food tours. We went with the very knowledgeable and passionate Mark Ng from Simply Enak, and learnt not just about Penang’s diverse flavours, but a whole lot about the history and culture of Penang too. And if you really love the flavours, learn to cook them at home with affable Nazlina from Nazlina’s Spice Station Cooking School #. Half-day classes start at 180 ringgit, or contact her about her two- to five-week volunteer programme (which includes accommodation) and immerse yourself in Penang’s food culture for a longer stay.

Must-try dishes include Penang’s asam laksa, which receives all kinds of international accolades. If you have tasted the coconut-based curry version of laksa, note that this is something quite different—it’s a tangy and sour (asam) noodle soup with onions, ginger flower, pineapple and fish, and of course herbs and spices. “Famous” versions can be found at Joo Hooi Cafe # on Jalan Penang, be we tried an equally good rival at Penang Road Famous Asam Laksa # in the lane behind. While you’re there, slurp up a bowl of icy cendol at Penang Road Famous Teocew Cendol #. Cendol may look like an unappealing bowl–think green jelly worms and red beans surrounding a mountain of shaved ice, coconut milk and palm sugar–but believe us, it’s a refreshing sweet pick-me-up on a hot day.

Hit me. At Joo Hooi Cafe.

Hit me. At Joo Hooi Cafe. Photo: Sally Arnold

For the locals, however, it’s the char kuey teow (also koay/kway tiao) that gets the most attention. This simple dish of stir-fried flat rice noodles with prawns, cockles, beansprouts and egg is far greater than the sum of its parts, and something about the ubiquitous version here in Penang turns this modest mix into pure ambrosia. Try Presgrave Street Night Market # (outside the Hin Kee Coffee Shop), although this particular spot is more famous for its 888 Hokkien Mee stall, or Tiger Char Koay Teow # on Lebuh Carnarvon near the corner of Lebuh Melayu. For a soup-based version of these rice noodles, try the duck meat kuey teow soup at Satu Satu Tiga # on Lebuh Melayu.

The Hokkien mee in Penang differs from versions found in KL or Singapore; here it’s a noodle soup with a thick orange prawn-flavoured base, often, but not always with pork. The taste that tops our list can be found at Burma Road Famous Green House Prawn Mee #. This joint is so popular it’s self service, and it’s also open late, so it’s ideal for a late-night snack after a night out.

At Burma Road Famous Green House Prawn Mee. Easier to eat than say five time quickly.

At Burma Road Famous Green House Prawn Mee. Easier to eat than say five time quickly. Photo: Sally Arnold

Oh chien is basically an oyster omelette, and though we had sampled unremarkable versions of this dish previously, the Granny Fried Oyster stall at Chulia Street Night Market # has perfected the dish, with an exemplary crispy omelette exterior and plump oysters within.

If you can’t decide quite what you’d like, step into a nasi kandar restaurant, where you’ll be served a mound of rice, and you can point and pick from a variety of curry-based meats and veggies. Kandar refers to the bamboo-poled baskets once a common sight in Asia, and nasi is rice in Malay. Try Line Clear Nasi Kandar # on Jalan Penang near Lebuh Chulia—you’ll see the arm waving outside this 24-hour joint–or in Little India at Restoran Tajuddin Hussain #.

Lok Lok: Stand there and gorge.

Lok Lok: Stand there and gorge. Photo: Sally Arnold

Fun communal eating involves standing around a cart dipping skewers of meat and veggies into boiling stock and various sauces at a lok lok (or luk luk) stall. Give it a go at Chulia Street Night Market or at Jetty Lok Lok # at Gat Lebuh Acheh near the clan jetties.

For a sweet treat try ham chim peng, a fried doughnut-like snack (simply labelled “pancake” in English) from the stall on Lebuh Cintra near Campbell House—we like the sticky rice filling best. Or try the silky egg tarts and filled pastries at Ming Xiang Tai #, with outlets around town.

If savoury snacks are what you fancy, hightail it to the Queen Street samosa stand at the corner of Lebuh Queen and Lebuh Pasar in Little India for ambrosial samosas and other fried Indian-style delicacies. If you’re a little more peckish, on the opposite corner at the Ali Capati Corner # stall try the cobweb-like roti jala and fragrant biryani. Take a trip to Gurney Drive, and under the shade of the huge shopping malls, the night market is divided into two sections, halal and non-halal (mostly Chinese). Here vendors famously serve up laksa and pasembur, also called Indian rojak—fritters with a peanut sauce, similar to Indonesian gado gado.

At Gurney.

At Gurney. Photo: Sally Arnold

For a more substantial sit down meal, make sure you bag yourself a table at Teksen Resturant #. This place is popular for good reason, and you may well have to queue. From its humble origins as the Teik Seng Rice Stall established in 1965, it has built up an excellent reputation among locals for serving a whole host of Chinese favourites including Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka and Hokkien styles. If you are unfamiliar with the cuisine, this is a great place to find your bearings. Menus are in English, but we prefer to ask the friendly staff for their recommendations.

