Penang is traditionally known for its street food, heritage architecture and street art. However, do you know that this Northern Malaysian state’s fine dining scene is also turning up the heat?
Quaint and colourful, Penang’s capital city of Georgetown is where the culinary action is. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, travellers to Georgetown can sample exquisite flavours while gaining an intimate appreciation of Penang, a place steeped in Malaysia’s multi-racial culture and colonial history.
It is here that you can savour the best of both food and culture, or as travel writer Deborah Cater so elegantly puts it, “You have to taste a culture in order to understand it.”
The PARKROYAL Penang team has curated the best food establishments in Penang. Get ready to go on a royal gourmet adventure and include these places in your Penang itinerary.
Kebaya Dining Room is nestled within the Seven Terraces boutique hotel, a row of Anglo-Chinese terrace houses just behind one of Penang’s top tourist attractions, the Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) Temple.
Voted one of Malaysia’s best fine dining restaurants in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards (2016), Kebaya has taken Peranakan and Indo-Chinese cuisine to new heights.
Marrying generations-old nyonya recipes and flavours with European styles of cooking, all served on preserved porcelain, it provides an exquisite gastronomic adventure that will be remembered long after you leave the restaurant.
You can expect to be treated to a 4-course degustation meal (priced at about RM120++ per pax) with your choice of starters, main course, vegetables and dessert. They include traditional favourites like the Peranakan otak-otak (a traditional baked fish pastry), Thai soft shell crab salad, and Kebaya Tamarind beef – all guaranteed to be mouth-watering!
Wash it all down with drinks at the equally charming Baba Bar just next door.
Get directions to Kebaya Dining Room
In your list of top places to eat in Georgetown, do prioritise Suffolk House Restaurant. Voted by Tatler as one of the best Penang food establishments, it serves up a sterling afternoon tea set in a suitably breath-taking atmosphere – a restored colonial mansion by the river.
Built in the early 1800s, the handsome country mansion was the residence of the founder of Penang himself, Captain Francis Light. Its history is almost as old as Penang itself, and it is also Malaysia’s only surviving Georgian Mansion.
Travellers hail its afternoon tea spread as an experience not to be missed. Served at its garden terrace, it includes perennial crowd-pleasers like English scones, finger sandwiches, and chicken and mushroom pie, complemented with delicate craft teas. So authentic that you might imagine yourself sipping tea in the picturesque English town of Suffolk!
Sydney-trained Executive Chef Mathijs Nanne believes in honest and simple French cooking techniques and local ingredients, weaving authentic flavours with surprising results. Speaking to Expatriate Lifestyle, Nanne said, “Fine dining is not about fancy, expensive ingredients coming from the other side of the planet, it’s about whatever is the best that you can put on the plate.”
Get directions to Suffolk House Restaurant
Located in the heart of Georgetown, Arte Restaurant is a French-Asian fusion restaurant with an arty twist.
What’s unique about this establishment is that it features some 1,400 square feet of art space on its second level. Said to be the largest privately owned art gallery in North Malaysia, the Daiichi Art Space showcases the work of budding local artists through its calendar of local and international art exhibitions. Collect some pieces to support Penang’s growing community of local artists.
Arte is the brainchild of Vincent Tai, an art and food aficionado. It stemmed from his desire to create a space to combine his two loves.
Visitors recommend the Caesar Salad, Foie Gras or Hokkaido Scallop to start a meal, and the Black Angus Ribeye or Wild Mushroom Risotto with Lobster as main courses.
Don’t be surprised if you find a work of art arriving on your plate. Chef Jay Tay, a young but up-and-coming chef, has already developed a reputation for being able to “tease and excite the mind.”
Do round up your fine food experience by feasting your eyes on the showcase of local art upstairs.
Get directions to Arte Restaurant
Thirty Two At The Mansion is a familiar name among Penang foodies. (Just mention the number 32 and you will see nods of approval.)
Housed in an elegant seaside villa, the restaurant has become synonymous with great food and a romantic ambience. This is also why it is a top venue for weddings and anniversary celebrations.
Its Western menu consists of classics such as seared sea bass with crushed potato, and smoked duck confit. What will definitely tickle your palate is the slow cooked lamb shank in “osso buco” style; the tender fall-off-the-bone meat immersed in fragrant herbs and spices will send you to heaven!
The restaurant also serves up hearty Penang food. They include traditional Malaysian Chinese dishes such as the Glass Noodles with Minced Chicken, topped with a spicy lemongrass vinaigrette, and Kueh Pie Tee, which is a crispy tart-shell (that looks like an inverted top hat) filled with a delicious mixture of shredded turnip, prawns, and peanuts.
Be sure to order its house specialty, the crab laksa lemak. A twist on a local spicy noodle dish, it has been described by guests as an “out of this world” experience.
After dinner, head outside to the lounge to enjoy a tipple whilst catching the sea breeze.
Get directions to Thirty Two At The Mansion
Housed in the famous Blue Mansion in George Town, Indigo At The Blue Mansion is a must-add to your Penang itinerary. The restaurant hits the sweet spot with its architecture, history, and of course, food.
Once owned by powerful Chinese businessman Cheong Fatt Tze, the house was built during the 19th century by a team of master craftsmen from China. Apparently, they took more than seven years to complete its construction.
Apart from its quirky colour – carefully chosen as a symbol of its owner’s high-society status – the other distinctive features of the house include Gothic louvred windows, Chinese porcelain work, and stained glass windows.
Headed by Penang-born and Le Cordon Bleu trained Executive Chef Beh Wang Chia, Indigo serves up an impressive array of appetisers, canapés, entrées, and desserts. Penangite blogger Sam Choong swears by its curried pumpkin soup, and grilled Japanese mackerel, which is seasoned and flavoured like Penang’s famous assam laksa.
Tours of this unique cultural edifice are available daily at 11:00am, 2:00pm and 3.30pm. Feel free to arrive at other times to explore this heritage building on your own. You may also continue soaking up Penang’s Peranakan culture by heading to the Peranakan Mansion, which is a short 10-minute stroll from here.
Get directions to Indigo At The Blue Mansion
|Address||PARKROYAL Penang Resort, Batu Ferringhi Beach, 11100 Penang, Malaysia
|Phone Number||+604 886 2288 (Ext: 7212)
||Breakfast - 6:30am to 10:30am
Lunch - 12:00pm to 3:00pm
Dinner - 6:30pm to 10:30pm
Another inviting sea-side dining option is the latest kid on the block, Cinnamon, located on Batu Ferringhi beach.
Located within the brand new PARKROYAL Penang Resort, Cinnamon is a casual but beautifully modern restaurant serving local Malaysian and Asian culinary delights. The restaurant uses fresh ingredients and traditional spices and herbs to achieve fragrant and authentic Penang flavours.
Don’t forget to try its spicy Tom Yum Soup, a surefire appetite whetter which teases your palate with spicy, sourish, and umami sensations. If you prefer something less fiery, you can tuck into Cinnamon’s famous Penang Char Koay Teow or freshly steamed Hainanese Chicken Rice.
Wrap your meal up with a refreshing ice kacang – a colourful local dessert unique to this part of the world.