Thursday, 30 May 2013

Event: Foam Party / Miss Hard Rock Penang - Hard Rock Hotel

Hard Rock Hotel will be hosting another of it's excellent foam parties this weekend on Saturday 1st June with the the lovely and talented DJ Vida from Thailand.  More details here.

In addition, registrations are now open (until 22 July) for Miss Hard Rock Penang, to be held at the hotel on 24 August 2013.  With a number of top sponsors and some great prizes Miss Hard Rock (Penang) 2013 promises to be a well contested event.  More details here.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Hennessy Artistry - Penang 2013

For many, THE Penang clubbing event in the calendar was held last night at SPICE (formerly PISA), in the shape of Hennessy Artistry 2013.

Pick of Penang was delighted to be invited to the event and, like last year, it was outstanding, the larger floorspace of the SPICE venue allowing Hennessy to pull out all the stops to create a super-clubbing experience with great performances from talented singers, musicians, DJs and dancers and a fabulous light show.

Partygoers got in the mood early as soon as the doors opened and, as ever, the event attracted a glamorous crowd, one of them here, my lovely chum Chrissy Yin.

The first act up was '24 Herbs' who delivered a superb and punchy hip-hop performance that really got the crowd in the mood.

Throughout, the artists and DJs were supported by a superb dance crew from KL, all provided co-ordinated by my good chums at RED Artist Management.

The next performance was a superb violin and vocal duo with a great take on some even better music.

Guests were well and truly in the mood by this time, here, another glamorous friend I actually met at last year's Artistry, Wei Wei Teoh (2nd from left) and chums.

Australian born DJ Andy Murphy was next to take the stage with some really great sounds......

......again, supported by the super-sexy dance crew.

One of the great things about Artistry is you get to meet new chums, in this case a charming visitor from KL, in Penang just for the event.

It's also a good opportunity to catch up with folks I sometimes don't get chance to see often enough.

The final performance of the night was from DJ Nicole Chen with a brilliant session of house music.......

.....and more chances to see and shoot the very talented dancers.

Finally, at 2am, that was it.  Sadly all over for another year, but all good things must come to an end.  However, there's still chance to catch Hennessy Artistry this year at the KL event, details of which are yet to be announced.  Details of this and all Hennessy events can be found here.  Some more photos can be found here.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Via Pre Restaurant: Weld Quay, Georgetown, Penang (Top Pick)

I finally got round to trying this restaurant, having heard about it from numerous people.  I'm quite fond of Italian food and, while I have found eateries in Penang that serve reasonable enough Italian fayre, I'd not found anywhere that really encompassed the Italian experience, great food, fresh ingredients, good prices and, above all, that great taverna atmosphere.  With Via Pre I think I might have.

Via Pre is in Georgetown and is situated on Pengkalan Weld.  There are numerous maps showing its location but it pays to be a bit sceptical of the accuracy of some of the mapping programs I find!  The best way to describe the location IMO is that Via Pre is almost directly opposite the entrance to the Church Street Pier, the pier on which the QEII bar and Chin's Stylish Restaurant are based.

The first thing that strikes you about Via Pre, both from outside and inside, is that they have got the ambience just right.  It just looks and feels like an up-market Italian taverna, spacious and tastefully appointed and decorated.  As soon as you walk in it sets the scene for an evening of relaxing and good food.

The menu is extensive with a wide range of classic Italian starters and main courses, including of course the ever popular pastas and pizzas, all of which seemed to evidence a Via Pre exclusive take on the dish.  There is also a good range of daily specials displayed within the menu and on the chalk boards.  For me the restaurant would benefit from having at least one soup on the menu, even the often d'rigeur Minestrone, but look as I might I couldn't see one.  The menu was very reasonably priced with many of the starters being around RM 12-15 and the mains (pastas and pizzas) around the RM 25-40.  Some of the specials get more pricey, often reflecting the more extravagant ingredients involved.  There is also a very good wine list.

One thing that did concern me was the slightly pushy approach of the waiter in trying to steer you towards the the more (if not most) expensive dishes of the day (lobster etc.).  This time I put it down as a 'one-off', if it happens again I will tell them in no uncertain terms that I consider it is for the customer to scan the menu and make selections, not for a tacky and somewhat pushy hard-sell of 'specials', not in a restaurant of this calibre.  I'm quite happy to have the specials pointed out but having the waiter turning menu pages and all but selecting the options for you, merely waiting for a 'yes' is pushing it too far.

That slight hiccough aside, on to the dishes we sampled.  We started with an excellent salad (simply titled Cinque) on the menu which combined lettuce, rocket, prosciutto and slithers of parmesan with a superb dressing.

This was accompanied by two bruschettas, the 'Classico' (with a blend of fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil and garlic) and.........

.......a new one on me, the 'Crostone Rustico', cured salmon topped with cheese.  Both were excellent and exuded freshness and flavour, the slight saltiness of the cured salmon blending perfectly with the strength and sharpness of the cheese.

