Bread and baked goods
With so much excellent local food on offer, you will never go hungry in Penang. However, if your belly is begging for bread and baked goods after all those noodle and rice dishes, it is useful to know where to go, and the Rainforest Bakery in Georgetown will definitely quell your cravings.
Stacked full of seeded breads, freshly baked croissants, fragrant focaccia, crusty ciabatta, bagels, fruit loaves and cakes, this is something akin to bread heaven, and the best thing is that it is located right at the very heart of Georgetown’s backpacker area, on Lebuh Chulia.
The chocolate croissants (4 ringgit) are a good alternative to some of the nearby hostels’ boring breakfasts, and a slice of herb and cheese focaccia (4.20 ringgit) makes the perfect snack. Otherwise, try the cream puffs (1.50 ringgit) for a mouth-sized sweet treat. The preservative-free breads, ranging from baguettes to all manner of seed, herb and fruit-filled loaves, cost between 5 and 9 ringgit, depending on the size, and are ideal for picnic lunches if you are heading to the Botanic Gardens or to the beaches in the National Park.
If, like me, the smell of bakeries triggers immediate hunger pangs, you are in luck and don’t even need to wait until you leave the shop to tuck into something tasty. The enterprising twins who run Rainforest, Jesse and Jerry Tan, have recently opened up a long-awaited adjoining coffee shop, the Mugshot Cafe. By capitalising on the bakery’s excellent reputation, they have created one of Georgetown’s trendiest and well-patronised eating establishments, which attracts a young, fashionable crowd of locals and travellers.
The rustic wooden tables and quirky pictures and decorations create an atmosphere that is unpretentious but warm and welcoming, and the back area beyond the wood-fired oven, ventilated by the traditional shophouse airwell, provides a peaceful haven if the main cafe is busy. This is also where you can pose for your photo, convict style, in front of the ‘mugshot wall’ — if you feel so inclined.
Although the menu is not the most extensive in town, they really know what works and have perfected a formula that is made up of three main ingredients: coffee, bagels and yoghurt. The coffee is sourced from a fairtrade ‘micro-roastery’ in KL, Espressolab, and the friendly barista will make it any way you like, for between 6 and 12 ringgit a cup.
The poppy seed-coated bagels are baked fresh every day and the texture is lighter than the standard version, so are not too heavy on the stomach. The cafe does a roaring trade in these, offering fillings including cream cheese (5 ringgit), ham and egg, cream cheese and smoked salmon, and ham, rocket and cranberry (all 10 ringgit). Because this is Malaysia, the cafe actually uses chicken ham, but it tastes every bit as good as the real thing, even if it doesn’t look quite the same. The baked eggs wrapped in ham, which are used as one of the bagel fillings, are a real work of art.
If you would like something a little healthier, try the glass pots of thick yoghurt topped with jackfruit and gulu malaka (a treacly syrup), kiwi and honey, or mango and walnuts (10 ringgit) or choose from a range of fresh fruit juices (also 10 ringgit). For those not bothered about being healthy, you can tuck into the delicious cakes, including black forest gateau, apple crumble and cheesecake (all 10 ringgit a slice).
The Mugshot Cafe proves that keeping your menu small, but doing it really well, is a recipe for success. This is the perfect breakfast venue if your hostel’s food is not up to scratch, though be warned: you will not be able to leave without following the delicious smells coming from the Rainforest Bakery, so make sure you bring a few extra ringgit for a takeaway treat.
Mugshot Cafe 302 Lebuh Chulia, Georgetown T: (012) 405 6276
Rainforest Bakery300 Lebuh Chulia, Georgetown T: (04) 261 4641
By Mark Thompson
Last updated on 30th August, 2014.