Sunday, 9 February 2014

Coffee-ful Penang

Last year, it was a must for tourists to walk/cycle/drive around town (some with paper maps) hunting for murals as the narrow roads constantly get blocked by people holding cameras of all sorts.

     This year, after doing some research, I managed to prepare a list of about 20 coffee places to visit, seeing how so many have suddenly appeared in the last few years. As a lover of good coffee, it was an obligation to drag my family members along for a coffee spree. My goal was to cover at least 8 places in a span of 4 days. Unfortunately, it is unsaid that there are sacrifices to be made for every dream - in which mine was not having enough time allocated to stand in line for a plate of nasi kandar. Yes, I know, it is a sin not doing it and has been regretted.

     Due to much debate and countless failure attempts to do a countdown style, the first five coffee places mentioned will be in no particular order of favour, followed by my top three recommendations

* * * *

Budan's Brew Coffeebar

Initially, we were meant to grab coffee at Coffee Atelier / 55 Cafe & Restaurant. However, the service put me in disappointment before I could even step into the cafe. One of the waitresses seemed to favour attending to the ang mohs as she acknowledged them with a smile. I had to signal her asking for a table as she did not attend to me when my turn was up which already threw me off. When I got her attention, she said there were no more tables with an unapologetic tone and then disappeared into the cafe without another word. Then what? Shall I just stand there for the rest of my life? Good lord.

On the way to the car, a signboard saying Budan's Brew Coffeebar caught our attention. "Budan's" reminded me of a cafe in Melbourne and the minute I saw the word "coffee" on the board, there was no stopping my feet from going towards that direction.

It was still really quiet as they only opened about three weeks ago. Because of that, I got to experience the ambiance without having a swarm of people around me.

Seems like they prefer to cater to small parties of 2 - 3 from the setting. At the same time, the spaciousness suggests that they're also able to accommodate crowds.

Yup, there you go. The WiFi password.

Some pastries displayed at the counter. If you're wondering where the croissant went ...

... here it is. Or rather it has already been consumed. It was quite okay after being heated up. Nothing to shout about.


My cappuccino with overly done foam. The peaks are so stiff you can tell it is just not right.

Yeap, THAT stiff. Definitely not one of my favourites.

I guess it's not fair to put a stamp on this place since they only opened and I presume the staff members are quite new. Might give it a while before heading there again but from that one visit, I'm doubtful on how long will they survive because of their location and also due to the other big competitors nearby.

Kaffa Espresso Bar

Classic. That's probably the word to describe the interior of this coffee place. 

Yes all the way to this poster.

The atmosphere felt as though I was in those kind of movies where one steps into a bar in the US to watch gigs rather to sit around and drink coffee. The antiques displayed under dim lighting at the seating area at the back of the cafe gave off that eeriness.

Antiques everywhere.

The salted caramel macchiato people were hyping about. It's not a very dense in flavour which was quite a let down. 

Of course, I had my usual. This was my 4th cup of the day so the amount of caffeine in my body was so much that it made me ironically sleepy. 

Yet another place not having a lot to shout about (sorry that I sound so hard to please) but if you're the type with a thing for those classic settings with antiques everywhere to accompany your coffee experience, the back part of the cafe is the place for you. Note: There's no aircond at that section though.

Moustache Houze

Do you remember that one point in time where people went crazy about mustaches? Rather growing one, it became a popular design for accessory charms, nails, phone covers, etc. Apparently it also became a theme for this house cafe in Penang.

People would take the straw out and pose with these paper mustaches. I wonder how many of these do they have to produce a day.

Swings not in a garden. Hmm.

Mustaches even hanging from the ceiling! And they were quite busy when we visited at night.

There are rooms available upstairs catering to parties who spend RM80 and above. To head up, you must leave your shoes by the steps. 

The rooms are located on the second floor where each one has their own respective theme. 

Clockwise from the top left: The Oilman, The Sheriff and The Professor.

My cousin and I in the room with my favourite design. It's just unfortunate I forgot to take down its name in excitement of the props. Click here for the source.

Iced chocolate.

Hot latte.

The third place I know that does their cappuccino as such - having the coffee stain on the milk as minimal as possible. Sadly, the coffee flavour wasn't very strong for this cuppa.