Hing Kee Restaurant # has been established for even longer (since 1907); you may not find the queues here, but they are doing something right to keep the punters happy for so long, and the home-style cooking is equally flavoursome. Hameediyah Restaurant # has also been in business since 1907 (obviously a good year), and still dishes up tandoori favourites and delectable murtabak, an eggy, meaty filled pancake. The system here is a little confusing as there are two shopfronts; we ordered our murtabak at one, then sat in the other for our meal.

Vegetarians will feel at home at Woodlands.

Vegetarians will feel at home at Woodlands. Photo: Sally Arnold

Vegetarians are well catered for in Penang. Your best bet is to venture over to Little India for a banana leaf meal or a crispy dosai. Woodland’s Vegetarian Restaurant # will have you sorted with Southern Indian specialties, or if it’s fresh and healthy Chinese style you’d prefer, The Leaf # serves rice and noodle dishes along with (not so Chinese) spaghetti and salads. They offer good value set-meal specials in a smart, clean, all-white cafe.

Penang’s rich cultural roots are most evident in Peranakan cuisine, a blend of Malay, Chinese and other influences. Look for sticky Nyonya cakes at Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya Koay #. You may find fragrant nasi ulam (rice with aromatic herbs) at some hawker stalls among other dishes, but for the full spectrum of famous Nyonya fare, sample the home-style selection at Auntie Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery #. We tried the crispy sambal udung (prawns fried in a pungent shrimp paste-based sambal) (35 ringgit) and sambal petai (stinky beans) (28 ringgit), washed down with a nutmeg punch.

At Auntie Gaik Lean’s.

At Auntie Gaik Lean’s. Photo: Sally Arnold

As an aside, nutmeg was first bought to Penang by the British as part of the spice trade from its native Banda Islands in Indonesia. The tiny islands were colonised by the British in the otherwise mostly Dutch-controlled archipelago. The Brits swapped Banda for New Holland, or modern day Manhattan, but still managed to take with them the precious nutmeg spice and successfully cultivate it in Penang. Nutmeg drinks are sold in most local coffee shops and make a refreshing tangy beverage.

Other Peranakan-focused joints include Lagenda Cafe # and Jawi House #, while for a special night out book a table at classy Kebaya Dining Room #, which is set within a row of beautifully restored terraces. Enjoy the fine dining experience surrounded by antiques and tinkling live piano. A “four”-course set meal (we’d call it three) for 120+ ringgit per person includes a choice of starters, a main with a vegetable and dessert. Food is served Chinese-style, so couples and groups can try a variety of flavours, yet single diners will still be quite content. Servings are substantial and flavours robust. Vegetarians can be accommodated, but it’s non-halal. Dinner is served in two sessions, from 18:00 to 20:00, and 20:00 to 22:00. Bookings advised.

Bowls of delish at Kebaya Dining Room.

Bowls of delish at Kebaya Dining Room. Photo: Sally Arnold

Alternatively, if fancy Peranakan is your lunchtime desire, Indigo # at the Cheong Fatt Ze Mansion also offer a set deal for 65++ ringgit for three courses, an excellent add-on to a guided tour of this fascinating heritage building. Dinner is also served here, but it’s a la carte, and somewhat pricier.



Map of eating options for Local dishes

Legend
(1) Ali Capati Corner (Under 26)(2) Armenian Street’s Got Talent (3) Auntie Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery (Obscured by 22)(4) Burma Road Famous Green House Prawn Mee (Off map to the west)(5) Chulia Street Night Market (6) Gurney Drive Hawker Centre (Off map to the west)(7) Ham chim peng stall (8) Hameediyah Restaurant (9) Hin Bus Depot (10) Hing Kee Resturant (11) Indigo: Cheong Fatt Ze Mansion (12) Jawi House (13) Jetty Lok Lok (14) Joo Hooi Cafe (Under 23)(15) Kebaya Dining Room (16) Lagenda Cafe (17) Line Clear Nasi Kandar (18) Ming Xiang Tai (Off map to the west)(19) Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya Koay (20) Nazlina Spice Station (21) Occupy Beach Street (22) Penang Global Tourism (23) Penang Road Famous Asam Laksa (24) Penang Road Famous Teocew Cendol (Under 23)(25) Presgrave Street Night Market (26) Queen Street samosa stall (Obscured by 27)(27) Restoran Tajuddin Hussain (28) Satu Satu Tiga (29) Tan Jetty Thai Food (30) Teksen Resturant (31) The Leaf (32) Tiger Char Koay Teow (Under 28)(33) Woodland’s Vegetarian Restaurant

