You know where to head to for the best char kuey teow and cendol in Penang. You also know which parts of the Penang island have better asam laksa. And after all that eating, chill out with a cuppa at these cafes. But what about Penang bars? Now that’s where we come in. While the visitors to Penang generally eat around the clock thanks to most restaurants staying open till late, the actual nightlife is pretty lit.
While the Georgetown area has generally always been filled with bars selling affordable beers, the craft cocktail scene has only been picking up pace in recent years. Cocktail bars are spilling over to Penang from KL, with more bars matching the quality of cocktails that can be found in KL. In fact, one of the bartenders in Penang even came up with his own cocktail version of roti bakar with the Martell Noblige cognac.
Not forgetting, Penang also had its fair run of hidden bars. From bars that you enter through a fridge, Narnia style, to bars that moonlight as a bathtub display, Penang’s hidden bars are quite the creative bunch. But for great cocktails, a fantastic view, and Instagrammable shots, these Penang bars are a must-visit during your time there.
Formerly sporting a rather naughty name, the bar has since rebranded itself as Beso Rosado by ChinChin Golden. If you remember the front of the shop that hides the bar having a golden bathtub, it is now gone and replaced with a graffiti-ed area, exposing the same pink bar that you all know and love. Also, it’s no longer a “hidden” bar. Come here to soak in the beautiful interior, but stay for the creative cocktails and a scrumptious menu that focuses on Mediterranean flavours.
Think China House only has that iconic display of over 30 cakes? Think again. The longest cafe in Penang also houses a bar in two areas: The Canteen, which is located on one end of the cafe, and another “hidden” cocktail bar behind the library area. The Canteen is the place to head to for live band performances and your standard beer, wine, and sangria. Head to the hidden bar behind the library for a quieter time with your companion and sip on classic cocktails.
If you think you know over the top interiors, then challenge yourself with a trip to The Cellar in the Macalister Mansion hotel. With gold fittings, a shiny bar area, leather Chesterfield lounges, and shiny red floors, The Cellar is no dingy bar. The drinks menu doesn’t fall short either, with a selection of over 300 wine labels, spirits, and signature cocktails.
Manchu ticks all the boxes of what a trendy bar should be in today’s times: it’s hidden, has an old-world Chinese interior and serves up a good selection of creative cocktails at an affordable price. The bar also has live performances on some nights, veering towards the Chinese-speaking bands.
Mish Mash is one of the original cocktail bars in Penang and one of the rare few with a team of bartenders who really know their stuff. You can’t go wrong with cocktails here — anything you order, especially the classic drinks, will be good.
Yet another one of the secret bars in Penang, to get here you need to first look for Hold Up! Cafe. And then, out of nowhere, you’ll see an orange fridge — that will be your entrance to Out of Nowhere, a dim bar with lots of plants. The cocktail menu here is interesting and creative, having been developed by one of the known bartenders in the local scene. Try the bar’s rendition of a Bloody Mary, aptly renamed “Bloody Hell”.
In case you were wondering, yes there is indeed a tree at this bar called The Pokok. Located in the backpackers’ area, this bar has a nice mix of locals and tourists, making it a great watering hole for people-watching. This container building hosts live performances, and there is a seating area on the upper deck with an astroturf and swing chairs. There’s also a VIP room right in the middle of the bar, where you can host private parties.
Penang isn’t far behind when it comes to rooftop bars. Head to Three Sixty Revolving Restaurant and Rooftop Bar, Penang’s first rooftop bar perched on the Bayview Hotel Georgetown. This two-level penthouse lounge has an indoor dining hall that slowly revolves 360-degrees, but the real party is in the alfresco lounge area. Head there during golden hour, watch the sunset and the buildings in Georgetown come alive as you sip on beer and cocktails.