February 21, 2013

China House, Beach & Victoria Street @Penang: It May Be Old Soul but It has a New Life!

Sometimes it’s Really Good to Revisit the Past!

Life is strange at times. Most people will tell you to never to look back into the past. Then again, it’s the past that shape our lives. I like to say that revisiting the past can sometimes be a good thing once in a while. With the festive season almost over, I can finally settle down to blog about things dear to my passion. I have seen about this place in a few blogs. And yet, it still escapes my mind till last December when I was making a trip back to Penang.

Once in a lifetime, some people are lucky enough to have one or maybe a few BFFs. Let me tell you a quick one about mine. J, my dear childhood BFF, and I are like day and night. If one ask how we both can be BFF, I‘d say day & night has to meet somewhere and somehow. And so, we bonded somewhere, somehow despite our huge differences. J has been with me through ups and downs, never physically by my side but always there in my heart and thoughts. We have shared so much through the years through many ups and downs and revisiting the past confirmed that this journey is what makes both of us so close to each other.

We always make it a point to meet up each time when we can and since it was the festive Christmas season, J and her little one took me & my little one to China House. Located smacked in the Penang Unesco World Heritage zone, China House can be accessible from two entrances in Beach Street or Victoria Street in Penang. Well known among Penangites , China House was new to me though. If one were to ask me what China House is, I would reply, a bit of entertainment and chow in every possible way!

According to their website here, China House comprises of 14 spaces from 3 heritage buildings of café, restaurant, bar, wine, gallery, multi-purpose performance theatre, shopping and more. It’s an endless experience of what one may seek depending on the time of your visit. You can read in details at their website. I’m sharing what was caught in my lens during a brunch visit there!

Entering from Victoria Street, I walked through The Canteen & Bar where utter peace and not a soul were in sight. Immediately, the Canteen caught my eyes and lens with its eclectic mixed of furniture! From my research, the décor is the brainchild of Narelle and Alison, a dynamic team with an amazing knack to meld and bring old soul mish mash back to a new life!  Filled with odds and ends, amazing enough, it felt very much like one beautiful masterpiece.

Arm chairs and stools, leather and cloth sofas, vintage trunks, wood and steel chairs, you name it, I believe they have it. An old grand piano fitted snugly into a corner, while the metal bar oozed with charm. Walls and ceiling are left in its origin with metal lamps hanging over. Another corner hosts the live band stage. Details of live entertainment are found here.  Upstairs, open at night, hosted a large lounging area filled with more sofas, arm chairs and tables. Guest can play board games, pool, and more.

Moving in, one passes a corridor that lead to the Courtyard where loads of sunshine glared between trees and shades. Walls are graffitied while steel chairs and tables are placed all over the area. A pond provides much needed water element and sound to the ambience. I also spied a few modern steel art pieces. The courtyard is made for some warmness as one soaks in Mother Nature while savoring a selection of burgers and desserts.

Heading through the long courtyard into the main dining area aptly named Kopi C. Espresso. Choose your seats from the long table with huge panel of books for reading or check out their private dining room or wine room. There is also the more relax main dining area of a nice cup of brew and another area for evening dining. Kopi C. serves breakfast    from 9am, lunch from 12noon and dinner from 6pm to 10.30pm.

At the Beach St. Bakery, one will just stand and drool over a long table weighted down with a sweet and savory haven of pastries, pies and desserts! A closed by chiller stock up iced cakes, ice creams and ice pops. Every piece looked utterly delectable, every piece inviting, begging to be savor. It was a hard decision in choice.

All items are freshly baked from the kitchen and I could trail this back to the open kitchen at the courtyard where I spied the treats and its intoxicating aroma. Be enticed by its list of cakes from Passion Fruit Butter Cake, Walnut Espresso, Tiramisu, Chocolate Raspberry Layer, Coconut Cake with Lime Curd, Assorted Cheesecakes, Salted Caramel & Apple Pie, Mince Pies, Date and Macadamia Tart, Bakewell Tart and so much more. Savory Chicken & Eggplant Pie, Beef & Guinness Pie, Quiches and Scones are also present for savory lovers. The list is endless and specials are also available during festive holidays.