Ali Capati Corner Cnr Lebuh Pasar and Lebuh Queen; T: (0165) 404 630, (0125) 914 400; Mo–Su: 14:00–23:00.
Armenian Street’s Got Talent https://www.facebook.com/armeniansgt Sa 17:00–22:00.
Auntie Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery 1 Lebuh Bishop; T: (0124) 492 121; https://www.facebook.com/Auntie-Gaik-Leans-Old-School-Eatery-564865433555884/ We–Su 11:30–14:30, 18:00–21:30.
Burma Road Famous Green House Prawn Mee 223 Lebuh Burma; Mo–Sa 16:00–02:30.
Chulia Street Night Market Cnr Lebuh Chulia and Lebuh Carnarvon; Mo–Su: 19:00–23:00.
Gurney Drive Hawker Centre Persiaran Gurney; Mo–Su: 18:00–24:00.
Ham chim peng stall Cnr Lebuh Cintra and Lebuh Campbell; Mo–Su: 18:30–23:00.
Hameediyah Restaurant 164 Lebuh Campbell; T: (04) 261 1095; https://www.facebook.com/OLDESTNASIKANDARINMALAYSIA/ Sa–Th 10:30–22:00.
Hin Bus Depot 31A Lebuh Gurdwara; http://hinbusdepot.com/ Su: 11:00–17:00.
Hing Kee Resturant 60 Lebuh China; T: (04) 261 0010; https://www.facebook.com/HingKee1907/ Tu–Th: 11:00–14:30, 18:30–20:30, Fr–Su: 08:30–14:30, 18:30–20:30.
Indigo: Cheong Fatt Ze Mansion 14 Lebuh Leith; T: (04) 262 0006; http://www.cheongfatttzemansion.com/restaurants/indigo-at-the-blue-mansion/ Mo–Su: 12:00–14:30, 18:30–22:00.
Jawi House 85 Lebuh Armenian; T: (04) 261 3680; http://www.jawihouse.com/content/home/index/site:jawihouse-link:5786 We–Mo: 11:00–22:00.
Jetty Lok Lok Gat Lebuh Acheh; Mo–Th: 19:00–01:00, Fr–Sa: 17:00–01:00.
Joo Hooi Cafe 475 Jalan Penang; Fr–We: 11:00–17:30.
Kebaya Dining Room Seven Terraces, 4A Lorong Stewart; T: (0111) 403 3310, (04) 264 2333, (04) 261 2862; http://kebaya.com.my Mo–Su: 18:00–20:00, 20:00–22:00.
Lagenda Cafe 43 Lebuh Campbell; T: (04) 261 2293; https://www.facebook.com/cafelagenda/ Mo–Su: 07:00–23:00.
Line Clear Nasi Kandar 177 Jalan Penang; Mo–Su: 24 hours.
Ming Xiang Tai 133 Lebuh Burma; T: (04) 227 9880; http://www.mingxiangtai.com.my Mo–Th 08:00-21:00; Fr–Su 08:00–23:00.
Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya Koay Lorong Masjid; T: (04) 261 5832; https://www.facebook.com/penangnyonyakuih/ Tu–Su: 10:30–17:00.
Nazlina Spice Station 2 Lebuh Campbell; T: (0124) 538 167; http://www.pickles-and-spices.com/cooking-traditional-food-class.html .
Occupy Beach Street https://www.facebook.com/occupybeachstreet/ Su: 07:00–13:00.
Penang Global Tourism 8B The Whiteaways Arcade, Lebuh Pantai; T: (0426) 31166, (0426) 043 456; http://www.mypenang.gov.my Mo–Fr: 09:00–17:00, Sa: 09:00–15:00, Su and holidays: 09:00–13:00.
Penang Road Famous Asam Laksa 5 Lebuh Keng Kwee; T: (0164) 460 543; https://www.facebook.com/PenangRoadFamousLaksa/ Mo–Su: 09:00–18:00.
Penang Road Famous Teocew Cendol 27-29 Lebuh Keng Kwee; http://www.chendul.my Mo–Fr: 10:30–19:00, Sa–Su: 10:00–19:30.
Presgrave Street Night Market Cnr Lebuh Mcnair and Lebuh Presgrave; Fr–We: 17:30–24:00.
Queen Street samosa stall 45 Lebuh Queen; Mo–Su: 09:00–18:00.
Restoran Tajuddin Hussain 49-51 Lebuh Queen; Mo–Sa: 11:00–15:30, 18:30–22:00.
Satu Satu Tiga 113 Lebuh Melayu; Mo–Sa: 06:30–15:00, Su: 11:30–15:00.
Tan Jetty Thai Food Tan Jetty, Pengkalan Weld; Mo–Su: 11:00–14:30, 17:00–22:00.
Teksen Resturant 18-20 Lebuh Carnarvon; T: (0129) 815 117; https://www.facebook.com/TekSenRestaurant/ We–Mo: 12:00–15:00, 18:00–21:00.
The Leaf 5 Lebuh Penang; T: (0124) 988 491; https://www.facebook.com/TheLeafHealthyHouse/ Mo–Su: 11:30–15:00, 17:30–22:00.
Tiger Char Koay Teow 179 Lebuh Carnarvon; Mo–Su: 08:00–14:30.
Woodland’s Vegetarian Restaurant 60 Lebuh Penang; T: (04) 263 9764; https://www.facebook.com/Woodlands-Vegetarian-Indian-Restaurant-210686258965482/ Mo–Su: 08:30–22:00.

Ali Capati Corner
Cnr Lebuh Pasar and Lebuh Queen; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0165) 404 630, (0125) 914 400; Under 5 ringgit
Armenian Street’s Got Talent
Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Auntie Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery
1 Lebuh Bishop; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0124) 492 121; Under 5 ringgit
Burma Road Famous Green House Prawn Mee
223 Lebuh Burma; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Chulia Street Night Market
Cnr Lebuh Chulia and Lebuh Carnarvon; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Gurney Drive Hawker Centre
Persiaran Gurney; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Ham chim peng stall
Cnr Lebuh Cintra and Lebuh Campbell; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Hameediyah Restaurant
164 Lebuh Campbell; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 261 1095; Under 5 ringgit
Hin Bus Depot
31A Lebuh Gurdwara; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Hing Kee Resturant
60 Lebuh China; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 261 0010; Under 5 ringgit
Indigo: Cheong Fatt Ze Mansion
14 Lebuh Leith; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 262 0006; Under 5 ringgit
Jawi House
85 Lebuh Armenian; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 261 3680; Under 5 ringgit
Jetty Lok Lok
Gat Lebuh Acheh; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Joo Hooi Cafe
475 Jalan Penang; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Kebaya Dining Room
Seven Terraces, 4A Lorong Stewart; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0111) 403 3310, (04) 264 2333, (04) 261 2862; Under 5 ringgit
Lagenda Cafe
43 Lebuh Campbell; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 261 2293; Under 5 ringgit
Line Clear Nasi Kandar
177 Jalan Penang; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Ming Xiang Tai
133 Lebuh Burma; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 227 9880; Under 5 ringgit
Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya Koay
Lorong Masjid; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 261 5832; Under 5 ringgit
Nazlina Spice Station
2 Lebuh Campbell; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0124) 538 167; Under 5 ringgit
Occupy Beach Street
Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Penang Global Tourism
8B The Whiteaways Arcade, Lebuh Pantai; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0426) 31166, (0426) 043 456; Under 5 ringgit
Penang Road Famous Asam Laksa
5 Lebuh Keng Kwee; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0164) 460 543; Under 5 ringgit
Penang Road Famous Teocew Cendol
27-29 Lebuh Keng Kwee; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Presgrave Street Night Market
Cnr Lebuh Mcnair and Lebuh Presgrave; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Queen Street samosa stall
45 Lebuh Queen; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Restoran Tajuddin Hussain
49-51 Lebuh Queen; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Satu Satu Tiga
113 Lebuh Melayu; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Tan Jetty Thai Food
Tan Jetty, Pengkalan Weld; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Teksen Resturant
18-20 Lebuh Carnarvon; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0129) 815 117; Under 5 ringgit
The Leaf
5 Lebuh Penang; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0124) 988 491; Under 5 ringgit
Tiger Char Koay Teow
179 Lebuh Carnarvon; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Woodland’s Vegetarian Restaurant
60 Lebuh Penang; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 263 9764; Under 5 ringgit
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Best places to stay in Penang

A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Penang.


International

Penang serves up a rich diversity of international cuisine, including pan-Asian and European choices. We tried some decent Thai at Tan Jetty Thai Food #, sitting over the water in a rickety but pretty setting. Deep-fried fish with mango salad (60 ringgit) was fresh and well balanced, and the serving size could have easily fed several hungry adults. Pho Viet # offers a set Vietnamese lunch for one or two people with a number of standard Vietnamese choices in a smart cafe style setting.

A slice of Thailand in Malaysia.

A slice of Thailand in Malaysia. Photo: Sally Arnold

When you need a change from rice and noodles, Il Bacaro # serves Venetian-style Italian cuisine, using fresh local ingredients including house-made pastas and bread. If you’re just craving a pizza, try Yin’s Sourdough Pizza #, where you can choose from a small selection of less than typical toppings. We couldn’t fit it in after our wild mushroom pizza, but liked the sound of the sweet pizza with poached pears (12 ringgit).

For colonial-style elegance and fare, 1885 # at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel and Suffolk House both offer fine dining, with a proper English afternoon tea or a full monty starched tablecloth dinnertime spread. Or take tea on the lawn overlooking the city at David Brown’s Restaurant and Tea Terraces # when you visit Penang Hill, a beautiful spot on a sunny day.



