Posted on Wednesday, 29th July 2015
LONE PINE HOTEL
After our stay at The Eastern & Oriental Hotel we ventured up to the beaches at Batu Ferringhi, which is located on the northern coastline of Penang Island and about a half an hour drive from George Town. There, we stayed at The Lone Pine Hotel, the sister hotel to The Eastern & Oriental Hotel. The hotel first opened in 1948 and was the first hotel to be established on the beaches of Batu Ferringhi. Lone Pine is a beach resort boasting of a quintessential seaside character and is very comfortable with a relaxed, laid-back energy. It caters well for those looking for a well-equipped four-star standard beachside hotel versus high-end luxury. The hotel boasts of a full range of contemporary comforts with a swimming pool, a wellness spa, a fully-equipped gymnasium, a business centre as well as meeting rooms. There is also a games room, two restaurants and a bar. There is complimentary wifi throughout the hotel, although this worked better in the lobby and not so well in our room.
The heart of Penang is George Town, the UNESCO heritage site. Here is where most of Penang’s main attractions are. But what George Town doesn’t have is a beach and this is where Batu Ferringhi comes into play. I loved George Town, but after a few days of solid sightseeing in the heat I equally relished the opportunity to kick back and chill out on the beach, or rotate back to the lovely pool area at the hotel.
We stayed in a deluxe room which was on the first floor of the hotel. The room was comfortable, spacious and airy. Attached to the room was a wide balcony that looked out onto the beach and which let in lots of natural light. Also rather unique was the outdoor bathtub on the balcony. The hotel is surrounded by lots of lovely greenery, and there was something rather calming about bathing in the sunlight surrounded by the sky, the beach and nature.
As for the township of Batu Ferringhi itself, by day it has the beach, and by night, it has the night markets where you can shop until you stop. It also has the Long Beach Hawker Stands, where at TheLondonFoodie’s suggestion we tried the belacan chicken (MYR12 – £2) one night. This was indeed delicious and incredibly moreish. The coating was crunchy and the chicken itself was perfectly cooked and juicy.
Dinner at Matsu
There are two restaurants at the hotel. One is Bungalow, which looks out onto the pool and where a decent buffet breakfast and an all day menu of steaks, burgers, pastas and Penang wok-fried noodles are served. The hotel also has a Japanese restaurant called Matsu, and on our second night at Lone Pine we dined here and were treated to a delicious show of cooking. The two of us elected to order a number of items from the a la carte as well as share one set of the chef’s kaiseki menu (MYR125.90 net – about £21.30).
From the a la carte menu we had the excellent deep-fried calamari roll with lemon mayo (MYR32.65 – about £5.50) which was really nicely done. Essentially calamari rolled with seaweed and then fried in batter, the flavour of the seaweed added another dimension to the calamari. The batter was crispy and well seasoned, and the calamari was tender. The lemon mayo also paired well with the calamari.
Grilled mackerel (MYR22.15 – £3.80) was well cooked and moist, seasoned well and came with a lovely crispy skin. The fish was generously sized, and on the whole this was very tasty. However the belly area of the fillet was a little bitter.
Dobin mushi (MYR17.50 – £3), a clear soup with chicken, seafood and vegetables in an earthen pot was absolutely delicious. The broth had been beautifully reduced and resonated with a deep, rich umami flavour. The soup came with prawns, squid and fish, and all these elements had been nicely cooked. This was one of the highlights of our meal and I thoroughly recommend ordering this if visiting Matsu restaurant. Also tasty was the tuna takaki (MYR45.50 – £7.70) with lovely, fresh tuna and a zingy Japanese citrus dressing.
Moving onto the kaiseki menu, and I thought this was rather good value for the variety, quantity and quality of the food. It began with three hors’ d’oeurvres, all of which were very tasty. These included sweet omelette, crab stick and a piece of the calamari rolled with seaweed mentioned above.
This was followed by an assortment of sashimi, salmon, tuna, hamachi and sweet prawn. The seafood was very fresh and delicious. The sashimi had been served on a bowl of ice, and presentation-wise it looked rather striking, but it also meant the sashimi was unnecessarily cold.
Next was the agemono, a deep-fried tempura roll of fish, prawn and vegetables which was unusual in that it was basically a maki roll which had then been dipped in a tempura batter and fried. It didn’t taste bad per se, but I would have simply preferred the maki roll.
Teriyaki beef rolled with a filling of enoki mushrooms was next, and this proved to be a delightful combination of tender, tasty beef married with perky enoki mushrooms. There was a good balance of flavours as well as textures and was really yummy to eat.
The final course in the menu was two types of sushi and a California roll both of which were nicely done. Accompanying this was a very tasty bonito flavoured clear soup with fish cake, vegetables and seaweed.
Green tea tiramisu with an orange twist is the signature dessert at Matsu, and this proved to be a stunning finish to the meal. Texturally it was a tiramisu but with the flavour of green tea. The hint of orange in the tiramisu added another dimension to the dessert. This was another highlight of our meal.
I really enjoyed our stay at Lone Pine as it was a really relaxed and comfortable beachside resort. Service was equally pleasant and relaxed, and it made for a pleasant two-day beach escape from the busyness of George Town. But even if you’re not staying at Lone Pine, I’d really recommend Matsu restaurant for Japanese food as this was excellent.
1. Well-equipped four-star standard beachside hotel.
2. Dinner at Matsu Japanese restaurant. Particular highlights at Matsu included the dobin mushi and the green tea tiramisu.
1. The hotel bills itself as a luxury resort which it isn’t.
Overall hotel rating: 4/5
Dinner at Matsu rating: 4/5
Overall service rating: 3.5/5
Dinner at Matsu – about MYR125 to MYR150 per person (£20 to £25), excludes drinks.
Room rates start from MYR450 ++ per night (about £90).