Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Just Caffe, George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Just Caffe, George Town, Penang
Just Caffe

Just Caffe, George Town, Penang

Run by a bubbly young team of passionate foodies, Just Caffe combines excellent coffee, with simple western fare, value for money prices and, an ethos of doing good.

Located in George Town in a rare position by the coast, seating outdoors benefits from a gentle sea breeze and, a takeaway order can easily be taken to the waterfront, where you can watch the rock fisherman try their luck or muse on life as the boats bob by.

Just Caffe, George Town, Penang
Grab a cup to take away and enjoy your java by the sea
Just Caffe’s interior is bright and happy with occasional plants greening the space. A wall message saying that 10% of profits go to Far East Ministries (who help over 650 children inside and on the border of Burma) lifts our spirits.
Just Caffe, George Town, Penang
Drink Coffee for a Good Cause
Just Caffe, George Town, Penang
Just Caffe
Owner Kelvin, tells of being inspired by international travel but strongly uninspired by academia and the strong pressure to study in Asia where only a few are seen as successful (those with the top grades). He wanted something that he was passionate about and where he could contribute positively to the community.

Starting the business with a friend, he claims they studied at the school of YouTube and graduated from the university of Google. Self educated by the Internet and hours of hands on experience, trial and error, and persistence has carried the café to where it is today – a popular place anytime of day with a reputation in Penang for serving some of the best coffee on the island.

A simple menu of paninis, salads, pastas, wraps and desserts support the beverages. We try a couple of dishes from Just Caffe’s Hall of Fame. Veggie Lover Panini (RM10), Pesto Pasta (RM12) and the House Salad (RM10).

The House Salad is mix of red and green lettuce, rocket, green peppers, grilled chicken, black olives, tomato and home made dressing – red wine and balsamic vinegars, garlic and oil. A generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese showers the top. The dressing is delicious and the ingredients fresh. We can’t believe the price. It’s a steal!

Just Caffe, George Town, Penang
House Salad
The spaghetti in the Pesto Pasta is cooked perfectly al dente. Slices of chicken, black olives, a pesto sauce and oodles of grated Parmesan complete the dish. Again, we find our tummies and wallets both very satisfied.

Just Caffe, George Town, Penang
Pesto Pasta
Eggplant, green capsicum, lettuce, cheese and pesto fill the Veggie Lover Panini. Toasted and lightly crunchy on the outside, but soft within, it proves another comforting and pleasing item.

Just Caffe, George Town, Penang
Veggie Lover's Panini
The reason however, I first heard about Just Caffe was because of their coffee. A fellow aficionado recommended the place, raving about the quality of brew. Just Caffe uses espressolab’s House Blend of fresh roasted coffee beans. My Café Latte (RM8) is well executed and a fine competitor for recognition in my list of quality cups.

Just Caffe, George Town, Penang
Hubby has been caffeine free now for a number of months, so orders the Iced Vanilla Milk (RM9). It’s simple and cooling and, leaves a huge grin of childhood on his face.

Just Caffe, George Town, Penang
Iced Vanilla Milk
We feel happy here. The ambience is cheery, the staff happy and, the food and beverage excellent value for money. Just Caffe is a gem on the edge of George Town worth seeking out.

Reasons to visit: excellent coffee; good value for money; light western lunch menu.

Just Caffe
52 Green Hall Road
(opposite Segi College)
10200 Penang
+6 04 261 2433
Open Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri and Saturday 11am – 10pm
Sunday open 11am – 5pm

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

El Faro Tapas Bar and Restaurant, George Town, Penang, Malaysia

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
El Faro Tapas Bar and Restaurant

El Faro Tapas Bar and Restaurant

El Faro Tapas and Bar peaks our interest with its supposed creative approach to tapas, casual ambience and well-spoken-of service.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
El Faro Tapas Bar and Restaurant

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Wall Mural
Maroon and dark grey paint the room a chilled hue. A chalkboard highlights a range of drinks and the parts of a pig. Simple lamps and bulbs drop down on cords from the ceiling providing unobtrusive lighting. Painted as giant murals on the walls and giving a hint to the theme of the place is a flamenco dancer and, providing a symbol for the name of the restaurant is a lighthouse (el faro in Spanish). Latin guitar instrumentals further compose the setting. Parking is relatively easy after 6pm in front of the restaurant. If it’s busy go around to the side street and park on the road.
Butterworth boy Jack Yeap heads the kitchen, returning from 10 years in both local and international fine dining restaurants. Inspired by the booming tapas scene in Singapore, he and his partners wanted to bring good food in a casual dining ambience to local Penang. Chef himself enjoys eating in this manner - small plates -enabling diners to try many items on the menu. Shying away from labeling his cuisine as any one style in particular, he prefers to say “if it tastes good, it makes it to the menu.”

