Georgetown is the historical heart of Penang, but even here change is afoot. From specialty coffee and elevated Peranakan fine dining to curated retail experiences, there is lots to see, taste and do.
Fine Flavours and Hawker Highlights
No trip to Georgetown is complete without a feast at the local institution Tek Sen, which has been dishing out quality Chinese food since 1965. They have expanded and renovated in recent years with a convenient English language menu and friendly staff, but the unchanged recipes remain a draw for locals and visitors alike. Roll up your sleeves and huddle over pots of herbal chicken broth, chilli padi stir-fried pork, steamed garoupa in tamarind sauce and more. Come early or you will be hard-pressed to find a table.
Equally unmissable is the upscale Peranakan fine dining establishment Kebaya. Part of Seven Terraces boutique hotel, it is housed in a breathtakingly restored property within a row of 19th century Anglo-Chinese houses. Amongst the beautiful wood and tilework, order from a four-course set dinner of Straits Chinese dishes like the Peranakan otak otak (a traditional steamed fish custard), the crispy joo char roll (a Vietnamese rice roll) and the Thai soft shell crab salad. Don’t forget to begin (or end) the night at the colonial-chic lobby bar, Bababar, found right next door to the dining room.
For something more mid-range but equally stylish, try the atmospheric bistro and lounge, Georgetown Wines. Choose from an unexpectedly varied selection of both Old and New World wines, along with an eclectic but mostly Mediterranean-inspired menu of pasta, seafood, steak and bar snacks.
Photo credit: Mrigaa Sethi
Shaken, Stirred & Brewed
Penang’s growing bar scene also offers some exciting new options. Mish Mash is routinely packed from dinner until late, thanks in no small part to its meticulously mixed cocktails and great selection of fine whiskies, bourbons and spirits. On the signature cocktail menu are interesting concoctions like the Raging Beast – a combination of dark chocolate, milk froth, spice reduction and Scottish peat smoke. Cigar lovers will also be impressed with what the owner has in store.
If coffee is your preference, don’t miss a visit to Awesome Canteen – the Georgetown offshoot of the famous Kuala Lumpur coffee shop. Along with Paleo-inspired burgers, sandwiches and cakes, they offer coffees made from specialty beans, all in an Instagram-worthy restored warehouse flooded with natural light and greenery.
Photo credit: Mrigaa Sethi
Style and Souvenirs
On the last Sunday of every month, Upper Penang Road transforms into Little Penang Street Market, where over 70 pop up stalls sell an assortment of goods like handmade jewelry, embroidered kebayas and wood carvings. Apart from enjoying food and crafts, expect an artsy vibe with live music performances, poetry readings and photo exhibitions.
For a more stylish and curated shopping experience, visit two famous establishments on the famous Armenian Street: Bon Ton The Shop and China Joe’s. Offshoots of the exceedingly tasteful China House art space, restaurant and residences nearby, these two shops sell everything from homewares and cookbooks to specialty stationery and Malaysian batik.
Can’t wait to discover Penang? Book a luxurious, beach-facing stay at PARRKOYAL Penang Resort just 40 minutes’ drive from Georgetown on your next visit to Malaysia’s cultural gem.
Featured image: roaming-the-planet