Batu Ferringhi is towards the northern tip of the island. Its pretty vibrant on holidays, plan to leave your vehicles parked all weekend long. Better yet, don’t bring your car on to the island. If walking with kids around this beach town, watch out for traffic on narrow streets. Be weary when you’re walking on sidewalks, they seem to disappear or get swallowed up by selfish fat cars too lazy to park properly. Then there are trishaws that go on snail pace and speedy little motorcycles that weave in and out of traffic, they do their best dodging shoppers hovering around Batu Ferringhi ‘s long rows of cheap buys of the night market.
The main buzz is only 2km long, between Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang resort to Hard Rock Hotel Penang , if you walk along the street and not along the beach. From Hard Rock further up its another 4km to End of the World Restaurant made famous when they catered for the “The King and I” film crew. Rapid Penang Bus 101 (every 20 minutes) and 102 (every 80 minutes) share this same route going up and down, then will split when they get into town. There are bars, restaurants, Long Beach Cafe and I love You Cafe which are both food courts and canteen like local eateries that line each side of the road. Italian, Indian, Chinese, Mediterranean, Malay, 2 fast food chains, Starbucks (of course) , for breakfast , lunch and dinner.
No one should be on diet on holidays. You do that BEFORE going on holiday. If you feel really guilty, balance it out with hikes, spas, massages, foot reflexology, yoga in your space, swim or gym, if your accommodation provides that.
Frandy Beach Bar , is a friendly laid back place on the beach, the entrance is off the main road , follow the slight bend, the path will open up to a field and the restaurant is ahead of you. Its next to Bayview Beach Resort. It serves lunch and dinner, and gets lively during weekends with group events, birthday parties or special gatherings. They serve local and western food with reasonable prices. Its not uncommon to see tourists enjoy beer as early at 12 noon on week days. I would pick from the local selections, limited choice but wholesome and tasty.
If you feel like dressing up for an evening out, Ferringhi Garden is the restaurant you want to head to. They serve steak, beautiful seafood, they have an ambitious western menu and Asian tastes too. The whole ambiance is enhanced by hanging plants and cooling misty units can be wheeled over to your table. Its a family restaurant , mostly , which also caters to large groups, so don’t worry about the kids. Its one place you have to experience at least once during you stay in Ferringhi. The bar faces the road with plants acting as curtains , walk further in to choose tables near the water features. The cost of dining here is up market, without breaking the bank, and the wine selection is very decent covering most palettes.
Boatman Restaurant has been my favourite lately. Its a not-so-sleepy restaurant serving lunch and dinner, its closed on Mondays. In the evenings theres a warm cosy feel and with a retro vibe without trying to be. Its a comfortable diner, and staff are very friendly. Regulars frequent here up to 3 times a week, at least. They are open to modifying dishes or ordering off menu, like simple grilled chicken breast with salad instead of chicken chop with gravy. The local noodles are tasty and portions generous. I like the Fried Koay Teow with beef , and their Fried Mee gives a good spicy kick too. Prices here are moderate, with a good selection of seafood dishes.
Living Room Cafe Bar Gallery is next to Ferringhi Garden. Its colourful decor shows off art work by local artists. The staff are friendly, and attentive to customer’s needs. They also remember faces which is really special for diners. Western food is served here and generally consistent and simple. I would again encourage trying out the local affair while you’re in Penang. The prices are moderate, maybe just a tad pricey for local food, but good, with generous portions, I suspect they get cast offs from Ferringhi Grill, which is great opportunity for them.
On that same row, there’s Helena’s Cafe , her curries have bragging rights. We were recommended the mutton curry eaten simply with steamed white rice. Curry is very personal, I like mine creamy and mildly spiced, tasting all the spice (less of chilli) and herbs enhanced by marinates from the meats or vegetables. There’s a whole big world of curries out there, Helena’s would be the place to get your 101 on Malaysia’s favourite gravy. They have some really nice old school wholesome meals servings here, the stirred beef with vegetables, chicken satay with peanut gravy, fried spring rolls to share, cool tall juices and fruits with a scoop of ice cream. Its a really comfortable set up, its like being in your grandmother’s kitchen. Family friendly, friends friendly and wallet friendly. Good vibes.
