David Brown, Penang Hill, is a popular spot for afternoon tea when visiting Penang Island. Away from the bustling capital of Georgetown and the tourist hub of Batu Ferringhi, Penang Hill offers visitors a cooler climate and beautiful views over the island.
Penang Hill is very much aimed at tourists, with attractions such as an owl museum, a 5D cinema and the Earthquake and Typhoon Pavilion. However, if like us the tacky tourist spots aren’t your thing, it still has some highlights, such as its nature trails, mosque, temple, heritage architecture, Sky Walk and The Habitat; a Malaysian rainforest experience.
Want to find out what other travellers thought of Penang Hill? Why not check out Tripadvisor?
David Brown’s Restaurant & Tea Terrace
We visited Penang Hill specifically to visit David Brown’s Restaurant & Tea Terrace (to give it its full title!), which happens to be the highest restaurant in Penang.
The restaurant’s hidden away at the top Strawberry Hill, Bukit Bendera – a hill on a hill if you will – sheltered from the crowds by lush greenery. Just a few steps up and you enter an oasis of calm, where the tea terrace is framed by trees blocking out the noise from below. These are donned with fairy lights and I can imagine how pretty the tea terrace must look in the evenings. A long pond stretches across the centre of the garden, with beautiful lilies and fish flitting to the surface trying to grab a quick snack.
The History of David Brown’s
What’s make this place special is its history. Strawberry Hill was originally levelled by Captain Francis Light, the founder of the British Penang colony, specifically to plant strawberries. The land was bought by the titular David Brown back in 1941, who built a colonial-style cottage and opened the then ‘tea kiosk’. Although ownership has changed the feel has not and it’s almost like you step back in time when you arrive.
Afternoon tea at David Brown, Penang Hill
The restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner, but we’d come specifically to try their renowned afternoon tea.
We were seated outside in the tea terrace, allowing us to enjoy the beautiful backdrop while staying under the cover of a canopy to protect us from the strong afternoon sun. One of the nice things about Penang Hill is that it’s higher altitude means the air is often cooler here, so we also had a refreshing breeze, quite different from the sluggish humidity we’d got used to dealing with below.
It wasn’t long before we were given a menu and asked for our tea choice. The tea itself was fine, but I was disappointed with the limited choice (eight options) and the lack of loose leaf tea. Soon after our drinks were served came our afternoon tea, served on a pretty three-tier tray.
As ever we started with the savoury dishes, which consisted of egg mayo sandwiches, bruschetta, potato croquettes and tuna croissants. Quite a different selection from your classic British afternoon tea set up, but one that we enjoyed immensely.
The bruschetta was one of my highlights, thanks to its crisp toast, with fresh, chopped tomato and red onion pilled up high and topped with grated parmesan.
The tomato’s flavour was very light, to the verge of imperceptible, but the texture of the fresh veg on the bread was lovely. Just be warned it’s very hard to eat without making a mess.
The other savoury stand-out was the potato croquette, which was served fresh from the oven. Served with a spicy fish sauce, a swirl of salmon and a sprinkling of roe and dill, I could definitely have devoured more of these tasty tots.
The scones didn’t wow me as much, sadly. Plus points were the fact that they were freshly baked and still warm, and also came with a side of fresh fruit; strawberries and black grapes, which were lovely.
The scones themselves seemed more savoury than I’m used to, with a strong taste of salt. These were served with whipped cream (a staple of SE Asia afternoon teas where clotted cream seems impossible to find), butter and strawberry jam. This did seems shop-bought rather than freshly made, and was quite runny, but it was tasty enough, with an appealing tart flavour.
After resting for a while and enjoying another cuppa it was time to move onto the sweets. I started with the Madeira cake, which went down a treat. Light, sweet and delicious; I really liked that it wasn’t stodgy and sweaty, which can be an issue with cakes in humid SE Asia.
As with the savouries some thought had gone into the selection of sweets, which along with the Madeira cake was made up of miniature crème brûlées, profiteroles, lemon tart and pistachio cake.
All went down very well with both Justin and I – I particularly liked the sweet crisp top of the crème brûlée and the custard filling in the choux pastries, while Justin liked the tarts crunchy base and its topping of fresh grape, mandarin and strawberry. We both loved the pistachio cake with its topping of rich, dark chocolate ganache. I recommend saving this ‘till last to end your afternoon tea on a high note.
Want to learn more about what Penang has to offer? We recommend Lonely Planet’s Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Penang Travel Guide.
My thoughts on afternoon tea at David Brown, Penang Hill
Overall I enjoyed my visit to David Brown’s. I absolutely loved the beautiful garden setting of the tea terrace and it’s a spot I’d highly recommend visiting for a spot on relaxation on a hot afternoon. The food itself was highly enjoyable, but the one area that I felt it did let itself down on was the service/staff. Everyone there seemed slightly aloof and smiles from the staff seemed few and far between. Perhaps they were having a bad day, I don’t know, but it would have been nice for them to appear a little happier to serve you.
That small bugbear aside, David Brown’s is a pretty little spot that I’d recommend visiting. The afternoon tea is a great price at approximately £18 for two (at time of writing) and at the end of the garden there is an amazing views, giving guests a great spot to get some lovely pics of the island while avoiding the crowds on the Sky Walk below.
David Brown’s also recently opened its new Sky Terrace, or Sky Bar, which is again the highest bar in Penang. This is another great spot to take pictures away from the crowds, while enjoying a refreshing cocktail!
Getting to David Brown’s Restaurant & Tea Terrace
There is one thing to consider when it comes to price however; there’s an extra cost to reach David Brown’s. You cannot reach Strawberry Hill by Grab, so unless you want to do a long hike up to the top of Penang Hill, or pay the restaurant a hefty fee to have them drive you up and down in their 4×4, the only option is the Penang Hill Funicular, which costs approximately £5 (at time of writing) for a return.
Depending on what time of day or year you want to go also make sure to give yourself time. I’d recommend planning to spend a day or at least an afternoon up there, and head up the hill a good while before any booking times.
We visited during the bank holiday weekend of Chinese New Year (yes, I know, good planning Keri!) and the station had a massive queue weaving out of its entrance. There was no way I was going to hike to the top and we’d booked afternoon tea for half and hour’s time, so we had to work out what we could do.
We discovered that by buying a fast lane ticket, we could fast track through the queue and get on the next available train and arrived at the restaurant in the nick of time. For an extra £10 I recommend getting one of these tickets whatever time of year you visit though, as the funicular is always pretty busy.
David Brown’s Restaurant & Tea Terrace is open everyday from 11am to 10pm. Afternoon tea costs RM98 for two people.
David Brown Penang Hill – Pin for later!
Our afternoon tea was complimentary for the purposes of this review. However, as always, all views are my own.