Penang island is known all over Asia and the world for its famous George Town street art and delicious local food — see our guide to 26 Essential Penang Foods you have to try and the best breakfast spots in Penang. In 2014, Penang was declared the best place for foodies by the world’s biggest travel brand, Lonely Planet. You may wonder then, with so many local delicacies like tangy Penang curry mee, tangy penang laksa, Penang Nasi Kandar and a favourite breakfast like roti bakar, why this post on Western food in Penang?
Well, both Penangites and the increasing number of foreign residents and expatriates living on the island and Bukit Mertajam in Seberang Perai (which, beyond beautiful places like Frog Hill, has many hiking routes in Perai, including easy strolls like Bukit Juru) love the fact they can eat good Western food in Penang, most often relaxing at a trendy Penang Cafe. To many, those familiar tastes, sometimes paired with a visit to one of Penang’s best bars, help cure their bit of homesickness.
Many Malaysians also love to eat good western food in Penang as it helps them experience faraway cultures and lands without ever leaving their homes.
At last, Western food in Penang — at least to Malaysians — is considered as a high-class treat (it’s much more expensive than local hawker food) and a welcome diversion from their everyday local fare. [TIP: for more great Malaysian dishes, consider a food trip to Taiping, just an hour away]
We will also say that one cannot forget Western food in Penang because it’s such an important part of the island’s mixed heritage and colonial history. Beyond that, there’s just so much good Western food and restaurants in Penang that not dedicating a proper guide would be a big mistake.
That’s why we have compiled this list of the best Western food in Penang, based on our own preference, and the votes of several foreign residents who chimed in with their worthy recommendations. Thank you very much.
And if you are looking for local food, don’t forget to check out our list of the best restaurants in Penang.
NOTE: This article was published during business closure related to Malaysia’s Movement Control Order to reduce the curve of COVID–19 infections. All of the establishments we recommend here, however, have been contacted and confirmed that they at least offer takeaway services. Most have already reopened for dine-in — with proper social distancing measures.
Contact each individual establishment to ask for more details, and of course… have a good meal!
Best Western Food in Penang
Let us explain that this list is not in order of preference or quality — we don’t like to give marks, nor create silly arguments. For that reason, we preferred to divide the venues and restaurants by type of Western food.
The result is a collection of what we, and our readers, believe is the best Western food in Penang you should try.
Best Pizza and Italian food in Penang
Tucked on a corner of Jalan Penang in vibrant Penang Little India, this long-standing and renowned Italian restaurant is small and intimate, but still a favourite among many locals and foreign residents of Penang. The thin crust, woodfire oven-baked pizzas here are Italian standard in shape and taste (and rolled by an Italian chef, that is). But the menu also offers a wide selection of fine Italian food, from pasta to lasagnas, parmigiana, steaks and seafood. Not forgetting a good selection of Italian and international wines which, like the best part of the menu, are imported and as authentic as it gets.
20E Lebuh Penang
Tel. 04–261 9800
The restaurant of popular boutique hotel Campbell House has been around for a decade, introducing and upholstering the name of Venetian cuisine across the island. Yes, that’s “Italian food” for newbies: but it’s Venice’s old-world taverns which inspired Il Bacaro, from its very own name, to the choice of food on their menu. Thinking of coming to this well-choreographed sala and only order a simple pizza would be like going to a marriage reception in your underwear: just plain out of context.
Sit down, start with a course of antipasti — Italy’s quintessential cold cuts and cheeses — and then dive into a menu that ranges from creamy soups to whole fish and a selection of prime steak. Don’t forget your limoncello or ammazzacaffe’ before you go.
106 Lebuh Campbell
Tel. 04–261 8290
Think of pizza in Penang, and you’ll usually get a mid-to-high-end restaurant experience. Tablecloth, waiters and the like. But pizza, in Italy, is mostly simple soul food, often consumed standing, walking in the “centro” with friends, dipping your fingers into hot crust and fresh tomato sauce.
Ottopizza begs to differ by invoking that precise casual eating experience, dishing up Italy’s quintessential crust in that casual, stand-and-eat environment that perfectly reproduces the world of street-side Italian “focacceria” and “pizzeria d’asporto” — squarish, 11-inch wide pizzas with crunchy and semi-thick crust. Beyond Margherita, Four Cheese, Potato Rosemary and mix veggie, at Ottopizza you’ll also find pasta (Linguine al Pesto or Tomato sauce) and a yummy Chicken lasagna.