Map of eating options for International

Legend
(1) 1885 @ Eastern & Oriental Hotel (2) David Brown’s Restaurant and Tea Terraces (Off map)(3) Il Bacaro (4) Pho Viet (5) Suffolk House (Off map)(6) Yin’s Sourdough Pizza

1885 @ Eastern & Oriental Hotel 10 Lebuh Farquhar; T: (04) 222 2000 ext 3170; http://www.eohotels.com/1885.php Mo–Su: 14:00–22:30.
David Brown’s Restaurant and Tea Terraces Strawberry Hill, Bukit Bendera; T: (04) 828 8337; http://www.penanghillco.com.my Mo–Su: 11:00–22:00.
Il Bacaro 106 Lebuh Campbell; T: (04) 261 8290; http://campbellhousepenang.com/restaurant/ Mo–Su: 08:00–23:00.
Pho Viet 496 Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street); T: (0125) 591 905; https://www.facebook.com/phovietvietnamesecuisine/ Fr–We 11:00–22:00.
Suffolk House 250 Lebuh Air Itam; T: (04) 228 3930; https://suffolkhouse.com.my Mo–Su: 12:00–22:30.
Yin’s Sourdough Pizza Gat Lebuh China; T: (0112) 419 5118; https://www.facebook.com/Yinssourdoughpizza/ Mo–Fr (closed Tu): 11:30–22:00, Sa–Su: 08:00–22:00.

1885 @ Eastern & Oriental Hotel
10 Lebuh Farquhar; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 222 2000 ext 3170; Under 5 ringgit
David Brown’s Restaurant and Tea Terraces
Strawberry Hill, Bukit Bendera; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 828 8337; Under 5 ringgit
Il Bacaro
106 Lebuh Campbell; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 261 8290; Under 5 ringgit
Pho Viet
496 Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street); Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0125) 591 905; Under 5 ringgit
Suffolk House
250 Lebuh Air Itam; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 228 3930; Under 5 ringgit
Yin’s Sourdough Pizza
Gat Lebuh China; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0112) 419 5118; Under 5 ringgit
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Cafes

With so many cafes on the scene you won’t need to go far for a decent coffee. Constant Gardener # near Fort Cornwallis, are serious about their brews, with a variety of single-origin coffees and teas. Pop in early (09:00–11:00) Monday to Friday for early bird specials. Yes, 11:00 is early if you haven’t had coffee, in our opinion. Coffee Addict’s # Lebuh Hutton street address takes you to a paint shop, so head into the lane behind to the small art-filled cafe to enjoy coffee, juices, sandwiches and salads.

Yes please. At Constant Gardener.

Yes please. At Constant Gardener. Photo: Sally Arnold

In the centre of Penang’s heritage area you are spoilt for choice. China House’s # narrow street frontage is deceiving from the outside; enter and you’ll discover a huge complex that runs the entire block to the street behind divided into cafes, bars, a gallery and gift shop. Fancy a slice of cake? The selection at Kopi C in the front of China House is nothing short of magnificent: more than 75 different cakes are offered per day. It’s a really difficult choice, but a special deal allows you two half slices of certain cakes for the price of one. Walk though to the “library” with a long table and paper and crayons for doodling while you wait—a monthly competition offers a voucher for the best doodle.

We love their Vine & Single bar for a quiet tipple or for something a little more lively, The Canteen at the Lebuh Victoria end of the building entertains with a live music programme. Check their Facebook page for the latest updates. Across the road, Awesome Canteen # is housed in a, well, awesome industrial-style structure with tall indoor trees. They serve a weekly rotated coffee selection, burgers and Paleo-inspired cafe fare. This is a pleasant, airy spot to linger and if it particularly takes your fancy, book a room at Sekaping Victoria, with spacious industrial-style rooms overlooking the cafe space.

Perusing one of the refreshment areas in China House.

Perusing one of the refreshment areas in China House. Photo: Sally Arnold

Around the corner in Lebuh Armenian, Gudang Cafe # occupies a rustic style gudang—an old warehouse—serving Japanese-inspired fare with their coffees and teas at the longest communal table we’ve seen (they say it’s the second longest in Penang, but we didn’t find the title holder). If you’re around the Lorong Love area, pop into the Daily Dose # on Lorong Stewart. As well as coffee, wine and craft beer, they dish up an excellent smoked duck salad (20 ringgit) included in their cafe-style selection.

Along the road on Lebuh Muntri, Passion Heart # offers another of Penang’s cake extravaganzas. In this pretty pastel retro-style cafe it’s all about local fruit; try durian, jackfruit, yam or cempedak cakes, among others. For something a little quirky, step into Swimming Cat # at Chai Diam Ma. This sweet, inviting cafe has an arty hand-made bent, serving a small selection of pizzas by the charming owner, Nana.

Passionate colours at Passion Heart.

Passionate colours at Passion Heart. Photo: Sally Arnold

Kim Haus # on Lebuh Campbell meanwhile offers a mixed bag with a cafe, live music bar upstairs, gold museum and a guesthouse—if you’re looking for a full English breakfast, this is a good place to try. If art’s your thing, head to Narrow Marrow # (only open weekends) to connect with Penang’s arty crowd. Alongside your coffee try a local toddy (palm wine) cocktail or a slice of pea flower cheesecake.

