Wednesday, December 9, 2015

China House, Georgetown, Penang

Finally done with my exams! No more assignments and revision for the next 5 weeks. The weekend trip to Penang couldn't come in a time more appropriately. As the saying goes, "Eat until you feel sleepy, Sleep until you feel hungry", the last weekend was one memorable journey with food! I've decided to save the longer list of Penang street food in my next blog post and kick start the first post of a "hipster-ish" cafe in a heritage-rich Georgetown. I've heard of the name China House when Facebook contacts post photos while they check-in to this place. And now it's my turn to experience what is the hype all about.

China House is an integrated cafe, restaurant, bar and art gallery under one roof. Well, its 2 roofs literally speaking, spanning across 3 shoplots. Two adjacent units facing Beach Street and 1 unit facing Victoria Street. The two lots back to back are actually connected via a backlane which has a brick wall built on the left and right! I wondered how the Municipal Council and the Fire Brigade Department managed to approve such building layout. Seriously, this shop is really long from one end to the other!

This is the first zone if you enter through the entrance of Beach Street. A Barista work station followed by a refrigerated display of cakes! Check out the arsenal of beverage flavours at wall attached racks!

 From their website it was claimed that they are able to sell a record high of 436 slices of cake in one single Saturday. And coincidentally I was there on a Saturday evening itself. And yeah, I am convinced. As I gazed around, not many customers are there for main course. Most of them (including yours truly) are there for a leisure chat and non-alcoholic chilling environment.

Besides the wide selection of cakes, they do have pastries if you don't have a sweet tooth...

Before we move on to explore the different sections and the environment, I must confess that I am not an avid coffee drinker despite working in a instant coffee factory. But the coffee here will be appealing to those who opt for stronger brew. We sampled the Mocha and Latte. Not too bad....

Among the wide array of cakes, this is the Chocolate Raspberry Cake.  I was asking myself why not just conveniently name it Black Forrest instead right? Well, probably due to the disclaimer that it contains alcohol, and chocolate flavoured cream instead of fresh whipped cream is used in between the layers. Priced at a relatively hefty price tag at RM15.90 per slice, you do get back your money’s worth as the size is almost similar to 2 slices of Secret Recipe cake, not to mention the dense layers of cake. The chocolate sponge is a bit dry on its own but the chocolate cream was the saving grace

The same can be said with the Tiramisu Cake (claims to contain alcohol but again the aftertaste is not distinct). Though it carries a premium price tag, they dun skimp on ingredients. Those who tried Alexis’ version would probably feel a slight resemblance to it due to the usage of caramelized almonds. Some Tiramisu purist (like yours truly) might argue that this version has deviated from the norm of using just simple cocoa powder to dust the surface. But bear in mind that this is a CAKE version of the Tiramisu and not THE iconic Italian dessert. Call me old fashioned but I would usually skip the “cake” version of Tiramisu. I just look into the basics in a Tiramisu dessert, strong espresso, presence of coffee liquor (Kahlua perhaps, if not probably even Cognac should do the trick) with velvety layer of mascarpone cheese. Personal favourite so far are Italianese and STG, Ipoh :)

The Mars Bar is quite a letdown. I was thinking that they managed to duplicate one of your favourite chocolate snack bar into a cake/confectionery version but oh my! Wat a disappointment when all it contains is just sugar glazed rice bubbles covered with a top layer of chocolate. I forgot the price but it was near RM10 for a “slice”. More like a “fattening” Uncle Toby’s bar if you ask my opinion. My shaky hands and dim lighting caused it to be even more unattractive :p

Murals on the wall giving a rustic feel on how art is being redefined to cater to a more demanding hipster-ish cafe goers community.

Some of the decoration and the dimly lit areas along the walkway of the cafe area. There is also a private dining area called 14Chairs and a Vine and Single Bar... for a counter-top bar experience. Perhaps it is also a method to serve alcoholic drinks in different area with different containers/glass/mugs/cups. I am surprised to see this place manage to attract some Muslim diners, probably a table or two that night since there have alcohol inside some of their cakes! Okay, you may argue that they can opt for the non-alcoholic ones but the cakes are prepared in the same mixer, oven and utensils and kept in the same fridge! Well, those Muslim diners must be really open-minded in contrast so some other more staunch ones who only patronize outlets which are Halal certified.

As soon as you past the toilet of the first lot. you will enter the Courtyard zone which is actually constructed from the "backlane" in between the 2 lots of 2 different street. It bears to totally different ambiance compared to the cafe zone. The ambiance

The open-air dining zone comes with a small pool. If you refer to the website, they are daring you to dip into the pool if the weather in Penang is too much for some to take. Else, just enjoy a drink in a ancient Chinese inspired lit garden. Yup, those tree reminds you of those "wishing tree" you normally see in TVB dramas

This is one area which more than the 30 over cafes in Ipoh did no incorporate. A tranquil setting in the midst of greenery with a touch of romantic setting under the mango trees...

Live band performing on weekend nights in a car called "The Canteen" Mostly showcasing a uplifting jazz performance comprising a 3 or 4 piece band of saxophonist, bassist, drummer and keyboardist, they offer a menu ranging from Asian bentos to Western sandwiches, not to mention beers! Due to poor handphone battery life, this is all the photos I manage to snap. Feel free to check out their website: for a more details. Yes, do offer catering service too! Will I return again? If I am residing in Penang, most likely I will. There are many similar cafes in Ipoh and yet none have managed to attract me to try them out. To me, its just the "ambiance game" rather than full emphasize on the coffees and cakes as their selling point. And after visiting China House, I don't think I did change my impression and perception on such cafes :)

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