One of the glories of Penang is the tree-topped hills that form the dark green backdrop to the city, high rises and beaches of the island. Beloved already by hikers and mountain bikers, the rainforest can also be enjoyed as an eating destination by those of us who enjoy more leisurely pursuits. Here are a few of our favourites:
Tree Monkey restaurant adjoins the Tropical Spice Garden in Teluk Bahang. Either as a place to replenish your energy after a stroll around the gardens, or as a destination in itself, Tree Monkey is very much worth the trip. Tables are arranged on a wooden platform surrounded by mature tropical trees and foliage, overlooking the sea. The insect and bird noise of the tropical rainforest and the sound of the waves all but blocks out
the noise of the busy road directly below. Occasionally, the gentle dusky leaf monkeys come to investigate, but unlike macaques they keep their distance and don’t try to rob your food. The restaurant specialises in Thai dishes; the plates are beautifully presented, and as tasty as they look. Beer, wine and cocktails are available as well as soft drinks.
Tree Monkey is at the Tropical Spice Garden is on Jalan Teluk Bahang, and is open from 9am until 10.30pm daily. The telephone number is 04 881 3493 and website is www.treemonkey.com.my.
Eco-tourism park The Habitat, set atop Penang Hill, offers rolling hills, pristine rain forest, lush flora, enormous granite boulders and distant views. The nature trail, canopy walk, sunset walks, and tree-climbing workshops, are some of the many good reasons to visit, and at the end of an hour or two’s activity, a sit-down in their fresh, modern café is the perfect way to revive your spirits.
The Habitat Cafe is located within the gift shop, at the end of the nature trail, near the exit of the park. You can also enjoy the café without entering the park proper. To do that it is necessary to walk to the park’s Exit, around 900m from the funicular railway top station. The café serves simple, hearty cafe food, including chicken curry Kapitan with a slice of toast, curry puffs, coffee, cakes and biscotti, in a light and airy environment, with stunning views
Opening hours for The Habitat are 9.30am-6pm daily except Wednesday when it is closed. You can find more information about the park at www.thehabitat.my
Bukit Genting Leisure Park and Restaurant is the original Penang hill-top eating place. Located at the south of the island, there is a steep drive up to the top of the hill. The leisure park part is rather dilapidated, and consists mainly of a few rather bizarre exhibits within well-kept gardens, but the restaurant is still operational and offers spectacular views of the forested hills and towards the coasts of the south and the west of Penang island. The restaurant serves straight-forward middle-of-the-road Thai food and fruit juices.
Opening hours are 11.30am until 10.30m daily. The address is Jalan Teluk Kumbar, Balik Pulau. Telephone 04 827 9801 and www.facebook.com/Bukit-Genting-Hill-Leisure-Park-and-Restaurant.
Garden Paradis Café is rather easier to find. Set back from Jalan Kebun Bungah, the road that leads to the Botanic Garden, it has a spacious outdoor terrace next to a stream, and benefits from the leafy approach to the Botanic Gardens. The restaurant is a popular stop for Western-style breakfast for joggers and hikers after their morning workouts, and sometimes service gets slow at that time. For the rest of the day the menu is primarily Japanese food, with a selection of ramen, udon, gyoza, teriyaki and rice bowls.
The restaurant can be found at the Botanical Garden Horticulture Centre, 3654, Annex D, on Jalan Kebun Bunga. The telephone number is 012-473 7007 and you can find them at www.facebook.com/Garden-Paradis-Cafe. Opening hours are 8am until 9pm daily.