Hin Bus Depot is Penang’s contemporary arts hub and along with a gallery and workshops, you’ll find a handful of cafes. Here Wholey Wonder # offers a plant-based menu which you can enjoy on rather uncomfortable but fun-looking swinging seats at the bar, or at one of the few tables, before heading upstairs for a yoga class. Check out their gluten-free rainbow cheesecake. Say hello to our friend Patie Tan at The Pharm Hut Kefir Dispensary # and try her delicious fermented brews.

Plant-based yum at x Wholey Wonder.

Plant-based yum at x Wholey Wonder. Photo: Sally Arnold

If the whole hipster cafe scene is not your bag, hightail it into any local coffee shop for a traditional kopi, or for a halfway version try Lollipop Ropitiam # (ropi = a portmanteau of roti and kopi) on Lebuh Campbell.They serve traditional kopi as well as espresso and naturally leavened bread in an Ikea-style kopitiam.



Map of eating options for Cafes

Legend
(1) Awesome Canteen (2) China House (Kopi C, Vine & Single, Canteen) (3) Coffee Addict (Off map to the west)(4) Constant Gardener (5) Daily Dose (6) Gudang Cafe (7) Kim Haus (8) Lollipop Ropitiam (9) Narrow Marrow (10) Passion Heart (11) Swimming Cat @ Chai Diam Ma (12) The Pharm Hut Kefir Dispensary (13) Wholey Wonder (Obscured by 12)

Awesome Canteen 164 Lebuh Victoria; T: (04) 261 3707; https://www.facebook.com/awesomecanteenpg/ Mo–Su: 11:00–22:00 (kitchen closed 15:00–18:00).
China House (Kopi C, Vine & Single, Canteen) 153 & 155 Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street), 183B Lebuh Victoria; T: (04) 263 7299; http://www.chinahouse.com.my Su–Th: 09:00–24:00, Fr–Sa: 09:00–01:00.
Coffee Addict 209 Lebuh Hutton; T: (0174) 641 982; https://www.facebook.com/Coffee-Addict-723079924502691/ We–Mo: 09:00–18:00.
Constant Gardener 9-11 Lebuh Light (Chinese Chamber of Commerce building); T: (04) 251 9070; http://constantgardener.coffee Tu–Su: 09:00–24:00.
Daily Dose 36 Lorong Stewart; T: (04) 251 9168; https://www.facebook.com/TheDailyDoseCafe/ We–Mo: 09:00–18:00.
Gudang Cafe 5 Gat Lebuh Armenian; T: (04) 251 9634; https://www.facebook.com/gudangcafe/ Fr–We: 10:00–24:00.
Kim Haus 9–11 Lebuh Campbell; T: (0163) 301 515; https://www.facebook.com/Kim-Haus-912505328827678/ Mo–Su: 08:00–01:00.
Lollipop Ropitiam 65 Lebuh Campbell; T: (04) 262 1093; https://www.facebook.com/LollipopBakery Tu–Su: 07:00–20:00.
Narrow Marrow 252A Lebuh Carnarvon; T: (0165) 536 647; https://www.facebook.com/NARROWMARROW/ Fr–Su: 14:00–01:00.
Passion Heart 83 Lebuh Muntri; T: (0164) 431 336; https://www.facebook.com/passionheartcafe Mo, We–Sa: 12:00–22:30, Su: 12:00–21:00.
Swimming Cat @ Chai Diam Ma 15 Lebuh Queen; https://www.instagram.com/swimming.cat.555/ We–Fr: 15:00–22:00, Sa–Su: 11:00–20:00.
The Pharm Hut Kefir Dispensary Hin Bus Depot, 31A Lebuh Gurdwara; T: (0124) 005 844; https://www.facebook.com/ThePharmHut/ Tu–Su: 12:00–20:00.
Wholey Wonder Hin Bus Depot, 31A Lebuh Gurdwara; T: (04) 218 9006; https://www.facebook.com/wholeywonder/ We–Sa: 12:00–21:00, Su: 11:00–18:00.

