Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Penang, Malaysia

EASTERN & ORIENTAL HOTEL, PENANG

Penang is known as both the foodie capital of Malaysia and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So it was with much anticipation that we visited this vibrant island, to both sample its food diversity and relish its many cultural and historical offerings. In Penang we first stayed at the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Hotel. Located in Penang’s old town, George Town, the hotel is minutes away from Penang’s food and shopping strips, the financial district and all of Penang’s main cultural destinations.

In its early days when Penang served as an outpost of the East India Company, the island drew in a variety of travellers ranging from merchants to missionaries that made the arduous route from London to Singapore, a journey that generally took about four long months. But it was not until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 that travel to Asia took on another dimension, with writers, actors and the rich from Europe and America all making the trip to Asia to see what the oriental world had to offer. And with this new breed of affluent travellers, the demand for luxury hotels flourished.

And so The Eastern & Oriental Hotel was founded in 1885 by the Sarkies Brothers, the same brothers who were also instrumental in the construction of the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The Eastern & Oriental is a tale of two halves. There are two wings to the hotel, first, the traditional Heritage Wing, and the second, the ultra modern Victory Annex. The Heritage Wing evokes a sense of tradition, one that is filled with old, colonial charm. The Heritage Wing maintains many of its original features such as the spacious domed lobby and a grand marbled floor corridor. It’s where many old time traditions have been kept such as the doorman in khaki shorts, knee-high socks and pith-helmets, and the gentlemen at reception with their bow ties and slicked back hair. The Eastern & Oriental Hotel is a popular spot for weddings, and the Heritage Wing truly makes for the perfect backdrop for that all-important wedding photo.

Eastern & Oriental Hotel - London Food Blog

Eastern & Oriental Hotel

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The Danna – Planter’s Restaurant, Langkawi

THE DANNA – PLANTER’S RESTAURANT

The Danna is a luxury 5-star hotel in Langkawi, a grand colonial hotel that is classically beautiful and effortlessly elegant with high ceilings and an impressive presence. Perched on a lovely stretch of beach, it has the marina on one side and lush tropical lands on the other.

We went to one of the restaurants at The Danna for dinner, Planter’s, which is recognised as one of the best restaurants on Langkawi. Located towards the rear of the hotel, you get to Planter’s from the impressive hotel lobby by walking along the corridor, past the seductive Verandah Bar. Upon reaching Planter’s, one is presented with an impressive sight, not only because the restaurant is beautifully romantic, but also because it looks out onto the hotel’s infinity pool and beach. The perspective is mesmerising, and particularly lovely if you chose to dine al fresco on the restaurant’s outside porch. The Planter’s menu makes for an interesting read by serving an eclectic collection of Western, Thai, Indian and Malay dishes. It’s a very comprehensive menu and easily caters to a variety of tastes. We visited on a Friday night which is buffet night, although the al la carte was also available. Tempting as the ‘all-you-can-eat’ option was, we elected to order off the a la carte menu, preferring our food to be cooked to order.

We started with a Thai seafood broth (MYR40 – £6.80) with king prawns, calamari, mussels and fish. This was deliciously light, with the stock having been prepared using kaffir lime, lemongrass, galangal, coriander and a seafood base. The result was a stock that was crystal clear with a distinct and delicate flavour. A classically trained French chef would have been proud had they produced a consommé of such clarity. Each of the seafood elements was also nicely cooked to round off a lovely starter.

Danna Langkawi - London Food Blog - Thai seafood broth

Danna Langkawi – Thai seafood broth

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Sedap

Nyonya use to be one of my favourite cheap-eats in London. Great food is always hard to pass up, and when combined with cheap prices, makes it even harder to beat. As a bit of an ex-regular, I couldn’t help but lament Nyonya’s closing. I suspect the exorbitant Notting Hill rental prices must have had something to do with it.

But the people behind it came back to open up Sedap (which means delicious in Malayan) in Old Street about a year ago. The location is far less glamorous than Notting Hill, but the menu prices have remained cheap. The downside is that it’s harder for me to get to and I no longer call myself a regular. So this was my first visit since it opened up as Sedap, and I must say, it was definitely worth the wait.

We started with kerabu prawns (£6.50), a fresh, crunchy salad of prawns and cucumber finished with a kerabu dressing. Loving the combination of sweet, sour and salty flavours that are a hallmark of a kerabu, we polished this off in minutes. Finely chopped peanuts and black fungus added crunchiness to the salad, and the chilli gave it a nice little kick.

Kerabu prawns

Kerabu prawns

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Champor-Champor: Are menus the new porn?

Some say cookbooks are the new porn. I personally find them quite entertaining, if, and only if, there are lots of photos, and only if the photos are all of hot and steamy dishes. Visually stimulating, they can arouse my senses and heighten my desire for that nourishing-looking morsel on the page, immediately transporting me into a heavenly world of exquisite comfort eating.

As I scanned the menu at Champor-Champor, a fixed-price affair (2 courses, £25; 3 courses £29.50), I also wondered whether menu porn could be considered the new porn too. A good menu can be a titillating promise of the tasty things to come. It can occasionally be a tease too, making you want all that is offered when all the while you know it won’t be possible. On this menu, sandwiched in between the starters and the mains were the interestingly entitled inter-courses (with a £2.80 supplement). Porn anyone?

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