I always am a sucker for pineapple in any form I can get. Hence I ordered a refreshing Pineapple Mint Tea (RM10). As expected, fresh and tangy, the fruit juice was tainted with crushed mint and tea. Pretty refreshing!

We shared a little of everything from Cheese Omelette (RM22), Chicken & Eggplant Pie (RM12) to Ginger Bud Pesto Spaghetti with Chicken Breast (RM30). High points go to the omelette with its perfectly cooked center with a glorious soft wobbly and cheesy goodness.  The spaghetti is a myriad of flavors from it vivacious ginger torch aroma to the tinges of spices in the strands of al dente pasta. A little creamy, a little spicy, the herbs make this dish truly fusion in a beautiful way. Chicken was a tad dry though. The chicken pie had a good pastry crust but I thought the filling was a wee bit too minced up.

We had to order dessert, in fact, we made sure to save room for it. Sharing a Passion Fruit Butter Cake (RM10) and Chocolate Berry Torte (RM10), I preferred the sour and tangy flavors of the Passion Fruit Butter Cake. Deliriously sweet, it more than made up as there was a good dose of sourness too. The cake is rich and quite dense and the icing is thickly layered on. The Chocolate Berry Torte was surprisingly not sweet at all but leans towards more on deep dark bitter flavors from cocoa. In fact, we felt that the chef might have forgotten to add sugar to this one as we could not taste any sweetness at all. Bits of berries are studded in the torte while a layer of thick ganache crowned it. I would love to go back to try their Tiramisu and Walnut Espresso.

China House is full of life, old & new!
From its old eclectic décor to its modern food and brew, the charm is certainly there. One is literally transported into another world upon entrance and there is just a little love for everyone. From its graffitied walls, to the collection of antiques, art, food & drinks, live entertainment to the staff there trying to please its customers, the appeal to return is strong. Parking may be a nuisance in some ways but it’s worth the effort.  For what China House is worth, I’d say it’s a great place to visit when one is in Penang. There are simply some things in life that is worth paying for… I’ll be back for sure!

Upon my departure at the Victoria street entrance, I spied a quaint row of old shoplots and one particular door caught my attention with its sign. Sekeping Victoria, wouldn’t you be curious at this name? Peeking into the door unashamedly, I saw large open spaces with a row of bicycles. Consisting of two buildings, the minimal furniture space had a clean and crisp element. Curious and more curious, I found out that Sekeping Victoria is part of the sekeping family of retreats. The retreat is up for rent for any personal or business functions and is also a popular choice for weddings, exhibitions, photograph shoots and more. Its literally an open spaced warehouse concept with suite rooms and other facilities.

More details available at their website here.

153 & 155 Beach Street & 183B Victoria Street
10300 George Town, Penang
Tel: +604 263 7299

*Full sets of photos are available at facebook: ChasingFoodDreams


  1. Interesting place. Food looks good too!

  2. Penang has so many interesting cafe that worth a visit, a day or two definitely not enough ...

  3. This kind of vintage cafe is priceless. The food looks good. Pie filling is so full. They also served so many pastries! *heart*

  4. I heard the foods in China House are over-rated and very expensive by Penang standard but good ambiance no doubt, it seems like i have to make a trip to here... :P

  5. Lovely photos there, Jenn. I am so looking forward at one day to be able to walk along the heritage streets in Penang and feel the past.

  6. I've been to Penang numerous times but never know this place existed!
    So old school !! Love the interior of the china house.. <3

  7. I have been there recently and i loved it. Unfortunately was rushing, didn't get the chance to see the courtyard. Happy to see it here on your post. Btw, you take very good pictures.

  8. Just found out about this place. Would love to visit soon, I wonder what time this place is not so crowded?

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