From foie gras to fragrant herbal rice, here’s our pick of cafes outside the Heritage Zone
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GEORGE TOWN, July 26 — Soft, creamy melt-in-your-mouth foie gras.
Fragrant rice cooked with spices and herbs and served with more herbs and a spicy, sour sauce.
Soft, perfectly-baked eggs with toast.
Rich, creamy coconut ice-cream on crispy waffles.
Refreshing cold pasta offering bursts of fresh fruity flavours.
Penang may be known for its hawker food but in recent years, the boom in cafes and restaurants means that there is also good international cuisine in this street food paradise.
There are now more than a 100 eateries — cafes and restaurants — all over the state with most of them concentrated within and near the Heritage Zone.
Most new cafes are in the inner city of George Town, but there are also cafes worth trying outside the area.
While many offer the same types of food — sandwiches and pasta — there are some that stand out as they offer special menu items or a specific cuisine, like French food.
We checked out a few of these specialty cafes and these five stood out:
Have you ever wondered what French cuisine is like but balked at spending a fortune at a fine dining French restaurant?
Well, Basil, le bistrot at Kek Chuan Road offers delicious French food along with the usual fusion fare. For a reasonable price. They even have foie gras sometimes, as a special menu item.
On the regular menu, you can find brunch items such as an English breakfast of sausage, streaky bacon, buttered mushrooms, hash browns, baked beans, toast and eggs as well as “Mushroom en croute” which is a homemade muffin with mushroom fricasee, crispy egg and mayonnaise.
For something heartier, they offer a selection of chicken, duck, salmon, beef, pork and lamb dishes, some cooked the French way, some Italian and some in a fusion of styles.
One of the popular dishes to try would be the soft and tenderly seared duck breast drizzled with raspberry puree and paired with a dollop of smooth, creamy buttered mash.
For drinks, try making your own iced coffee by pouring a glass of milk over frozen espresso. And for dessert, the cafe offers a wide range of rainbow-coloured macarons.
The cafe is rather popular so it is advisable to make reservations. Parking will prove to be a hassle as it is located on a narrow lane off the busy Macalister Road so be prepared to park far and walk.
Basil, le bistrot
9, Kek Chuan Road, George Town
Time: 11am-10.30pm (closed on Wednesdays)
Tiramisu is a popular cake but what if you can drink it instead? Introducing the Frozen Tiramisu... an ice-blended concoction of coffee, cream and yes, Kahlua, for a smooth, creamy dessert drink.
It is but one of the few creations by Caffeine Chemistry Coffee located at Chime Heritage along Jalan Bawasah.
Want something non-alcoholic? Try the Gula Melaka and Coconut Ice-Cream ice blended. This is one sweet, creamy concoction that will have you craving for more coconut goodness.
Prefer something healthy? Check out their power juices such as Tony Stark (orange lemon juice), Thor of Asgard (green lemonade), Jarvis (pineapple carrot juice), Bruce Banner (kiwi juice) and many others with no added water or sugar.
Gula Melaka (palm sugar) is not only good in a nice tall cold sweet drink but it also works really well with cheesecake as the cafe also offers a Sugar & Spice cake, a rich creamy gula Melaka cheesecake with a hint of spice from cinnamon.
This cafe also offers sandwich sets, pasta in a jar, even nasi lemak sets but their signature item has to be their salad in a jar and a recent introduction... crispy waffles served with coconut ice-cream and banana slices drizzled with chocolate sauce.
They have three choices for their salad in a jar: Caesar, mixed or Oriental with grilled chicken served on top of a bed of fresh greens.
Caffeine Chemistry Coffee
13, Chime Heritage, Jalan Bawasah
Have you ever heard of clouds of happiness?
Then you’ve not tried Huey & Wah Cafe at Belissa Row where they sell not only clouds of happiness — which is what they call their artisanal marshmallows — but a wide choice of snacks, sandwiches, salads, soups and stews for breakfast, brunch, tea break or dinner.