Awesome Canteen
164 Lebuh Victoria; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 261 3707; Under 5 ringgit
China House (Kopi C, Vine & Single, Canteen)
153 & 155 Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street), 183B Lebuh Victoria; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 263 7299; Under 5 ringgit
Coffee Addict
209 Lebuh Hutton; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0174) 641 982; Under 5 ringgit
Constant Gardener
9-11 Lebuh Light (Chinese Chamber of Commerce building); Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 251 9070; Under 5 ringgit
Daily Dose
36 Lorong Stewart; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 251 9168; Under 5 ringgit
Gudang Cafe
5 Gat Lebuh Armenian; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 251 9634; Under 5 ringgit
Kim Haus
9–11 Lebuh Campbell; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0163) 301 515; Under 5 ringgit
Lollipop Ropitiam
65 Lebuh Campbell; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 262 1093; Under 5 ringgit
Narrow Marrow
252A Lebuh Carnarvon; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0165) 536 647; Under 5 ringgit
Passion Heart
83 Lebuh Muntri; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0164) 431 336; Under 5 ringgit
Swimming Cat @ Chai Diam Ma
15 Lebuh Queen; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
The Pharm Hut Kefir Dispensary
Hin Bus Depot, 31A Lebuh Gurdwara; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0124) 005 844; Under 5 ringgit
Wholey Wonder
Hin Bus Depot, 31A Lebuh Gurdwara; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 218 9006; Under 5 ringgit
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Bars

Sun’s over the yard arm? Bars are scattered throughout Penang, with a concentration at the north end of Jalan Penang or more backpacker-style offerings on Lorong Love, near Lebuh Chulia.

Straight to the point at Kedai Tuak.

Straight to the point at Kedai Tuak. Photo: Sally Arnold

Hidden in the back streets of Lorong Pasar, step into the past at the somewhat dodgy looking Kedai Tuak # for local tipple of traditional palm wine, or toddy. Front up at the wire grill, hand over a couple of ringgit for a plastic cupful or a repurposed water bottle to take home. Enjoy in the authentic speakeasy ambience with the sounds of Bollywood and the company of friendly, (but mostly inebriated) Indian men.

Around the corner, Antarabangsa Enterprise # is Penang’s unofficial United Nations, united mostly by cheap booze. This unpretentious but busy place is a terrific spot for affordable beer and to meet both locals and travellers. Not really a bar, it’s a narrow shop with a smattering of plastic tables and stools on the street with occasional buskers and food carts. Daily deals usually offer three cans of beer for 10 ringgit.

So who has been to the real Beach? At Antarabangsa Enterprise.

So who has been to the real Beach? At Antarabangsa Enterprise. Photo: Sally Arnold

Junk Cafe # offers beers, cocktails (19–23 ringgit), coffee, burgers and a friendly ambience in a small but fascinating junk-filled bar. If a chilled wine bar is more to your taste, Georgetown Wines # is tucked away in a renovated stable near Cheong Fatt Ze Mansion. Walk into the cellar and choose a bottle or order by the glass. Classy but casual Mish Mash # on Lebuh Muntri is the place for a selection of excellent cocktails including Malaysia’s own Jungle Bird, a rum and Campari-based drink served here with a bouquet of pretty edible flowers (36 ringgit). Also on offer is a range of single-malt whiskeys and cigars. The cosy atmosphere and attentive service get a thumbs up from us.

For a fun (late) night for folks in the know (that’s you) head to the “secret bar” at Magazine 63 #. This hipster speakeasy is as much fun to find as it is to join the crowds within. In a row of desolate-looking shophouses on Lebuh Magazine, look for a banner for a furniture shop, push back the grill and in the darkness feel for the door and push.

Grab an umbrella at Magazine 63.

Grab an umbrella at Magazine 63. Photo: Sally Arnold

You’ll enter a narrow corridor lit by a solitary red light. To your right, find a large brass door knocker with the face of the devil and pull to reveal a spacious bar decorated with Chinese lanterns and pretty umbrellas. A mezzanine above the bar hosts live music and DJs. Cocktails (not on the menu) are served in teapots and Chinese jars, and poured into rice bowls, adding to the tongue-in-cheek illicit vibe. The bar was pumping midweek when we visited, but it gets packed on weekends and they request you book via their Facebook to secure a table. While you’re barhopping, don’t forget to check out the bars at China House.



Map of eating options for Bars

Legend
(1) Antarabangsa Enterprise (2) Georgetown Wines (3) Junk Cafe (4) Kedai Tuak (5) Magazine 63 (6) Mish Mash

Antarabangsa Enterprise 21 Lorong Stewart; Mo–Sa: 15:00–02:00, Su: 19:30–23:30.
Georgetown Wines 19-19A Lebuh Leith; T: (04) 262 1011; https://www.facebook.com/georgetownwines/ We–Mo: 18:00–01:00.
Junk Cafe 401 Lebuh Chulia; T: (0164) 383 205; https://www.facebook.com/junk401/ Th–Tu: 15:00–01:00.
Kedai Tuak Lorong Pasar; Mo–Su: 09:00–21:00.
Magazine 63 63 Lebuh Magazine; T: (0176) 363 551; https://www.facebook.com/magazineM63/ Su–Th: 20:00–02:00; Fr–Sa: 20:00–03:00.
Mish Mash 24 Lebuh Muntri; T: (0175) 365 128; https://www.facebook.com/mishmashpg/ Tu–Su: 17:00–24:00.