Ferringhi has witnessed many beautiful sunsets, especially at Tree Monkey in Tropical Spice Garden. They serve Thai food with many creative cocktails and refreshing zinger juices to choose from. There is a small steep hill to walk up from the road entrance , so probably not so wheelchair friendly, then the steps to the restaurant will further discourage those physically challenged. I’m sure with proper planning the staff can help. Do not miss this spot that over looks the bay. Ask for catch of the day steamed with Thai herbs, and their pineapple friend rice is scrumptious. Try get there by 6.30 pm for the sunset. They serve lunch too, prices can be compared to up-market and seafood will depend on the market price that day.
BoraBora Penang would be the place for happy hour on the beach, chilled out tunes will stream on to the sands while you’re sipping your cold beer. Popular with tourists and locals who want to entertain their outstation friends. Music gets livelier and louder later in the night. Food served here is on the greasy side , local or Western, which will go perfect with your cocktails and beer. Staff are very friendly and jovial. Buckets start from RM68 upwards. You’ll like the environment here, chilled and beachy.
Beach Corner Seafood on the other hand, targets families, bigger groups and friends who become fast regulars. This restaurant is next to BoraBora, it has a large parking lot (free for diners ) . Florescent lights and red table clothes are the most glaring decorations . People come here for the food. Elderly Aunties shout orders above your head. Its a wonderful experience, by sight, by taste and by sounds (from the hosts taking your order). You won’t find sexy music here, just sexy food and local specialties. Not all the Aunties speak English, fortunately menus are in English with brief descriptions. If you still have no idea, ask them to recommend 2 vegetable dishes, 2 meats, 2 apetisers , 1 main fish of the day, with plain white rice. Prices are reasonable, per head for a complete meal can be around RM30-40 per head.
For a local breakfast try the smaller stalls that dot the coastal route. There are two roti canai stores across from each other. Roti Canai , is a Malaysian pancake dipped in dhall or curry. There are many variations of Roti Canai, Roti Telur (pan fried with egg and onions) , Roti Pisang (with sliced bananas), Roti Tissue (drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, Roti Sardin (with sardines in tomato sauce) or the Murtabak ( filled with curried chicken or minced beef) . Ferringhi’s favourites are Restoran Khaleel (Indian cuisine) and Ajid Cafe (Malay food) . A complete meal of roti canai, gravy to dip, and local coffee or tea will cost you under RM5 per person. Rice platters such as Nasi Campur (rice with mixed condiments) and Indian Briyani can start from RM6 to Rm15 depending on how much you pile on the your plate! Breakfast, lunch or dinner, you are always welcomed.
(To Note: Restoran Khaleel seems to be closed for a while now, we don’t know why, edit 24th Aug. 2017)
New kid on the block! Try Little Joe Cafe . An easy walk from the only fuel station in Batu Ferringhi called Petronas . Walk towards the buildings behind Petronas and turn into the row of shops. You won’t miss the sign out front. They serve a humble breakfast , good hot European styled coffees or tea from the pot and fresh juices to go with your breakfast. For something a little fancy-shmancy in the evening , right next door is Little Joe Grill , for a sneak peak find the entrance through the cafe into another room. The grill serves Western and European meals of steak, fish and chips, salmon , grilled chicken, pasta options and choices of wine. Both outlets are under the same owner, but both outlets have different vibes, the cutesy, comfy settings of the cafe in contrast to sultry, animal print dining settings under cosy lighting for the evenings. Prices here are moderate and the staff very friendly. The owners are founders of BoraBora Penang, and Little Joe Cafe and Grill is their new baby.
So there it is! All tried and tested restaurants and stalls on Ferringhi! Watch this space while we test more places.