If you love melted marshmallows, you will love their cheesecake in a jar with flavours like lemon, original and sometimes, salted caramel.
Of course, since this is marshmallow heaven, they also have signature drinks with marshmallows such as kopi O with vanilla, chocolate, Stout or salted caramel marshmallows (or any other flavours of your choice), their best-selling hot cocoa, matcha latte, Milo O, milk and as strange as it sounds, even orange pekoe tea, all served with any marshmallow flavour of your choice.
For eats, they have all-day light snacks like yogurt with granola, cheese toasties, half-boiled eggs and their power house — a popular breakfast choice of grilled wholemeal bread, half-boiled eggs, tomatoes and nuts.
Their specialty has to be the healthy, oil-free, protein-packed baked eggs with a choice of cherry tomatoes, mushrooms or smoked salmon filling served with toast and some greens.
For the salad fiends, they have four different types of salads — plain green, chicken, pasta and smoked duck — most of which uses their house dressing made from healthy yogurt.
If you crave something warming and filling, they now have homemade creamy pumpkin soup, carrot ginger soup, trio mushroom soup and chicken or beef stew, all best eaten with crunchy toast.
Huey & Wah Cafe, Belissa Row, Pulau Tikus
Move aside coffee places, Victorian Garden Tea Room & Cafe is now opened to introduce 16 types of tea for English high tea.
This newly-opened cafe offers daily set lunches of sandwiches, pasta, pie, baked fish, roast pork or barbeque chicken but their must-try has to be their afternoon high tea set that comes with a pot of English tea and three tiers of bite-sized pastries and cakes.
Each afternoon high tea set comes with scones, tiramisu, fruit tarts, quiche lorraine, mini pizzas and sandwiches.
As for the set lunches, their vegetarian cold pasta is a different take that is both refreshing and unique, especially perfect on a hot humid day.
The cold pasta is paired with wakame strips and has sharp tangy flavours from the mango, blackcurrant and pineapple.
Then there is their roast pork where the meat is roasted to a juicy tenderness best eaten with their house specialty sauce.
The cafe is opened by the same management team as the renowned Jenni’s Cake House so their cakes — a choice of tiramisu, baked mascarpone cheese, opera cake, Japanese fruit cheese,brandy nuts and hazelnut poppy seed — are from the cake house.
Victorian Garden Tea Room & Cafe, 33, Jalan Irrawaddi
Time: 11am-6pm (Closed on Mondays)
Finally, we come to a cafe next to a boutique that offers a variation of the Nyonya nasi ulam which they label as “healthy herbal rice”, available only on weekends.
Do not be deceived into thinking this cafe is only a place to have a drink while browsing the clothes at the adjoining boutique because this is one eatery with a wide range of seriously good food and drinks.
The healthy herbal rice is an interesting medley of raw vegetables, flakes of grilled fish and a sour spicy sauce which when mixed together produces a strong sour and spicy flavour not unlike that of the Penang assam laksa.
The rice is not any plain rice but rice cooked in turmeric and spices and the dish is given another texture of crunchiness with the addition of crushed fish crackers.
Only try this if you can stomach raw vegetables like bean sprouts and green beans and raw onions.
On Wednesdays, the cafe offers their version of lam mee, a clear soup prawn noodles while their regular menu has the usual sandwiches, pasta, soups, salads and several types of toast.
Their BIBIS Burger — made with pork patty, poached egg and smothered in sauce — is one of the popular items on the menu.
They have a bakery section offering fresh bread like English muffins and French baguette and they are now open for dinner too.
BIBIS Fashion & Cafe, 87-D, Jalan Kelawei
Time: 9am to 7pm (Closed on Tuesdays)
Dinner available from 6.30pm to 10pm for Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays.
There are many more specialty cafes and restaurants located all over the island, with some on the mainland too, so if you crave something other than Penang’s hawker fare, you can try any of these places.