Half-eaten Oreo crepe cake and the Hokkaido crepe cake which were pretty sweet!

As you can see, there's no escape from the sight of mustaches. They're literally everywhere and sometimes at the most unexpected places like this:

Also, when occupying the private rooms, take note of the tee stating the house rules:

I think they ran out of paper and only had shirts left to print the rules on. Just kidding. It did catch my eye though! It was the ever only odd thing in the room.

We occupied the room Gunslinger which was probably the only one with windows - old, heritage style windows. Despite having the air conditioner running and some ventilation, the Penang weather wasn't at its best that night.

Pit Stop Cafe

I didn't take pictures of the interior for this cafe because it was overly crowded when my friend and I arrived; hence, the brief review. Thank goodness there was a table for two but the distance between my arm and the person's butt at the next table was just over a feet away which was rather annoying. 

They serve Lavazza coffee here which originated from Italy and founded by Luigi Lavazza [source]. I was curious about its flavour which is why this place ended up on my to-do list. 

Such generosity demonstrated in the number of biscotti pieces served with just one cup of coffee. Other than that, the flavour was rather mundane and not particularly one that would put me "in the zone". 

Pancake with nutella, bananas, cashew nuts and ice cream alongside some honey. As much as I did not like how bland the pancake was, I should give it to them for the amount of banana slices on the plate just because bananas are one of my favourite fruits.

Twelve Cups

Getting closer to my top three, yeah!

This is the place I consumed my first cup of cappuccino in Penang on Chinese New Year's eve this 2014. I was so tired after my early morning flight and wanted to just sit down and have some coffee. 

The flavour is relatively strong which made it quite decent and reminded me of the soy cappuccinos I've had at Artisan Roast HQ. However, like most blends available in Malaysia in which I've seen so far, it's still too bitter for me. 

Cute plate deco accompanying a beautiful slice of oreo crepe cake. I highly recommend this flavour if you do come here.

There's also no going wrong with a modern-like interior design. The only downside is that the place was rather noisy when I visited. The staff members were also pleasantly friendly.

* * * *

Top 3 recommendations.

#3 Cozy in the Rocket / La Cucina 

First thing's first. My cappuccino was disguised in a glass cup usually meant for lattes.

Now, before you coffee snobs go all critical about this, there are reasons I did not immediately throw this place offside.

Besides the blend which was rather pleasant to my taste buds and the foam properly done as you can see (almost 2cm thick, I can assure you), other factors contributing to this decision include the rustic ambiance of nature in the form of wood furniture, decorations and greenery in which constitute the uniqueness of the interior design.

Indoor seating:

Their neat display of cups above their chalkboard menu.

A menu post?

Even their bathroom area is full of wood and greenery.

Outdoor seating:

Table deco for the outdoor seating. The bowl for pounding reminded me of the days I got to experience the aroma of freshly pounded chili in my kitchen.

The owners also maintain a garden which is hidden from the eyes of passers-by. They should really display this openly to attract customers rather hiding its beauty behind white doors.

I love Spirited Away which is why this fascinates me.

Absolutely cute coffee art on wood planks!

Of which this is my favourite of the lot.

Longan 'n' Calamasi recommended for those who are in need of a thirst quencher.

Salad with pork bacon and pork salami.

Aglio Olio with pork bacon.

Both the dishes have one thing in common: the oh-so-sinful pork bacon cooked to perfection. Also that the Aglio Olio had a generous amount of garlic which was indeed pleasing. 

If you were to take a closer look at the menu, you'd probably be stunned at the extremely steep prices for a place like this located in Penang. Beats Bangsar prices as well, methinks. I say come here for the coffee and enjoy the ambiance. 

Foursquare comments on Cozy in the Rocket would be giving you nudges to stay away from this place because of the "lady boss" who is apparently rude and inattentive. In my one-time experience, she wasn't particularly very welcoming when I stepped in. On the contrary, just before I was about to leave and concluding with a bad impression on the service, the lady thanked me with a smile and that was when I decided to approach her. To my surprise, she was actually quite friendly as I started asking her questions about the place. 

Their opening hours are very short ranging from 11.00 a.m. up till 5.00 p.m. the latest (timings may vary so please do not rely on this information) and they do not open at night with one simple reason: there are literally only two people running the entire place. 

I also got the "one person one order" sign at their door clarified. Apparently, I misinterpreted "order" being a full meal which was why I ordered food. Otherwise, I would've just gone for a cup of coffee. The reason they put the sign up was because they have encountered large groups of people sitting in and only ordering one cup of coffee and I can understand how this would piss off the owners. 

All in all, the environment of this place is very alluring and much suited to accompanying my coffee experience which is why this place ended up being #3 on my list.

#2 Macalister Mansion

It's a wonder how this ended up being #2 without me having any intention of visiting. 

We were on our hunt for coffee places when our relatives decided to take us here. I must admit I was first disappointed because this wasn't on my list of coffee places to visit. 

Plot twist: I added it to my list without question.

Made with coffee beans from Dirgahayu in Indonesia, this was cuppa was so memorable in terms of its lavishing flavour which is, thankfully, not too bitter.

Caffe latte.


Caffe Vienna - something new to me. It's basically shots of espresso topped with whipped cream. You can read a bit about it here.

Little munchies (clockwise from the extreme left): what seems to be something like a lamington topped with banana slices. chocolate brownie, carrot cake and a spongy cake with three chocolate balls on top coated with more chocolate. Perfect small bites to accompany your coffee.

You know what this is. It's a little crumbly if you were to slice it up but it's dense and not light which is why I like it. 

Let's take a tour around the place, shall we?

Everything seems so ... white and classy.

My favourite part of the exploration:

Everything looked so furnished, the colours are so warm and illustrated fireplace (because Penang is too darn hot for a real one) just comes to show how lavishing the interior is. It feels too good to be a place to call home. Way too atas especially for people like me who stepped into the place in shorts, a tank top and flip flops. 

And hello, gorgeous.

The coffee place sitting in the #1 spot isn't, however, one with a fancy garden or is located in a mansion.

#1 Mugshot

Dear Emily, after all you've put us through, does this place actually have what it takes to be sitting in your #1 spot? 

Let's start off with the fact that I got the best seat in the house - outside. I don't normally sit outdoors because of the smoke but this time round I decided to do so for two reasons: the good morning lighting and to experience the world walk by while I enjoy my cuppa.

Probably the only coffee place that was open during Chinese New Year. I asked the lady for their opening hours and she could only reply, "we are ALWAYS open *insert smile*."

The view from where I was sitting at.

There's a juice bar on the way to the back of the cafe. Not sure if it's actually open. 

Yummy display of yogurts ready to be sold for the day!

Mugshot is famous for their bagels and yogurt. Their bagels are really soft and takes not much effort to chew as opposed to the more western inspired recipes where the bagels are tough.

The egg is wrapped around the ham and baked together at once then topped with mayonnaise before serving with the bagel buns. Simple yet absolutely delish.

Yogurt, jackfruits and gula Melaka. Who would've thought such a combination made the perfect marriage in a glass jar for breakfast? Freshness of the yogurt and sweetness of the gula Melaka balanced underneath the jackfruits staining the entire mixture with its distinctive flavour. 
The beauty of this cannot be overstated.

Classic way of doing a cappuccino - having as little coffee stain on the foam as possible. Such a huge cup of cappuccino for RM10 done with two espresso shots topped with such smooth and frothy foam. 
The flavour is there, the texture is there, the temperature was perfect ... need I say more?

Taking sips of my cuppa and watching the world go by was not only the best coffee experience I've had in a while; I also found myself appreciating Penang more. I wouldn't be surprised if people started to wonder if it was a mistake not heading to the hawker stalls across the road for breakfast instead. 

* * * *

That concludes my Penang coffee journal. I hope you enjoyed reading. If you wish to check out more coffee places in Penang, my list also includes places like Piknik, the Alley, Ete Art Cafe, Brew 32 Coffee House, Tofu Cafe Beds & Bikes, Coffee Lane and Lighthouse Coffee Bar in which I did not have sufficient time to visit. Also because most of them were not open during the Chinese New Year period. 

Have a pleasant day ahead and thanks for dropping by.

* For the record to those who have been curious, I reached my goal and had a total of 8 cups of cappuccino and 1 kopi ais (iced coffee) throughout the trip. 

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