The menu is simply divided into Hams and Sausages, Cold, Hot and Desserts and, we’re about to find out if we agree with chef’s philosophy.

A truffle oil drizzle tickles our noses as the Cold Capellini (RM18) is delivered to our table. A roll of string thin pasta is matted with konbu and spring onions. A liberal stripe of lumpfish caviar tips the crest. Delicate in the mouth, the taste of the sea first hits the palate and the earthy truffle oil lingers in the mouth for some minutes after. It’s a dish chef brought back from his time in Singapore and we’re glad he did.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Cold Capellini
Slender Boquerones (RM18) are served on top of rectangles of bright red watermelon. A sprinkling of salt streaks the fish and a single mint leaf marks the end. Juicy fruit fills the mouth and is contrasted in both texture and taste with the salty and more chewy fish. I give them a thumbs-up, while hubby’s traditional taste buds are undecided.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Ensalada Tomate (RM14) is no ordinary tomato salad and we can see why it’s one of chef’s favourite creations. It’s paired with nacho granola, which is a savoury mix of crushed corn chips and traditional granola ingredients. Balsamic vinaigrette and pesto dress meaty momotaro tomatoes and a mix of rocket and lettuce leaves. Hubby often leaves the salads for my consumption, but this is one where I find myself having to fork rapidly before he devours the lot. It’s original and a big hit.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Ensalada de Tomate 
Excited by the cold starters, we’re enthusiastic for the hot bites to arrive. Tomato Cappuccino (RM13) is tomato soup served in a coffee cup and looks just like a latte with an artful swirl adorning the foam. Baby octopus, pesto, corn chips and cheese foam, take the liquid way above the standard red tradition. We scoop through the layers and take our first spoonful. Wow! This soup is incredible. It’s intensely rich, so even though we’re both diving in for more, it is possible to share. It’s a must order for sure.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Tomato Cappuccino
Portobello Mushroom (RM22) has an Indian influence with its marsala spice seasoning (which by the way is all made from scratch in house). A thick tomato fondue is counterbalanced with whipped mascarpone and crisp onion rings. I’m happy to see such a delicious and filling vegetarian option on the menu.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Portobello Mushroom 
Huevos Estrellados (RM12.50) is a modern take on the classic recipe. Deconstructed and reconstructed in layers it starts with a poached egg that’s soft and runny in the base of a glass resembling a mini fish bowl. Corn kernels, corn chips and chorizo float in the middle and truffle adds its own earthy flavour. Potato is made into a foam which floats on the surface resembling a slick of cream. Chef’s innovations seem endless and it’s another dish we’re both surprised and delighted by.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Huevos Estrellados 
What seems to be a simple ham and cheese toasty, the Bikini with Truffle Honey (RM18), is hubby’s favourite. This is not your common sandwich however. With star fillers of jamon Serrano, truffle honey and queso Manchego, it’s a pressed mouthful of great flavour combining savoury, sweet and buttery in one bite.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Bikini with Truffle Honey 
Cabbage sides the Tender Pork Belly (RM18.90) and a maple and lime sauce dresses it. What chef humbly describes as a plate that is of more traditional tapas style, has still been brushed with his wand of individuality. Shredded cabbage is charred producing a smoky undertone and is teeming with plump juicy raisins. The nuance of maple works well with the super soft cuts of pork. The film of oil left coating the mouth means there’s no denying this full-flavoured plate is a bundle of calories. I stop at one bite calculating the extra kilometres I’ll have to run tomorrow, but hubby shamelessly polishes off the rest.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Tender Pork Belly 
We’ve noted chef’s fine work of delicately balancing flavours and textures in one dish and, in the Hokkaido Scallops (4pieces RM26), he continues to show his strength in this area but adds another layer of complexity by also toying with temperature. Corpulent scallops are pan seared until a faint golden hue stains the surface and they are sizzling hot. Serrano ham and a chilled papaya salsa and pineapple puree strewn with poppy seeds cover them. The ingredients are all familiar, but the combination uncommon. They prove a terrific recipe.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Hokkaido Scallops 
Dessert leaves us with big goofy smiles of satisfaction and childhood-like amusement. Strawberry “Tiramisu” (RM15) is centred with chocolate ice cream, filled in with mascarpone, covered with strawberry granita and then headed with cookie crumble and chocolate powder. Upon request a sprinkling of popping candy is tossed in. We recommend asking for the mini-explosive topping. It’s another plate that is decadently rich enough to make sharing a possibility.

El Faro Bar and Tapas, George Town, Penang
Strawberry “Tiramisu”
We’ve been surprised and enchanted by chef’s playfulness with recipes. Don’t visit El Faro expecting traditional Spanish tapas though. Come to witness creativity in the kitchen transferred to appetizing small plates on the table. I wonder if Penangites realize what a treasure they have under their noses? I know we’ll be back for sure.