8b Carnarvon Road
Tel. 011–1858 1278
Best Western Bistro and Roast in Penang
4 The Hillside
Many people rave about this cosy bistro in Tanjung Bunga, and for all the good reasons. The sala is quiet and homey, with a simple yet inspiring ambience that relies on open spaces.
What’s more loved, however, are the hearty “The Works” western breakfast platters — think sausages, proper bacon, fried eggs, Heinz beans, mashed potatoes and fresh tomatoes — and their pizzas, touted by some customers as “the best in Penang”. We won’t debate here, but put more items on the scale: frothy fresh fruit juices, coffees and cappuccinos, salmon and egg sandwiches… and of course, the Sunday roast and tenderloin steaks. There’s really a bit of everything for everyone here.
3 Sungai Kelian Tanjung Bungah
Call: 04–899 8071 WhatsApp: 012–447 0071
Yes, this well-appointed restaurant serves a concoction of Eastern and Western tastes. But their slow-cooked lamb shanks, which are let to roast for 24 hours before being married with a bed of mash potatoes and the quintessential brown sauce, are tender as butter and a crowd-favourite.
Vegans don’t despair: their cauliflower steak with quinoa may be one of the most clever vegetarian options in town. And it’s just at the top of an extensive section of the menu putting a vegetarian spin on local staple dishes.
169 Lebuh Victoria
Tel. 04–261 0000
Best Mexican Food in Penang
Even though the Love Lane surroundings with their nest of Penang backpackers are less than ideal for those who want a quiet dining experience, Holy Guacamole is a solid choice for a night out. The menu has Tex Mex dishes prepared with zest and gusto, from “Nacho Problemo” (a big, crunchy slew of god-made tortilla chips smeared in cheese and jalapeno peppers) to the usual (well, in Mexico) tortillas, quesadillas and fajitas. The food is hearty and popular, so much so are their margaritas. But again, if your idea is talking to your date across the table, allow the second half of your evening for that: Holy Guacamole is alive and loud. Like American band Kiss.
65 Love Lane
Tel. 017–482 9065
7That’s Nacho Cheese
This small venture is tucked inside Cubopark, Penang’s open-air container mall concept. Small venture, yes, but big, hearty food: the nachos here are the star of the menu, and are rightfully delicious, period. You can order them smeared in barbecue beef, cheese and tomato sauce, and corn, or get a vegetarian variety. There are also hard-shell tacos and fatty fatty quesadillas, and an Asian-looking rice bowl you can garnish with chicken, beef or salted egg. But why? Stick to the nachos instead.
CUBOPARK @Chusan, 6 Jalan Tanjung Tokong Tanjung Tokong
Tel. 017–482 9065
Best Bakeries and Sweet Shops in Penang
Oh, the fresh croissants, pastries, espressos and loaves of bread here… so talked about and delicious. But digressing over the zesty selection of Western-inspired mains on offer at this hip eatery would be a big understatement. When in 2019 they added a Michelin-trained chef, their menu spruced up with treats like baby octopus and angel hair pasta and creamy mushroom soup — shitake, Abalone and Button fungi galore.
Still, breakfast platters here are a tradition, and their eggs and bacon, plus egg sandwiches and filled omelettes are some of the best in central George Town.
105, Lebuh Pantai
Tel. 04–251 9270
9Yin Sourdough Bakery
(image courtesy of Yin Sourdough Bakery)
By Mathijs Nanne
Humble from its beginnings in Balik Pulau years ago, to right now, during the days of noticeable gentrification of the old town. The sourdough bread comes in a wide variety and is made, by hand, with a great deal of love and care. The menu is simple, as it should be, letting the bread talk its story. A favorite is their Focaccia with Scrambled egg but you should also not miss their Luncheon Meat Sandwich. They’re doing a great Mango Kefir drink too, making you eventually leave nourished and happy. Make sure to say hi to the owner, a master baker herself. She always enjoys a chat, if time allows.
Tel. 011–2419 5118
10Le Petit Four
By Mathijs Nanne
What was once a tiny pastry kitchen within a back lane cafe, has now taken its more appropriate centre stage in the heart of George Town. Their refined pastry creations are too beautiful to eat. Don’t be surprised to notice your neighbouring table spending a good while, taking pictures. But once you do dig in, you’ll be amazed once more by perfect bite of things sweet. They do good coffee too, presented with the same amount of care. A special mention has to be made of their croissant. That is if you’re lucky enough to come across one, while they’re flying of the shelf. This flaky bomb of crispy dough and butter is the real deal.
