Forget Raffles, afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang is a truly luxurious culinary treat!
Penang, Malaysia is truly a food lover’s paradise. Here you can find a melting pot of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Peranakan influences that have led to a huge variety of mouth-watering dishes.
Rightly known for its delicious street food, I’d spent my time diving into hawker centres around the island devouring every local delicacy I could lay my hands on. As much as I hadn’t tired of this, I knew that I could not leave Penang without going for a classic afternoon tea at the renowned Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Hotel in Georgetown.
The Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Full of colonial beauty, The Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Hotel was built in 1885 and is still considered one of, if not the best, hotels on the island. The only seafront hotel in the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was built by the Sarkies Brothers, who off the back of its success went on to build the Strand Hotel in Rangoon and the world-famous Raffles in Singapore. Knowing this, you can see why we were expecting greatness!
During my visit afternoon tea was held in the very elegant 1885 restaurant, but since then the hotel has been refurbished and 1885 has been transformed into Palm Court.
This new dining outlet is named after the Palm Court Bar, which used to operate in beneath the lobby’s echo dome during the management of the Sarkies Brothers.
Planters, traders and sailors used to gather at the Palm Court Bar for a glass of stengah – a drink made from equal measures of whisky and soda water, served over ice – and it soon became the place to be seen at as it featured orchestral concerts every Sunday morning.
The new Palm Court however, focuses on serving guests an assortment of Indian, Chinese and Malay inspired dishes, as well as its renowned classic three-tiered English afternoon tea; which can also be served out in the newly refurbished Heritage Wing.
Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang
Starched linen, silver cutlery and chandeliers greet visitors to Palm Court, where you can also expect great service, even if there’s a language barrier. I had a couple of special dietary requests you see, and at first my waiter and I struggled to understand each other. However, through a third party we were able to find a way to communicate and once my requests were understood he was more than happy to oblige.
After a week of eating food off plastic plates with only a fan to stave off the humid air, it felt oh so civilised to sit down in the air conditioned Eastern and Oriental Hotel and drink a delicious cup of loose leaf English breakfast tea from E&O branded china whilst looking out over the waters of the Malacca Strait.
On the gorgeous tea trolley was a wide choice of loose-leaf teas to choose from including a few specialities I’d never heard before such as Assam Mokalbari, Tarry Lapsang and Irish Whiskey Cream. I also particularly loved how the menu gave the recommended brewing time for each blend.
Feeling quintessentially English, I must confess to doing a teeny little clap of joy when our waiter came out with our savoury treats; a mixture of finger sandwiches and pastries. The current selection includes smoked salmon tartare on wholemeal, cucumber dill and cream cheese on a Pullman loaf, corn-fed chicken ragout gougeres and truffle scented egg on a poppyseed crusted butter bun.
As we were munching our way through our sandwiches, freshly baked scones were brought out. A selection of raisin and plain scones, these came served with a selection of condiments including strawberry jam, pineapple jam and whipped cream – I’ve yet to find anywhere that serves clotted cream in Southeast Asia. These were very tasty, but did leave little room for the sweet plate, which wasn’t far behind.
For sweets in Asia they weren’t too bad at all – I find that cake doesn’t do well in the humidity you see. The opera cake was delicious for example, although it did look a little worse for wear. At this point I was beaten, but Justin kindly had a taste of the others, including the fruit tartlet, mille-feuille and red velvet fruit cake, just to let me know that they were equally delicious.
Why you should choose to have afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang
When you walk through the doors of E&O it’s like you’re taking a step back in time and the hotel really epitomises the beauty of colonial Georgetown. An elegant dining area, exceptional service and delicious food make this a must-visit for foodie lovers, as well as those looking for a little peace, quiet and cool air away from Penang’s sweaty, bustling capital city.
Oh, and for under £20, we think the whole experience is a steal. For lovers of afternoon tea like myself, a visit to E&O is a must.
Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental hotel Penang costs RM88 per person for food only, RM168 with a glass of champagne and is even available with bottomless champagne for RM388. Available daily between 3-5pm, the dress code is smart casual.