On to the mains and we opted for a pork steak at RM 39 which was served with lemon and a good salad accompaniment and.....

.........the excellent suckling pig special, again served with a well-dressed salad and vegetables.  The most expensive of the two was the Braciola di Miale (suckling pig) at RM 62, but even this was reasonable IMO.

Although we struggled to find room for a dessert we battled through and opted for the Creme Brûlée (RM 12), which was a little on the sweet side for my taste, and the Apple and Walnut cake (RM 15) which was superb, moist and tasty and served with cream and a light chocolate sauce.

The meal was accompanied by a bottle of Chianti Cesari Principe at RM 149, bottled water (a little pricey at RM 19 but you can opt for the jug/filter iced water) and rounded off with an excellent cappuccino coffee at RM 8.  The whole bill came to around RM 400.  It would obviously be considerably less if sticking to the pasta/pizza mains and omitting the wine but, for what we had, I thought the price was reasonable.

Overall I was very impressed by Via Pre and will certainly visit more often.  I'm told they also do a very good lunch menu at RM 38 per person.  Via Pre has everything I would look for in a quality Italian restaurant and the food certainly delivers.  The only things I would look to change would be adding a soup to the menu and toning back on the hard sell of specials, it's tacky and cheap.  Those minor points aside Via Pre is definitely worth a vista IMO and gets a 'Top Pick' from me.  Their website is at the link above and you can also visit their Facebook Page.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Hennessy Artistry - Penang 2013

Just a few days away now and with a great line up.  Visit Hennessy Malaysia for more details and information about the last chances to get tickets.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Penang Nightlife (Bars / Pubs 1): Straits Quay

First announced in this post about the future direction for 'Pick of Penang', this is the first in a series of posts that will provide up to date and in depth coverage of the nightlife in Penang, specifically the pub, bar and club scene. The articles will provide an overview of some of the more popular night (and in some cases day) spots, grouping them, for ease under the following geographical locations:

  • Straits Quay
  • Precinct 10
  • Batu Ferringhi
  • Gurney Plaza / Paragon
  • Upper Penang Road
  • Other Areas

The articles will also be split into two broad groups, the bar / club posts, covering, generally, a cluster of bars in a respective area alongside separate articles giving a more in depth view of the main nightclubs in Penang.  A number of the bars themselves (e.g. 69 Mansion in Batu Ferringhi) actually take on a more nightclub feel as the night progresses, particularly at weekends, but in these cases they will still be clustered in the 'bar' posts, with reference made to their 'chameleon-like' nature.  I stress that not all bars will be covered, there are far too many, and they open and close down regularly.  Those that are, and importantly remain, popular will however be covered.  It is hoped the articles will be of interest to residents and visitors alike.

So, to kick-off, we start with Straits Quay.

One of the most popular bars in Straits Quay is 'The Library'.  In common with most of the bars The Library opens around lunch time daily and stays open until around 2am.  Aesthetically it is very pleasant indeed with very attractive outside seating areas (in fact the outside seating forms the larger part of the venue's floor area) which provides a very pleasant place to chill and relax both during the day and night.  The area is covered so rain is rarely a problem (unless driven by strong wind) but it is certainly more comfortable in cooler weather, especially when humidity is lower and when there is a slight breeze.  The outside seating comprises both high tables and stools, chairs and low tables, and very comfortable lounging sofas and again low tables.

The Library also serves food and has a fairly extensive menu, from which I generally select the bar-snack type food, and of course, a wide range of alcoholic and soft drinks and beverages.  It can often pay to ask what promotions are being run at any given time as these promotions can bring down the cost of drinks quite dramatically.  In common with other bars, the imported and 'designer' beers are often more expensive than the more readily available beers such as Carlsberg.

Inside, The Library also benefits from a pleasing design, themed as you might expect, on the bar's name, with numerous tables with high stools, some lounging arm-chairs and sofas and a VIP area that can be reserved or booked subject to T&C.

Live music is played at the bar from around 9pm to midnight most nights with a variety of live bands including performances from my good chum ChuenEu.  Previously the bar had Phillipino bands but it has now gone over almost exclusively to Chinese music, with contemporary music being piped throughout between performances.  At times the music can get a bit loud inside and if chatting with friends is your primary objective, an outside table may be of benefit.

Overall I really like The Library.  It has a nice look and feel, staff are pleasant, service is mostly good, and prices are reasonable, well, at least for Straits Quay!

Next up is Healy Macs, an Irish themed bar which is also very popular and seems to have an established crowd of regulars, both expats and locals alike, with more expats frequenting the bar than the other bars at Straits Quay IMO, albeit it is certainly not an expat enclave or reserve.

Like The Library, Healy's has a fairly extensive outside seating area and the same climate issues of course apply to it.  Healy's has a good menu with a wide variety of meals on offer, both local and Western style cuisine and I have to say that each time I have eaten there I have enjoyed it.  The menu here for me is perhaps the most attractive out of all the bars.  Prices are also very reasonable.