310 Lebuh Pantai
11The Mugshot Cafe
Not a restaurant proper but loved by many thanks to its good coffee and western-style bagels, Mugshot is a long-standing option in backpacker-centric Chulia Street.
The bagels are served simple, with a dash of cream and cheese (RM 7.40), or have more filling (and expensive) options such as smoked salmon, turkey ham, bacon and egg, or the sweet-tooth Nutella and Banana concoction (RM 13.80).
The espressos are mean and their yoghurts are tasty and healthy, too.
302 Chulia Street
Tel. 012–405 6276
12La Vie en Rose
Madeleine is a classic French Butter Cake made with vanilla, butter and eggs. It has a specific shell-like shape, it’s soft and moist, and it’s now available in Penang at this beautiful bakery. And there’s more, including freshly baked almond croissants, and many more treats that are perfect for parties, birthdays, and just a casual walk-in to satisfy that sweet tooth craving with some high-quality European-styled sweets.
Closed on Mondays.
19, Lebuh Melayu
Tel. 014–333 6480
Best British and Colonial-inspired restaurants in Penang
By Mathijs Nanne
Considered hidden in the outskirts of George Town, Suffolk House continues to shine in its restored glory, reflecting a stately past. The food is Western in style but the kitchen doesn’t shy away from using the vibrant produce from the island’s own backyards. Their lamb shank is incredibly flavorful with spices while falling off the bone by a touch of the fork. The mango crème brulee has been on their menu many years for all the right reasons. Go early in the evening to enjoy a sunset drink while enjoying the well-manicured grounds.
250, Jalan Air Itam
Tel. 012–438 8683
14David Brown’s Restaurant and Tea Terrace
How can we forget Penang’s highest restaurant, perched on the top of Penang Hill, with its beautiful gardens with a panoramic view? Self-touted as a “quintessential British restaurant” that basks in the Hill’s glorified colonial past, David Brown’s certainly has a stellar setting that’s worth the experience alone and relies on a strong menu that’s lighter on the wallet when enjoyed as a lunch or dinner set. Without forgetting the afternoon tea, of course. Imagine the usual western staples such as grilled chicken chop, seafood Aglio-olio spaghetti and fish & chips, paired with other Malaysian delicacies like Nasi Ulam with beef rendang. The salads are impressive, too, especially the smoked Norway salmon, which pairs well with other creative appetizers such as cauliflower with bechamel and cheese toast. On weekends they also have classic English-style roast, both chicken or marinated sirloin beef.
Strawberry Hill @ Penang Hill
Tel. 04–828 8337
Best Steakhouses, Burger Joints and Meat Lover haunts in Penang
A popular restaurant with a cozy veranda tucked in the backwoods of Tanjung Tokong, and bringing all the shades of American food to the island of char koay teow and laksa. Did we need that? I can’t answer this question, but what’s certain is that Let’s Meat, owned by Americans, comes highly recommended by both expats and locals.
Breakfasts are pure Americana, with fluffy pancakes served with honey and butter. Step up to the delicious burgers, and don’t forget their dinner sets, which must be ordered by 5 pm on the day before your visit. They change daily, shuffling a dose of Tex-Mex staples like chicken fingers, Texas roast, Pulled pork buns, chicken fajitas, and loaded beef burgers.
They are also kid-friendly, with an indoor playground. Read here for our suggestions on 30+ things to do in Penang with kids.
Remember that they close early at 8 pm, and the venue is shut all day on Sundays.
18 Lebuh Lembah Permai 4
Tel. 016–215 4234
16Smoke Papa BBQ
Who would have ever expected that one day Penang would get its own smoked Texas Style barbecue joint? Well, that’s rather a stall, set at the Jetty foodcourt along Pengkalan Weld. The meats are juicy, tender and won’t make you long for Texas. A clever, courageous hawker center choice that could deserve bigger premises, but we probably prefer this way. Quality over quantity… and trust us, it’s smoking good.
49F, Pengkalan Weld
Tel. 016–417 7941
Both locations of this Burger franchise — one in the basement of Gurney Paragon and the other in Queensbay Mall — are loved for their zesty and well-cooked burgers.
Burger and fries in all varieties, however, is all you get here — from classic hamburgers prepared with all sorts of meats, including non-halal pork, to spicy jalapeno and creative twists like duck egg yolk sauce or cranberry jam. Don’t expect a twist on the menu, but come prepared for big portions, affordable prices (burgers start at RM10) and good food.
163D-LG–17B, Gurney Paragon Mall, Persiaran Gurney
Tel. 04–609 6906
This oldie is still a goldie, dishing up the essential remedy to expatriate homesickness: thick steaks and fries. And there’s nothing much to add, besides the fact it’s good, comes in very decent portions, and the old world, antique-strewn premises give it that peculiar Penang touch that other eateries of this calibre and orientation often miss. A trusted and central choice.
23, Love Lane
19Yaw’s Roast & Grill
Set in a local house, this is one no-frills, long-running and lip-smacking-good place for grilled meat and roast. The grilled pork burger is deemed by many to be one of the best well before Penang started filling with new generation burger shops. Don’t forget their juicy and scrumptious barbecue pork ribs, lemongrass chicken, and the chicken mushroom pie. They also do some mean, big cinnamon rolls sold by the dozen. It’s local, a bit offbeat, and definitely does see a mostly local crowd.
Tel. 018–460 0829
Imported to Penang from Darby, UK, this carnivore paradise on Victoria Street is central and sizzles with juicy fat — no worries, only on your plates. Char-grilled rib-eye steaks with fries and salad, home-made onion rings, salmon parcels with English Garden Herbs are just some of the choices in an eclectic menu that puts meat to the fore. And there are good wines available to wash it all down, too.
107 & 109, Victoria Street
Tel. 019–839 6630
Best Delis and Bistros in Penang
Don’t get confused by the name, as yes, the coffees here are very well researched and executed — think international, strong brews and proper methods and presentation. But there’s much more food available, of excellent quality and variety. The spin is definitely on western casual platters and creative pastas (kimchi and beef sauce anyone?), with an emphasis on big breakfast platters that don’t save on abundant use of eggs and bacon. For something more special, their smoked duck pasta infused with orange peel aroma and balsamic vinegar is not to miss. Coffee, good food, and yummy cakes, is there anything else you need, really?
24, Campbell Street
By Mathijs Nanne
Chaotic, quirky with a bit of an attitude, Chinahouse is the place to go and to be seen. The cakes are both amazing and serious. The extensive food menus are laden with an eclectic mix of Western and locally inspired dishes. Come with an empty tummy, because the portions are hearty and filling. After staying open for many years and leading the path for countless other hip cafes to follow, people are still queuing up for Chinahouse signature Tiramisu cake and their Ginger Bud Pesto Spaghetti. Don’t forget to check out their performance space, the Canteen, where you can enjoy a variety of music with a refreshing drink too.
153 & 155, Lebuh Pantai and 183B, Lebuh Victoria
Tel. 04–263 7299
By Mathijs Nanne
Run by a husband and wife team, this deli has garnered a great reputation of the simple things done right. The owner-chef had decided that hotel cooking was no longer his thing and went back to the roots of great and simple food. The Rueben sandwich is their thing to go for. Rey bread, Russian dressing, sauerkraut, a good slab of Swiss cheese and Beef pastrami… simple by content but very fulfilling by the sum of things. Besides an extensive meat and cheese selection, be sure to try one of the wide variety of craft beers available. You can trust the chef too that he knows his drinks.
103 Jalan Chan Siew Teong
Tel. 016–213 8344
By Mathijs Nanne
Considered like an institution by Penangites and foreign residents alike, this very popular neighborhood cafe is worth the detour for those living outside of Tanjung Bungah. Gusto ticks all the right boxes, offering very decent coffee and juices. The food is basic American in style with some surprises inspired by other parts of the Western World. The pancakes are fluffy, the French Toast crispy and doughy at the same time. Try their Avocado toast, which is packed chocker block with all the health a person may need on a casual morning. Don’t forget to soak up the neighborhood feel.
4 Jalan Sungai Kelian
Tel. 04–890 4012
Best European Food in Penang
I remember walking in Penang twelve years ago, when Armenian Street was just another scruffy-looking, charming back alley in a George Town with no name nor tourist tags. This Swiss-German beer bar and restaurant already stood as proud as it stands today, occupying one of the original shophouses — which was a delight to visit in itself, back then, with all antiques collected by the welcoming owners.
Ok, digressions aside — this is the place to come for one thing and one thing only that’s not available elsewhere on Penang: original Swiss Cheese fondue. Just delicious. Don’t forget the swiss sausages with rosti, crispy pork belly sandwiches, and a delicious apple flan. Don’t forget that they do their own multi-grain bread, available for taking away.
