With the proliferation of themed cafes and coffee art spots in Penang, I think it’s time we stepped back and appreciate the simple, unadulterated pleasure of a cup of tea and warm scones, slathered with rich clotted cream and sweet strawberry jam. Here are eight of my favourite places for a classic afternoon tea on my beloved sunny island:
1. 1885 at E&O Hotel
Probably the swankiest option of them all, this posh restaurant was named for the year the E&O Hotel was established. White linen dressed tables, fresh floral arrangements and pristine chinaware greet you the minute you step through the French doors. The sophisticated setting is elegant with mahogany shaded wood, fawn coloured walls, and warm ambient lighting.
1885’s Traditional English Afternoon Tea arrives in a tiered silver platter with a variant of sandwiches, namely roast beef, cucumber, chicken, smoked salmon, egg and cheese. Each filling is cocooned with a different type of pastry – from bread, to sesame seed buns, to croissant. Next to arrive are the classic English raisin and plain scones, served with homemade strawberry jam and clotted cream.
If I may, a little food fact – clotted cream is thick cream that has been cooked, and not just whipped. It combines two of the greatest of dairy products known to man: whipped cream and butter. In other words, it is the best thing in the world. The dense, crumbly scones, when paired with the creamed decadence and exquisite strawberry jam makes a heavenly mouthful.
To round up, a colourful selection of petit fours are carefully arranged on a delicate China plate – macarons, thin rectangles of cheesecake, bite-sized squares of chocolate cake, and fruit tarts – which aren’t just pretty to look at, but great in taste.
Address: 10 Lebuh Farquhar, 10200 Penang
Tel: 04-222 2000
Opening hours: 2:00pm – 10:30pm, daily
2. Metisser Patisserie
Metisser Patisserie is not your run-of-the-mill cafe. Where the attraction for most cafes lie in their themed decor and menu choices, this cosy, inviting space aims to wow patrons with an impeccable selection of tea from Harney & Sons for every occasion – the extensive list includes black tea, oolong, jasmine, floral, green tea, yellow tea, white tea, herbals and even decaffeinated tea – and pastries inspired by the patisseries in Paris, with a smidgen of English influence.
The ultimate indulgence here is their freshly baked scones; fluffy on the inside and crispy around the edges. Another must-have is the Tarte Au Citron, one of Metisser’s signature cakes. The dominating lemon flavour is intense at first, but when paired with the earthy pistachio flavour, the acidic twist mellows into an addictive palate cleanser. Their other siren’s song would be the Opera cake, an ambrosial slice made up with layers of almond joconde, chocolate ganache, coffee mousseline and coffee syrup.
Address: 140, Jalan Pintal Tali, Georgetown, Penang
Tel: 04-251 9739
Opening hours: 2:00pm – 9:00pm, Thursday – Monday
3. Farquhar Mansion
Fringed by ritzy, nude-coloured velvet curtains, chic white-black walls, and decorated with Victorian open arm pull-ups, a walk into Farquhar Mansion bespeaks class and luxury.
A reservation for their hi-tea will have you squeal with delight when their traditional three-tier English Afternoon Tea arrives in a golden royal barouche, accompanied by a tea cart pushed by the well-trained server, where you will get to choose your preferred tea. Ronnefeldt needs no introduction for tea connoisseurs, and there are seven exclusively selected options to choose from – namely English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Refreshing Mint, Jasmine Gold, Sweet Berries, Cream Orange, and Fruity White.
From savoury to sweet, the quality of food is unmistakable. Some of the most memorable include the perfectly constructed cod Brioche; what’s not to love about a chunk of juicy fish sandwiched with crusty bread, traditional English scones made with buttermilk, pandan crème brûlée; a marvellous melange of East meets West, chocolate ganache, and last but not least, dainty matcha macarons with caramel filling; another ingenious marriage of East and West.
Address: No.33, Lebuh Farquhar, 10200 George Town, Penang
Tel: 019-528 8933
Operating hours (for high tea): 3.00pm – 5.00pm, Tuesdays – Sundays
4. Suffolk House
Suffolk House is also called Penang’s first ‘Great House’, as the Anglo-Indian garden house was built on an estate owned by Francis Light (founder of the British settlement in Penang). True to its origin, the colonial house was erected with high vaulted ceilings and exposed beams, a sprawling garden, plus a lovely patio.
Perfect for lunch-skippers, the afternoon tea commences at 2pm. After making your pick from six different tea options, the 3-tiered tray arrives at your table with a variety of two cakes, cucumber and salmon sandwiches, homemade, individually sized chicken pies and freshly baked scones; served warm and will be accompanied by strawberry jam, pineapple marmalade, apple ginger compote, cream, and unsalted butter. The tranquil setting and quiet ambience are huge draw factors, providing the privacy and rest you need after a hectic work week.
Address: 250, Jalan Air Itam, George Town, 10460 George Town, Penang
Tel: 04-228 3930
Opening hours (for tea): 2pm – 6pm, daily
5. Sky Terrace at David Brown’s Restaurant & Tea Terraces
Perched atop Penang Hill with an arresting panorama of the island is David Brown’s at Strawberry Hill, a quintessential British restaurant and tea terrace.
The colonial mansion with a beautifully landscaped garden also happens to be the highest restaurant in Penang, which isn’t at all a bad way to begin a laid-back afternoon (unless you’re terrified of heights).
One can opt for a cosy spot indoors, or choose to sit under the shade of umbrellas at the patio.
Their signature teatime offering is David Brown’s Petit Four, comprising of English specialties such as a pot of tea for two persons, adorably-sized pastries, finger sandwiches, slices of fruitcake and buttered scones with homemade strawberry preserve, cream and butter triangles.
Stay on a little longer after you’ve had your fill; the captivating sunset over the heritage island is proof that the trite cliche – the best things in life are free – is evergreen.
Address: Strawberry Hill, Penang Hill, 11300 Air Itam, Penang
Tel: 04-828 8337
Opening hours: 11am – 10pm (Daily)
6. Botanica Mansion
Festooned by decade-old trees, Botanica Mansion has been in existence since 1881. The takeover by Botanica CT breathed life into its old, dilapidated state and restored to its former glory. The grounds are vast, with a pool, smokehouse and a well-manicured garden surrounding the marigold-coloured manor.
The usual suspects such as cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, cake slices, tartlets, miniature chicken pies and raisin scones make a requisite appearance. The inclusion of cream puffs; light and custardy, and cookies in the three-tier tray provides an interesting change-up to the norm.
Address: 1156 Jalan Sungai Air Putih, Bandar Baru Air Putih, 11000 Balik Pulau, Penang
Tel: 012-421 0933
Opening hours: 6pm – 10pm (Tues – Thurs) / 11am – 10pm (Fri, Sat, Sun & public holidays)
7. Auction Rooms at Kimberley Hotel
Kimberley Hotel is one of the new kids on the block; a 5-floor boutique hotel at Jalan Sungai Ujong, just several minutes away from KOMTAR. Adjacent from the hotel is Auction Rooms, an eatery under the same management.
Their signature Afternoon Tea Set has been popping up on the Instagram feed of Penangite bloggers, for good reason. A sight to behold, the teatime set begins from 2pm till 5pm, and comes with a refreshing blend of Western and Malaysian delights. Intriguing savouries such as open-face smoked duck and nasi lemak sandwiches, and tuna croquettes, are attentively arranged on a plate. The delectable desserts – mini scones, mochi, and baby pastries – are gorgeously presented within a vintage, bird cage-like tray.
Address: 38a, Jalan Sungai Ujong, George Town, 10100 George Town, Penang
Tel: 04-263 6688
Operating hours: 7am – 5pm. *Closed on Sundays
8. Ferringhi Coffee Garden
Ferringhi Coffee Garden is manned by the owners of the distinguished Ferringhi Garden Restaurant, located just next to it.
Taking a leaf from the decor in its first establishment, there is ample of glorious blooms, earthy tones and sturdy wooden furniture occupying every inch of the lush bistro.
The menu at Ferringhi Coffee Garden is distinctly Western, with ardent American and British influences.
The FCG Special is the perfect example. The set is artfully plated, with grilled sandwiches, bruschetta, Danish pastries and mini scones, with lemon Creme Fraiche and strawberry jam as condiments. A cup of freshly brewed tea or coffee rounds up the meal.
Address: 43 D, Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Kampung Batu Feringgi, 11100 Batu Feringghi, Penang
Tel: 04-885 1192
Operating hours: 8am – 6pm (Daily)