Reasons to visit: creative and delicious tapas; Ensalada Tomate; Tomato Cappuccino; Bikini with Truffle Honey; Cold Capellini; Huevos Estrellados; Strawberry “Tiramisu.”

El Faro
Tapas Bar and Restaurant
231 Burmah Road
10050 George Town
+6 04 227 2310
Open 3pm until 11:30pm

Monday, 28 April 2014

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Our Villa's Courtyard

Pepper’s Sentosa Seminyak, Luxury Private Villas, Bali


World-class restaurants, luxury spas and fashionable boutiques are what Seminyak is known for. One of the most quickly developing suburbs on the island means there’s no shortage of things to do, but it also means traveling by foot is the most preferred form of transport (driving in these streets is best avoided unless you have the patience of a saint). So, to experience Seminyak to its fullest, accommodation that’s right in the middle of it, such as Pepper’s Sentosa Seminyak, is a must.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali

Despite the convenient location and quick access to some of the best sunsets on the island, the villas at Pepper’s Sentosa Seminyak are so luxuriously comfortable that guests rarely seek to leave.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Villa Entrance
Each of 43 villas features a private swimming pool surrounded by verdant tropical gardens and lotus ponds. Sunbeds and poolside bales urge us to take regular outdoor naps and dips in our pool villa. Villas are available as one bedroom and all the way up to a generous five bedrooms, with a number of new accommodations currently under construction and planned for opening within the next month or so.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Sunbeds and Bale
Design is modern, yet with a distinct Balinese touch. The use of natural materials, local artwork and thatched roofs help to blend the structures into the surrounding environment. Running water from the entryway water feature plays a soft relaxation melody easing us into the chilled pace of Balinese life.

The living and dining areas are open plan with a fully equipped gourmet kitchen tempting us to cook in. They’re perfect for longer stays or family travel, as a full size refrigerator offers plenty of space to store groceries and, oven, cooktop, pots, pans and plenty of cutlery, crockery and glassware make preparing meals easy and convenient. A gourmet supermarket is just down the road, or you can skip shopping altogether and ask the staff to fill the fridge for you by utilizing the hotel’s deli service.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Lounge Room
A long rectangular dining table seats up to eight people, a breakfast bar provides room for another three and, an outdoor table setting four more. Three of the walls of the living pod are floor to ceiling French doors showing off handsome landscaping. We appreciate the ceiling fan, in addition to the air-conditioning, and find the gentle breeze forms a sufficiently pleasant climate outside of the hours encircling midday.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Dining Table
All villas sport a separate outdoor bathroom for each sleeping quarters. Double basins, toilet, shower and a giant tub are covered with a roof but walls are formed with thick foliage gifting the area with a garden bathing experience, but concealing it all the same. Showering in the garden under the azure sky is truly a treat. We’ve been fortunate with weather this trip and we can’t seem to get enough of the beautiful outdoors.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Outdoor Bathroom
Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Luxury Bath Products
The bedroom is spacious with a built in window seat, king size four-poster bed draped with mosquito netting, a double wardrobe with safe and entertainment cabinet. Hubby settles in with the flat screen TV, DVD player and satellite channels. The bed is supportive and soft cotton linens make for a fitful slumber.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Bedroom and Outdoor Bathroom
As you might imagine, 43 pool villas take up quite a bit of space, so depending on what your individual preferences are you might like to request accommodation further from or closer to the lobby. Villas 3 to 6 and 20 to 23 are the nearest. Any chance for a bit of a stroll for me though (especially when the walkway is a manicured tropical garden) is appreciated, so I’d also be happy being further away from reception. Hubby on the other hand would take full advantage of the buggy service, which zips guests around the property following a mere touch of a button.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Path to Villas
Staying at the other end of the complex has the advantage of access to a laneway making arrival to “Eats Street” an easy five minute saunter. If you’re sensitive to noise be sure to mention this when booking to avoid a location next to a busy thoroughfare. Some villas even have their own carport so if you’re thinking of renting one while in Bali, that will be something to consider when requesting your unit.

Food and Beverage

Most packages include breakfast, which can be taken either in your villa or in the restaurant. The variety of food is wider in the restaurant and the ambience is lovely. Not having to get out of your pajamas and having complete privacy however, might be well worth compromising the larger menu selection, and taking advantage of the villa delivery service.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Restaurant and Poolside
The restaurant is our choice both mornings, as we want to explore the full menu. That distinctively Balinese relaxed vibe music customized by some famous DJ, hums at just the right volume from a good quality sound system. The splash of the waterfalls cascading into the pool can still be heard over the thrum, indicating an appropriate number of decibels for brekkie.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Shady Spot
Coffee is strong with sour notes lingering for a minute or so after swallowing. Beans are roasted and blended in Australia under the Lazumba label. A 100% Arabica union proves a darker roast. It’s a brawny brew – just how I like it. English Breakfast Tea by TWG keeps hubby content.

Peppers Bali
Breakfast View
There’s a mix of Western and Asian morning meals for the choosing. We start with the healthy Tropical Fresh Sliced Fruits (IDR35) with honey and cinnamon yoghurt and The Granola (IDR50), which turns out to be one of the best I’ve had. It’s not overly crunchy. Somehow it’s moist but still maintains a firm chomp. Tossed with fresh strawberries, coconut, almonds and pumpkin seeds, it is softly sweetened with maple syrup and sided both with natural yoghurt and a small glass of milk.

peppers sentosa
Moving into our favoured weekend or holiday brekkie of eggs, hubby orders the Classic Eggs Benedict (IDR70) with smoked ham and Hollandaise sauce and, I the Poached Eggs (IDR70) with sautéed spinach and wild mushrooms on toast. We curiously note that we each have one egg that is hard centred and one that is runny. I forget to ask, but we wonder if this is an attempt to keep all predilections happy?

pepper's bali
Poached Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms
Hubby can’t resist a croissant (IDR45 for two pieces), especially when the menu says fresh from the bakery, so it’s also on the order with a Danish thrown in for good measure! Both are airy, flaky and “wonderfully buttery,” according to hubby.

While lunch and dinner are also available throughout the day at the restaurant or delivered to your villa, you shouldn’t miss the chance to dine on celebrity Aussie chef, Luke Mangan’s cuisine from Salt Tapas and Bar. Owning a number of high profile restaurants around the world, Bali is fortunate that Luke has decided to share his talents with Pepper’s Sentosa Seminyak and brings a modern Australian take on the Spanish tradition of small sharing dishes.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Salt Tapas
Our favourites are the Suckling Pig Sliders, Seared Scallops, Garlic Prawns and Lamb Cutlets. There is one dish however, that even if you choose to eat elsewhere you MUST make sure you try. Liquorice lovers from Australia will fondly recall the soft addictive taste of Darrell Lea’s version and might think that liquorice cannot get any better. Luke Mangan has however, achieved the unachievable and turned this favourite Aussie treat into a glorious parfait. Creamy and cold, the Liquorice Parfait is divinely magnificent.

sentosa seminyak, peppers bali
Liquorice Parfait - MUST ORDER!!!
Tropical weather is a great excuse for a cocktail (not that we need one other than, “we’re thirsty”) and the original creations at Pepper’s Sentosa Seminyak give real reason to splurge on a few beverages here. All are frosty, revitalizing and clearly made from fresh fruits, not artificial syrups. Charging the classics with a modern spin, expect to see umbrellas and orchids as garnishes and, familiar mixes livened with local ingredients. Hubby’s rather fond of the Bikini Lines and Passionate Painkiller, while I find the Seminyak Smash and, Afternoon G and Tea cheery poolside beverages.

Peppers, sentosa seminyak
Poolside Cocktail


If you ever decide to leave your private villa heaven, a 35 metre rock pool surrounded by funky bright red and yellow outdoor furnishings and, filled with gently cascading waterfalls, is an appealing spot to dawdle.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Common Area Pool
Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Sun Chairs by the Pool
A fully equipped fitness centre with two treadmills, two cross-trainers and two bikes for cardio, as well as a decent set of free weights and strength machines supplies enough equipment to keep the holiday excess at bay.
Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
The contemporary spa offers a good variety of treatments, outsourcing services to experts to provide a comprehensive treatment menu, which not only includes massages and facials by in-house therapists but also medi-spa and healing sessions by visiting specialists too. Both couple and single rooms are stylishly designed and the reception encourages peace and tranquility in its natural and spacious surrounds. Individual treatments can be purchased but so too can complete wellness packages, that incorporate diet, exercise, healing and spa therapies in one plan, to achieve your personal goals.

Pepper's Sentosa Seminyak, Bali
Couple's Treatment Room

I’d prefer not to sound too cliché in my mention of the Balinese warm smiles and friendly service, but it is exactly what you get at Pepper’s Sentosa Seminyak. Nothing is too small or too large of a request. From reception, to cleaning staff, to waiters and gardeners, all beam in their greetings and appear humble in their ministrations.

We’ve thoroughly delighted in our stay at Pepper’s Sentosa Seminyak and relish in the idea of returning to this beautiful place, only next time with a larger group of family and friends so as to share in the heavenliness of this opulent retreat.

Reason to visit: luxury accommodations in a stylish location; boutiques, dining and entertainment a few minutes walk away; Salt Tapas and Bar; excellent choice for families and groups with one to five bedroom villas available.

Pepper’s Sentosa Seminyak
Luxury Private Villas
Jalan Pura Telaga Waja
Petitenget, Seminyak
Bali 80361
+62 361 737 676