38 Armenian Street
Tel. 04–261 8935
This George Town restaurant added one shade of French to Penang’s Western food scene palette. From “Confit de Canard” (duck leg cooked in its own fat, and served on a bed of delicious mashed potatoes) to “Boeuf Bourguignon” (beef slow-cooked in wine, served with potato puree), or the quintessential “Moules Frites”(yummy French fried mussels), you’ll get large, well-presented plates cooked with passion and, let us say it, French savoir-faire. Don’t miss the onion soup, a simple and yet tasty treat, too. They are also launching crepes and galettes, a lighter addition on their already well-stocked menu.
36 Bishop Street
Tel. 04–261 2000
Tucked in the open garden of Hin Bus Depot, one of Penang’s alternative markets, this fine dining restaurant is as researched as it is sustainable — they only provide the freshest seasonal ingredients working closely with producers and urban farmers.
It’s all about Chef Kim Hock’s journey and experiences with European food, which he brings back to the tropical setting of Penang. Think of dishes like Roulade of Chicken, Rib Eye Steaks, Beer-battered Fish & Chips and, on Sundays, a hearthy traditional English roast served with Yorkshire Pudding, Chips, Beans and Gravy. It’s intimate, with only 18 seats, and gentlemen should respect a casual-chic dress code.
Open from Thursdays to Sundays only.
Best Pasta in Penang
By Mathijs Nanne
Tucked in the quieter parts of Little India, this is a serious place for pasta. The choices of the menu can usually be counted on one hand but every single thing is amazing. Provided you like the Italian noodle. Everything is made from scratch and decided for, on the day. You may find the not to be missed smoked duck tagliatelle, or another variety, cooked aglio olio style. If you’re really lucky, gnocchi may be featured. Our advice is then to forego everything and enjoy these soft pillows of potato goodness. Jaloux does pasta for real and with attitude.
24, King Street
Tel. 016–452 9882
29Shells Artisan Foods
Delicious homemade pasta with (they say) “high quality imported ingredients”. It’s only available for delivery island-wide. You can choose between fettuccine or tagliatelle of egg or vegetable egg variety, and more colorful beetroot, spinach, carrot and purple cabbage mixes. The ravioli with bechamel filling is something you don’t want to forget, too.
Tel. 012–579 9808
Best Sunday Roast in Penang
30No Eyed Deer
One of the first pioneer restaurants to offer Western food in Penang, No Eyed Deer still excels at what it does, with so many years of service under its belt. Not pure Western per se — don’t forget their truly Asian signature lunch options like Laotian Laksa and Vietnamese Pho, among others — No Eyed Deer is certainly famous island-wide for its delicious roast beef with Yorkshire pudding (only available on Sundays, and from now, also in a handy takeaway box). The other Western options flare up at night: think of steaks and fish & chips, completed by hearty and homey lamb Sheperd’s Pie, only available on weekdays. Their Tiramisu completes the feast with high marks.
98–1–26 Prima Tanjung, Jalan Fettes, Tanjung Tokong
Tel. 016–417 1417
Yes, this is a Mekong-inspired restaurant with dishes from Laos and Vietnam, but when they decide to throw in some roast dining from Friday to Sunday, you’ll easily forget their spring rolls, pho and Indochina to sink your incisors into finely prepared slabs of roast chicken and pork. Hallelujah!
515 A, Jalan C M Hashim, Tanjung Tokong
Tel. 017–409 7748
Great Western Food, Malaysian Style
The Penangite (poor or stingy, they say?) version of western food is very appreciated at this popular eatery that’s been around since 1985. James Foo dishes up some pretty decent western main staples, and inject some real Malaysian flavor to many of them. Think of Chicken Maryland, which is Malaysia’s interpretation of a chicken chop — something akin to North America’s chop suey. Humour aside, here you can get some mean pasta that mixes Italian (aglio olio) and local tastes (tom yam and black pepper sauce varieties), paired with wide selections of grilled and smoked fish, beef, and also pork. Did we say that it all comes with better than average prices?
They also have one location near Island Plaza in Tanjung Tokong.
6F–1–1, All Seasons Place, Lebuhraya Thean Teik, Air Itam
Tel. 016–426 9819
33All Right Western @ Hai Beng Cafe
Don’t forget that one can also get the western steak experience for a cheaper price (and no fancy dining room) at a few of Penang’s hawker food courts. “All Right Western” @ Hai Beng Cafe has distinguished itself among many others for its good Malaysian-infused renditions of Chicken Chop, cutlet, grilled BBQ chicken, and ribeye steaks. The portions are good and the food quality a notch above similar establishments, as the uncle here has been whipping up steaks and chops for quite some time. Definitely worth trying.
1 Jalan Jones
Tel. 016–480 3401