Mention Penang, a popular travel destination in Malaysia, and almost instantly the wide variety of mouth-watering hawker delights would come to anyone’s mind. However, there is more for the foodie in you than just local street food to sink your teeth into. With the proliferation of uniquely-themed cafes sprawling across this world-renowned heritage city in recent years, cafe lovers in Penang have every reason to rejoice. Follow me on this interesting cafe-hopping journey to discover the unique cafes not to miss for your next visit to Penang!
1. Wake up to freshly baked bagel muffins for breakfast at The Mugshot Cafe
Nestled amongst the rows of nostalgic shophouses along Chulia Street within the UNESCO World Heritage area of Georgetown, you will be able to find this little café just opposite the popular Chulia Street Night Market that comes to life in the evenings. The Mugshot Café begins its day early from 8.00 am, and only closes at midnight, which means you have plenty of time to make a trip down to the retro-looking café that blends well into the heritage theme of the city!
Highly acclaimed for its freshly baked bagel muffins, you can consider heading down to The Mugshot for a warm and yummy breakfast from 6 MYR (1.50 USD). The menu in the café may not boast a wide variety, but who cares when you can sink your teeth into the awesome cream cheese and smoked salmon bagel muffin (12 MYR / 3 USD)? It is also known for its great coffee, freshly brewed at the right temperature with the perfect aroma for a wonderful perk-me-up on a lazy morning!
2. Drop by Ice Estate and chill with its liquid nitrogen ice cream
Finding your way through the numerous alleys and streets in Penang for great food and attractions can be a tiring task, particularly when you are wandering around in a tropical state with glaring sun rays and soaring temperatures all year round! So a café like Ice Estate is definitely welcomed where you get to chill with its yummy liquid nitrogen ice cream!
Located inside the Reunion Heritage House along Victoria Street, this old heritage hotel building stands out amidst the worn-out mechanical workshops in the area. Once you step into this heritage building, you will be greeted with the tastefully furnished and cosy-looking décor of Ice Estate. On the first floor, you will find the menu and ordering counter with some seats and a flight of stairs that brings you up to a more spacious seating area on the second floor.
Besides a wide selection of liquid nitrogen ice cream and sweet treats as its name suggests, Ice Estate also serves all-day brunch as well as beverages to cater to different palates. Of course, the cool liquid nitrogen ice cream remains the star of the cafe. Not only can this sweet dessert cool you down from the sweltering heat of tropical Penang, it is also a visual feast for the eyes as you see the dry ice smoke emitting from your ice cream. Topped with a generous portion of cornflakes, the passion fruit estate pictured above (14 MYR / 3.50 USD) is a great flavor combination of sweet and sour, with a smooth texture. Definitely a refreshing cool treat to enjoy in Penang!
3. Enjoy an afternoon tea with a uniquely flavoured cake at Downtown Art Heritage Café
If you have been roaming about in Georgetown to take photos with the famous street art on a sunny day, your legs are probably aching, stomach growling and you might befeeling a little under the weather. Why not hop over to Downtown Art Heritage Café for a tea break? Strategically located at the junction of Armenian Street and Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, the Downtown Art Heritage Café stands amidst beautiful street art.
If you need a break from the usual burgers, sandwiches and pasta served in most cafes, check out the uniquely flavoured dessert – Homemade Cempedak Cake (12 MYR / 3 USD) made with the native jackfruit and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Not only is the slice of cake soft and moist, it is also distinctly flavourful with a mealy texture, and the vanilla ice cream is a great complement to this strong flavour. I highly recommend you to try the refreshing House Special drink (6 MYR / 1.50 USD) – a glass of iced rose syrup served with vanilla ice cream and basil seeds too. It’s a wonderful thirst quencher after roaming the town in such sunny weather!
4. Travel back through time in the quaint Pit Stop no. 12 cafe
Hidden in one of the small lanes off the main Chulia Street, Pit Stop no. 12 may not be easy to find, but this quaint little café is definitely worth your time hunting it down! The entire café evokes an old-world charm right from the moment you arrive at the shopfront. Its interiors featuring old wooden furnishings with antiques on the wall and cabinets create the feeling that you have travelled back to the good old days upon stepping into this cosy café.
There may be limited offerings on the menu, but its all-day breakfast and pasta items are reasonably priced. Coffee lovers will be pleased to know that Italy’s finest coffee – the Lavazza brand is served at Pit Stop no. 12, so you can be assured of the quality of your caffeine fix. Make a visit to Pit Stop no. 12 café for some simple yet delish café meal where you can relax and unwind in the cosy eclectic café, away from the busier and more crowded streets of Georgetown!
BONUS: Catch your breath and relax in the forest at Kopi Hutan
You may be wondering, is there really a café in the forest in this highly urbanised city? Yes of course! If you enjoy taking nature walks, you should not miss Penang Hill where you can embark on relatively easy walks to explore the lush forests of the hill. After the walk, you will find the first and only Monkey Cup Sanctuary in Malaysia with a Kopi Hutan, which literally means “coffee in the forest” in Malay, towards the end of the nature trail.
This is an outdoor café that allows you to immerse in the tranquil nature. Relax on one of the stone benches in this café and soak in the refreshing air while sipping a cup of freshly brewed Arabica coffee or soothing lavender tea. It is definitely a cool respite from the hectic city life, isn’t it?
Take your time to explore the quirky cafes in Penang
Thanks to the popularity of social media platforms, the café-hopping trend looks like it is here to stay in Penang. Almost every café in the popular tourist destination, especially in the capital of Georgetown, is tastefully decorated, blending well into the heritage theme of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, even if you do not fancy café food and drinks, it is worthwhile making some time to explore the quirky mix of cafes for your next trip to Penang!
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