Antarabangsa Enterprise
21 Lorong Stewart; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Georgetown Wines
19-19A Lebuh Leith; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 262 1011; Under 5 ringgit
Junk Cafe
401 Lebuh Chulia; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0164) 383 205; Under 5 ringgit
Kedai Tuak
Lorong Pasar; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
Magazine 63
63 Lebuh Magazine; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0176) 363 551; Under 5 ringgit
Mish Mash
24 Lebuh Muntri; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0175) 365 128; Under 5 ringgit
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Batu Feringgi

If you’re based at Batu Feringgi you won’t go hungry, although most of the action happens here in the evenings, when the street stalls and hawker centres fire up their woks. Seafood is the star on many menus, and Middle Eastern fare abounds, catering to the crowds of holidaymakers from this region.

Popular Long Beach hawker centre # draws the tourist hordes and this lively crowd pleaser is a good spot to take fussy kids—expect pizza and other Western dishes along with standard rice and noodle offerings. Despite its out of the way location, tucked at the back of the second floor of an ugly multi-storey block, Andrew’s Kampung # still manages to draw a steady stream of punters with their friendly service and decent food. This is a simple plastic chair joint so don’t expect gourmet, but tasty kampung (village)-style Malaysian Chinese tucker.

Start your day at Ferringhi Garden.

Start your day at Ferringhi Garden. Photo: Sally Arnold

Down in the thick of resort hotel land, family-friendly Living Room # is another congenial local joint serving Malay standards and fusion dishes including fresh seafood. We tried a Thai-style fish dish, and though it wasn’t particularly authentic Thai nor very spicy, it was still fresh and delicious. As the name suggests, this is a comfortable place to hang out, and occasionally live acoustic music is played.

Ferringhi Garden # wins the accolade for the prettiest joint on the strip. “Garden” is no understatement, with a jungle of flowering orchids, pitcher plants and cascading greenery making for a beautiful romantic setting. Western-style steaks and seafood are on the menu at this relaxing spot.

Bora Bora beachside.

Bora Bora beachside. Photo: Sally Arnold

If you can’t wait for the evening, adjoining Ferringhi Coffee Garden # serves light cafe-style meals and real (but not great) coffee. Batu Ferringhi’s western-facing strip of sand makes an idea viewpoint to watch the setting sun over the Straits of Melaka. You could do worse than wander south of the Hard Rock Hotel to Frandy Beach Bar or north of the Holiday Inn to Bora Bora # to dip your toes in the sand during a few sundowners.



Map of eating options for Batu Feringgi

Legend
(1) Andrew’s Kampung (2) Bora Bora (3) Ferringhi Coffee Garden (Under 4)(4) Ferringhi Garden (5) Frandy Beach Bar (6) Living Room (Obscured by 4)(7) Long Beach

Andrew’s Kampung 2nd floor, 1-13 Lebuh Sungai Emas, Eden Parade; T: (04) 881 1688; https://www.facebook.com/Andrew-Kampung-Restaurant-133698336663827/ We–Mo: 12:00–23:30.
Bora Bora 415 Lebuh Batu Ferringhi; T: (04) 885 1313; http://www.borabora.com.my Su–Th: 12:00–01:00, Fr–Sa: 12:00–03:00.
Ferringhi Coffee Garden 34D Lebuh Batu Ferringhi; T: (04) 885 1192; https://www.facebook.com/ferringhicoffeegarden/ Mo–Su: 08:00–18:00.
Ferringhi Garden 34ABC Lebuh Batu Ferringhi; T: (04) 881 1193, ; http://www.ferringhigarden.com.my Mo–Su: 17:00–24:00.
Frandy Beach Bar South Batu Ferringhi Beach; T: (0124) 242 313; https://www.facebook.com/frandybeachbar/ Mo–Th: 09:45–24:00, Fr–Su: 09:45–0:1:00.
Living Room 43C Lebuh Batu Ferringhi; T: (0174) 772 148; https://www.facebook.com/livingroom11100/ Th–Tu: 10:00–22:00.
Long Beach Lebuh Batu Ferringhi (south of Lone Pine Resort); Mo–Su: 18:00–23:00.

Andrew’s Kampung
2nd floor, 1-13 Lebuh Sungai Emas, Eden Parade; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 881 1688; Under 5 ringgit
Bora Bora
415 Lebuh Batu Ferringhi; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 885 1313; Under 5 ringgit
Ferringhi Coffee Garden
34D Lebuh Batu Ferringhi; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 885 1192; Under 5 ringgit
Ferringhi Garden
34ABC Lebuh Batu Ferringhi; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (04) 881 1193, ; Under 5 ringgit
Frandy Beach Bar
South Batu Ferringhi Beach; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0124) 242 313; Under 5 ringgit
Living Room
43C Lebuh Batu Ferringhi; Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
T: (0174) 772 148; Under 5 ringgit
Long Beach
Lebuh Batu Ferringhi (south of Lone Pine Resort); Penang, Peninsular Malaysia
Under 5 ringgit
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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Penang? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Malaysia.


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