A lovely way to while away time is to spend it on top of Penang Hill from as early as 8.30am, before the crowds throng the place for its cool, clean air and spectacular views of the island below. After a short walk admiring the restored Colonial bungalows and the flora and fauna up there, venture down to the newly refurbished food court, Cliff Café.
Comprising of around a dozen food stalls offering local favourites, familiar western dishes to snacks and freshly made juices of soursop, the food court is clean and airy. There are already quite a good range of food available from as early as 10am and we choose to stave off hunger with a bowl of assam laksa and a plate of char koay teow at RM5 each. It’s good to note that prices are only marginally higher here than in town.
A huge favourite in terms of beverage or dessert is the ais kacang piled sky-high with shaved ice and ingredients such as nuts, jelly, red beans, including a dollop of vanilla ice cream at RM4.50 or the healthier version consisting of cubes of fresh fruit topped with shaved ice and ice cream at RM10. Although, we have to admit, we prefer the thick, 100 per cent soursop juice at RM6 instead.
We find the assam laksa tasty, its gravy thick and a nice balance of tang and spiciness. While the char koay teow is, as most will say, satisfaction guaranteed and deep-fried snacks skewered on to bamboo sticks such as squid balls, chicken lor bak and vegetable balls from RM2 are fresh despite being served cold. In short, the food at this food court will not disappoint you after a stamina-testing trek uphill or a patient wait in the funicular queue line.
Besides these two, there’s also Hokkien or prawn mee, fried rice, chicken rice, a variety of soupy or fried noodles and it’s a halal eating place, suitable for families as well as groups. Sunday mornings will see the place filled with cyclists taking a break from the uphill climb with an energy-giving meal for their downhill ride home.
The food court is attractive with wooden floors, chairs and faux marble-topped tables. It’s clean, casual and comfortably seats around 200 people at one time with three or four mini rides for kids to let out their playful energy while parents eat. These food stalls sit on the level above the drinks and souvenir stalls while the Owl Museum is right below it. Su Aziz