Photo: Hungry?

Eat and meet

You can eat your way around the region in Tawau, with a wide selection of culinary choices on offer from Indonesia, the Philippines, China and Malaysia, including inexpensive fresh seafood—the diversity of flavours are a glutton’s delight.

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The first stop in town for seafood is the Sabino Centre on Jalan Chen Fook, a row of Chinese seafood restaurants with tanks brimming with the day’s catch. We tried Good View Seafood Restaurant. The name is a bit of a misnomer, but depends on your definition of a good view—the food looks (and tastes) delicious, but the side of the road isn’t that pretty. The restaurant is brisk and bustling—pull up a red plastic chair and friendly staff will help you pick and offer the best cooking method to keep your tastebuds happy. Seafood is sold fresh or frozen, the latter being the cheaper option. They’ll tell you prices when your order, but a large fish and a pile of prawns (plus veggies and rice) cost us about 70 ringgit for two people. Beer is sold by “beer girls” who insist on topping up your glass after every sip — dangerous.

Now that's a pretty good view to us.

Now that's a pretty good view to us. Photo: Sally Arnold

Elbow in with the locals at Yassin Curry House. Choose from one of the three seating areas: the open section, an air-con room, or the VIP dining room. Depending on the level of comfort you decide, the prices will differ slightly although the food quality will be the same, and that is curry-tastic. As it says on the box, curries are their speciality, mostly Indian style. But it’s not just curries, the menu is pages and pages long—predominantly Indian, but Malay and Western food, too. Curries are around 4.50-11 ringgit (in the air-con section).

Popular with ladies who lunch, Marco Polo Hotel’s buffet offers good value if you’re feeing hungry. It’s served from 11:00 to 14:30 in the Venice Coffee House on the ground floor of the hotel. Twenty ringgit for adults, and 12 ringgit for kids, the spread offers all sorts of local treats and if you’re in need of a fix of green stuff, a selection of salads and veggies. Prices include coffee and cake, too. A breakfast buffet is on offer 06:30 to 10:00 for 15/8 ringgit.

Marco Polo's buffet. Dig in!

Marco Polo's buffet. Dig in! Photo: Sally Arnold

For the best Western brekkie in town, with great coffee, get thee to Breakfast 101. This unassuming market stall is a little hard to find. At the back of the Sabino Centre (near Good View Seafood Restaurant), follow the path between the yellow public toilet and the row of seafood restaurants, and nearby is a stall called Seafood 101; Breakfast 101 is on your left. We ordered poached egg spinach toast (8 ringgit) which came with grainy bread (not the usual white plastic stuff), pan-fried mushrooms and spinach, and a perfectly poached egg sprinkled with seeds. Don’t go too late—it’s a breakfast place only.

When in Borneo you must try some of their unique jungle fruit. Fruit stalls along Jalan Dunlop (look for the giant yellow and green coconuts) sell tarap, cempedak, langsat, durian and other exotics.

Try the jungle fruit.

Try the jungle fruit. Photo: Sally Arnold

Food Central on the corner of Jalan Haji Karim and Jalan Perbandaran serves whopping big icy drinks, great for a break from plodding around the streets. The hipster-style cafe is popular with the younger set of Tawau, and dishes up the usual Malay noodles and snacks too.

If you’re desperate for pizza, pasta and wine, Olive Bistro is a taxi ride out of town. Lunch deals are good value and come with soup and a drink (13.90-22.90 ringgit; 11:30-14:30), but we’d wait until you get to Kota Kinabalu for the pizza.

The pick for a sundowner in Tawau: LA Hotel’s Roof Garden Lounge.

The pick for a sundowner in Tawau: LA Hotel’s Roof Garden Lounge. Photo: Sally Arnold

The best spot for a sundowner or drink late into the night is LA Hotel’s Roof Garden Lounge on the tenth floor. If the weather’s fine head upstairs to the open rooftop for 360-degree views with your cocktail. Live bands perform every Tuesday and Wednesday. For a pub-style drink, or a game of pool head downstairs opposite the hotel to Big Mugz Bar.

Big Mugz Bar: LA Hotel, Jalan St Patrick, Tawau; T: (0897) 77 227;; open daily 16:00-01:00.
Breakfast 101: Sabino Centre, Jalan Chen Fook, Tawau; T: (0168) 814 016;; open daily: 07:00-13:00.
Food Central: Corner Jalan Haji Karim and Jalan Perbandaran; open daily 07:00-00:00.
Fruit stalls: Jalan Dunlop.
Good View Seafood Restaurant: Sabino Centre, Jalan Chen Fook, Tawau.
Olive Bistro: TB2540 Taman Tawau, Jalan Chong Thien Vun, Tawau; T: (0897) 70 093;; open daily: 11:30-14:00, 18:00-22:00.
Roof Garden Lounge: 10th floor, LA Hotel, Jalan St Patrick, Tawau; T: (0897) 77 557;; open daily: 16:00-01:00 — best view in town & proper drinks.
Venice Coffee House: Marco Polo Hotel, Jalan Clinic, Tawau; T: (089) 777 988 ext 109; breakfast 06:30-10:00, lunch 11:30-14:30.
Yassin Curry House: Sabindo Square, 52 Jalan Dunlop, Tawau; T: (0897) 54 802; open daily 07:00-22:00.

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Popular attractions in Tawau

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

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Where to next?

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

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