Penang Top Five: Joe Sidek

Updated: 3 Jul 2013

You’ve very probably heard of his name. If not, you’d have heard of the George Town Fesitval 2013 that he organises, running into its fourth year now. The arts festival director is a Penangite through and through, and there isn’t much that happens in this city which he fiercely loves, he doesn’t know about. If he doesn’t know about it, then it’s really not worth knowing! Here he gives a small insight into his favourite places to be and eat around George Town – and where you can smoke him out of his foxhole.

George Town Festival Office
The office is located on the lovely Armenian Street right in the heart of George Town heritage area and it’s housed in an old refurbished building. How can I not love being there? In the office, a lot of things happen in a most organic way. When we step out of the office, there are a lot of interesting things to rest our eyes on – for instance, the Yap Temple across the street, the Thieves’ market at the end of the road and hundreds of tourists milling around, enjoying Penang’s unique ambience of old and new.

Armenian Street with Yap temple on the left corner

Kafe Mews
Although small, this café scores huge points in terms of ambience and flavours. It’s where I enjoy having breakfast. They have a good selection of breakfast sets from Western to local favourites. The one I prefer above all the others is their roti prata that comes with chicken curry to dip in. Food aside, this place allows me to people-watch since it’s on one of the more popular heritage streets, there’s a constant stream of tourists and locals passing by.

Beach Blanket Babylon
This is a bar and restaurant rolled into one and it’s right by the beach. It’s actually a mere five minutes from the heart of George Town, so its location is ideal and convenient for me. From their menu that offers both Western and local dishes, I enjoy their Hokkien char mee or fried noodles Hokkien style, the most. It carries local flavours of spicy and savoury that I like. Other than comforting food, what I like about this place is it connects me to the energy of Penang, it’s a place for me to chill out and connect to nature through the waves hitting the sandy beach.

The view from Beach Blanket Babylon

Penang Hill
Seriously, this is such an obvious choice! How can anyone not enjoy being on Penang Hill with its sweeping views of the town below, cool weather and theatrical-coloured sky when the sun sets or rises?  A favourite spot of mine up there is the Bellevue Hotel that serves a simple steam boat. It’s a fantastic spot to watch the lights go on below as the sun sets and within that moment, you’d feel as if George Town is yours.

Kebaya Restaurant
Admittedly, the place is rather swanky and it can cost a little to eat here but honestly, I’ve never been disappointed by their food and their service. They offer Nyonya fare and while their beef rendang is quite a favourite of mine, it’s the ambience here that gets me every time. It’s a spacious venue with an uncluttered and tasteful interior highlighted by exquisite antique pieces. Due to the elegance of this place, it stands out in Penang and believe me, it’s deco will never be dated. 

Joe will be a featured speaker at the 'Asia on the Edge' festival happening in Hong Kong on July 4 - 7. Details at