When people think of Penang, they often think of the island of Penang, the lovely, delicious and well-talked about paradise of a holiday destination. But what many people tend to forget is that Penang is a state in Malaysia that is made up of two parts: the island and the mainland.
While the island bathed in the glitz and glamour of the world’s attention, the mainland has somehow slipped under the radar. In fact, arguably one of the only proper tourist destination on Mainland Penang is St. Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam, where thousands of pilgrims, local and foreign alike, travel to in the month of July for the annual feast of the Catholic Church’s patron saint.
But while the mainland of Penang might not have the travel appeal of its island counterpart, the mainland certainly exudes a charm of its own. It is slightly more laid back and traditional whilst still being able to show off its modernity.
One highly recommended place to visit if you ever find yourself on the mainland is the newly opened Icon City in Bukit Mertajam.
A cauldron of international cuisine
Icon City is not your typical picturesque touristy site. It’s more of a culinary/social hub which features a wide selection of different restaurants, bars and cafes. Because whether it be the island or the mainland, food is a serious business in Penang. Food in Icon City can be more or less divided into three categories: East Asian, Western and Fusion.
There are three Korean style BBQ restaurants in Icon City, all of which come with an established reputation and many more Japanese style eateries which range from a casual sushi experience to Japanese fine dining. However, one such Japanese restaurant that must be mentioned is Ittan Izakaya, a humble shop modelled after an authentic Japanese izakaya (something like a Japanese bar). There are also a few traditional Chinese restaurants serving up delicacies from Shanghai and Chongqing.
Over in the Western and Fusion category, there are also quite a number of establishments each with their own unique settings and menus. Some of which even operate as rooftop restaurant bars! Kitchen Twenty Three is a decent place for western cuisine, offering good food and a relaxing atmosphere.
Regardless of whether you prefer Asian cuisine or you’re more of a knife and fork kind of person, a meal at Icon City would typically set you back an average of 30 MYR (approximately 7.05 USD).
Choose from a wide selection of relaxing cafes
Apart from good food, Icon City’s establishments also offer some good coffee. Apart from the usual Starbucks, there are many other concept cafes in Icon City. And, as with the restaurants, each have their own unique draws. Some are quiet, while some have atmospheres that encourage hearty laughter and lively conversation.
While cafes are easy to find on the island, in the mainland, they are few and far between. Most of the cafes in Icon City also serve tasty finger food and scrumptious cakes and desserts, all while relaxing music plays on melodically in the background.
While a good idea might be to stay long enough to have a chance to café hop all over Icon City, if you want to have a good cup of coffee while reading your favourite book in a quiet atmosphere, then definitely give St. Presso Café a try. Its good lightning is a good fit for someone looking for an afternoon of coffee and reading. If you forgot your book, the café does have a few to choose from, though choices are limited.
An average cuppa would cost between 8-12 MYR (approximately 1.88 USD - 2.82 USD) in Icon City and they are often flavoursome to the very last drop.
A trendy new hangout for the young (and young at heart)
Just as it is the case with cafes, entertainment hotspots are a rarity in Mainland Penang. While writing this, the number of casual bars and clubs can be easily counted with my fingers. While Icon City, due to its limited space, is far from drastically changing that fact, it does have some pretty nifty places for happy hour.
There are a number of different types of bars in Icon City. You have the usual after-work bar with loud music, a rooftop wine bar and a bar which plays classic Chinese tunes for the slightly older (but young at heart) ones among us.
Whatever your choice, Icon City’s bars and clubs are a good place to hang out with friends after a busy day at work or for a relaxing weekend. Hat Trickz deserves a mention here. It is located a floor beneath a rooftop fine-dining restaurant and offers good deals, about 60-80 MYR (approximately 14.11 USD - 18.82 USD) on average for a bucket of imported beers and ciders.
Apart from the usual dart boards, Hat Trickz also has an in-house Sony Playstation 4 console for patrons. A refundable deposit of 300 MYR (approximately 70.56 USD) is required for access to both controllers.
A hip new place
All in all, Icon City is certainly one of the newer, more exciting places that have sprung up in Mainland Penang for a while. While it was probably not designed as a tourist attraction, the recent ongoing construction of a hotel within the vicinity may just prove otherwise. Many lots in Icon City are still up for rent and who knows what other amazing outlets might begin operating there.
Whatever the case, if you ever find yourself on Mainland Penang looking to kill some time, Icon City in Bukit Mertajam is certainly worth a visit.
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