Inside, Healy's takes on a more traditional Western pub look with ample seating and a number of bar stools.  There is also a fairly good entertainment programme at Healy's with live music most nights from a variety of bands.  There are also frequent pub-style quizzes and other themed events.  Healy's also has a number of wide-screen TVs and will often run themed events and promotions when popular sports events are being run.  I need to get a couple of more shots of Healy's showing the inside better and will replace the place holder shots once I do.

Healy's clearly offers a more traditional Western pub style environment and certainly seems popluar with mooring yacht owners, locals and visitors alike.  It has a unique feel to it and of course, in keeping with the Irish theme, serves very good draught Guinness!!

Finally we have the Berlin's Bier Houz.  Sitauted next to The Library, Berlin seems quieter these days and I get the feeling it lost some trade once The Library opened up.  It too has a number of outside tables, again with both high tables and stools and also lower chairs and tables.  It also serves a range of food which is reasonably priced.

Inside, the bar has a somewhat more utilitarian, albeit still 'pubby' feel about it IMHO and is not quite so appealing has Healy's or the Library to linger.  It does however benefit from beeing somewhat quieter and less crowded and also has regular drink promotions which are good value.  The bar also has a pool table.

I like Berlin but for me it is more attractive at weekends when it has a larger crowd and more atmosphere.  On the quiet nights it can feel a bit lonely there but the same can be said of the other bars during the 'graveyard' shifts on Monday and Tuesday for instance.  Indeed, at these times, Berlin can often be an attractive option due to its frequent drink promotions.

Certain Penang bars have some great resident dancers,
DJ's and guest singers but you will need to look elsewhere
than Straits Quay.
So that's it really. The Straits Quay bars. Of course there are restaurants there where you can sit outside and drink after your meal but these really ARE restaurants with none of that bar feel that many will be after when seeking a night out with a more party environment. The bars there are all good in their own way and have the benefit of being quite close to Precinct 10 if you fancy continuing your night out in the slightly more 'clubby' environment that 'Cuvee' and 'Soho Gastro Pub' offer there after about 11pm, particularly 'happening' places at the weekend. This gives the Straits Quay bars a slight advantage, positionally, over the bars in Batu Ferringhi and Gurney/Paragon which are considerably removed from the nightclub scene (albeit Batu Ferringhi, as will be seen in a future article, to some extent overcomes this with 69 Mansion which gets more 'clubby' as the night goes on). The bars at Straits Quay are each different but for me offer a similar type of experience, primarily centred around chilling / relaxing and soaking up the environment of the Straits Quay Marina, with some form of entertainment inside if you wish. They offer a more laid-back night out but if your preference is for a more lively night out in a bar with a more 'get up and party' feel, perhaps with music more reminiscent of a club environment, and maybe singers and resident dancers, you will likely wish to head for the aforementioned Precinct 10 venues, or indeed the bars in and around Georgetown, in respect of which there is more to come :-)

Next up will be the increasingly popular, and 'new kid on the block', Precinct 10 and the first of the Penang nightclub features - Soju Room. These will be followed closely by the Upper Penang Road and Georgetown bars and the ever popular Mois and SS nightclubs. Watch this space!!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Buffet Dinner: Copthorne Hotel - Tanjung Bungah, Penang

I have received an update from the Copthorne Hotel in respect of their excellent Chinese Buffet which is available every Friday between 7pm and 10pm.  There is now an improved menu and, at a cost of just RM 38, I will certainly look forward to trying the new range of dishes on offer.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Festival: Georgetown Festival - Penang (7 June - 7 July 2013)

Penang's popular month-long George Town Festival (GTF) returns in 2013 from 7 June to 7 July. GTF is a contemporary arts festival celebrating art, music, theatre, dance, opera and film and this year the GTF secretariat received over 200 proposals from artistes from around the world including, of course, Malaysia.  GTF draws in more than 150,000 visitors from the region, and is widely covered in international, regional and local media. It was inaugurated and initiated by the State Government of Penang in 2010 to commemorate George Town’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage listing on 7 July, 2008.  'Pick of Penang' hopes to capture some, if not all, of the highlights from GTF 2013.

This year’s programming is led by the keywords ‘community’, ‘interaction’, and ‘spaces’, says festival director Joe Sidek. He elaborates: “As in previous years, we hope to present the best of art and cultural productions here in Penang. We are truly humbled by the expectations expressed of us and we are taking this as a sign of confidence that George Town is well poised to be a vibrant and diverse cultural centre in Malaysia and in the region."

There are five extremely public and accessible highlights: the opening ceremony and kite festival Taking Off, the all-new trail of art and greenery Secret Gardens of Earthly Delights, the specially commissioned contemporary dance performance Bridges & Kaki Lima, the three-day community celebrations, Heritage Celebrations, Intriguing Instruments under the Victoria Street Project, and the talk and exhibition series Arus Melayu.

Two exciting events have chosen to make their debut at GTF2013: Roughcut, the film symposium by Tropfest South East Asia, and the photography festival Obscura Festival. