Dessert Correspondents

A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog

The Eastern & Oriental – A Colonial English Afternoon Tea

Swap the tropical humidity for a lavish colonial hotel overlooking the moody Malaccan Straits.

Our experience
Have you been to Malaysia before, dear readers? As a shopping destination, it is one of the best in Asia, with market bargains comfortably sitting alongside designer chic. As a cultural destination, rickshaws, lorries and motorcycles weave their way among tall skyscrapers, colonial-era buildings and traditional kampungs (Malay stilt houses). As a food destination, it has far less of the imported expatriate mesh of Hong Kong and Singapore, and is arguably, unparalleled for the diversity of ethnic cuisines available — a veritable melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine, and perhaps the first “fusion” cuisine, Peranankan.

IMG_0414

Penang, Malaysia – a MoMo & Coco photo

IMG_0382

Penang, Malaysia – a MoMo & Coco photo

IMG_0368

Penang, Malaysia – a MoMo & Coco photo

IMG_0499

Penang, Malaysia – a MoMo & Coco photo

In the 21st century, the name Relais & Chateaux is synonymous to grandeur and luxury. In the late 19th century, that cross was carried in the East by four enterprising Armenian brothers, the Sarkies. Established in 1885 under the same group that holds Singapore’s Raffles, the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang is the pearl of all the hotels on this increasingly cramped island off the western coast of the Malaya Peninsula. Its imposing white-washed colonial frontage contrasts with an interior of subdued muddy grey and mushroom brown. The E&O has had an illustrious guestbook. The heels of the likes of Mary Pickford have clicked on its cool marble floors, and in other areas, the cigar smoke of Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham have wafted through its teak roofs while they contemplate their next adventures in the Orient.

IMG_0613

The Easter & Oriental, Penang – the frontage

Afternoon tea at the E&O is taken in the air-conditioned comfort of 1885, a space that is plushly upholstered with squishy suede chairs, panelled walls and dimly glistening chandeliers. Its soft brown tones have a calming effect, even when every table is occupied with a gaggle of locals and tourists partaking in the afternoon tea. Unusual for a hotel of this standard, there is no dress code and certainly, for these Dessert Correspondents who take every opportunity to dress up for afternoon teas, we felt a little over-dressed.

IMG_0612

The Easter & Oriental, Penang – the setting

IMG_0536

The Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the setting

IMG_0545

The Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the setting

Service at the E&O was typical of Asia — the wait staff ratio to diner was very high, and there was no designated waiter per se. Yet, each appeared to have an allocated role. The tea menu was is long, but disposed towards traditionalism. We ordered the Verbena to accompany the savoury bites, and the Darjeeling to counter the later sweets. The table setting was plain, though each plate was stamped with the E&O insignia. The accoutrement of the sugar pot was however, a beautiful blue-on-white porcelain piece.

IMG_0532

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the menu

IMG_0540

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the menu

Beginning with the plate of delicate sandwiches, there were seven in total. This assortment included classical ribbon sandwiches with fillings of roasted beef and grain mustard, chicken and horseradish cream, cucumber and cream cheese, cheddar cheese and tomato, smoke salmon and lemon butter and two little round puff pastries of egg mayonnaise and alfalfa and another of chicken salad and celery.

IMG_0553

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the afternoon tea

IMG_0560

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the savoury bites

IMG_0561

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the savoury bites

IMG_0562

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the savoury bites

IMG_0564

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the savoury bites

IMG_0565

Afternoon at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the savoury bites

The scones followed, partnered with strawberry jam that lacked a smooth consistency and a cold cream with a texture that our grandmother would plaster on her face, rather than on a scone. Pity.

IMG_0568

Afternoon at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the scones

The plate of sweets was the saviour, and the highlight of our afternoon tea experience at the E&O. A spectacular garland of petit fours were presented on a beautiful blue-on-white platter. A soft rectangular tower of ricotta cake was embellished with a twirl of white chocolate;  a chocolate brownie cylinder studded with nuts wore a fan-shaped chocolate piece reminiscent of a Native American chieftain’s war headdress; a strawberry lychee macaron was exquisite in taste but a tragedy of crunchy confection; a white chocolate bite enclosed a sensually smooth centre of chocolate fudge; and a little chocolate-covered strawberry nested in a meringue bowl rounded up the quintet of sweet irresistibles. A fabulous ending.

IMG_0577

Afternoon at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the sweet irresistibles

IMG_0584

Afternoon at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the ricotte cheesecake

IMG_0595

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the chocolate brownie

IMG_0602

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the chocolate brownie

IMG_0586

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the white chocolate bite

IMG_0587

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the white chocolate bite

IMG_0592

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the chocolate strawberries

IMG_0600

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the chocolate strawberries

IMG_0589

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the strawberry lychee macaron

IMG_0590

Afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental, Penang – the strawberry lychee macaron

Our verdict

For those who have had the opportunity of taking tea at the Ritz in London, the Plaza in New York, the Peace Hotel in Shanghai, the Raffles in Singapore, Peninsula in Hong Kong, the Hotel Windsor in Melbourne,  afternoon tea at the E&O in Penang is — in MoMo & Coco’s respectful opinion — analogous. Afternoon tea at these institutions, as at the E&O, is less about the food as it is about generally excellent service and teas, and the unrivalled opportunity to rediscover the history, tradition and architecture of a bygone era. It’s for that reason that the E&O remains a must-do for the tourist, for the first-time afternoon tea participant, for the traditionalists, and also, for those who have become disillusioned with the increasingly carelessly-executed interpretations masquerading and cheapening the experience. For what afternoon tea could be, one would do better to visit other equally lovely, albeit not as historical, venues (see here for a selection). But, for what it should be, the E&O  is the reminder of a fine classical afternoon tea… and how exquisite petit fours can be.

  • Dessert adventure checklist
  1. Dessert destination: 1885, The Eastern & Oriental Hotel, 10 Lebuh Farquar, 10200 Penang, Malaysia.
  2. Budget: $$$.
  3. Sweet irresistibles: High tea.
  4. Must-eat: Available daily.
  5. The short and sweet story: Bite into exquisite sweets when you swap the tropical humidity for a lavish colonial hotel overlooking the moody seas of the Malaccan Straits.

4 comments on “The Eastern & Oriental – A Colonial English Afternoon Tea

  1. Ashley
    April 2, 2013

    Oh the sweets plate is just enchanting! How cute. Would have absolutely loved to have done high tea here, as the surroundings are just so gorgeous, will just have to put it on the list for next time!

    • MoMo & Coco
      April 6, 2013

      Hi again Ashley – thanks for your comment! The sweets platter was certainly the highlight. Let us know if you have any high tea recs, we realise we haven’t done a Melbourne one for some time, partly because there were quite a few disappointing ones and we couldn’t be bothered to write about them. Speak soon ~ MoMo & Coco.

  2. Nooz Gardner
    April 1, 2014

    Thank you for this review. I am going over next week and my friend is taking me there for my birthday.

    • MoMo & Coco
      May 9, 2014

      Hi Nooz Gardner – thanks for your commnent, and apologies for the delayed reply. We hope you had a lovely time, feel free to post your comments on your birthday afternoon tea there. We hope it was lovely! Thanks for your readership ~ MoMo & Coco.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Dessert archives

April 2013
M T W T F S S
« Mar   May »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

Dessert lovers guestbook

  • 296,681 worldwide

Countdown to next dessert review

December 1st, 2014
New dessert review published.
%d bloggers like this: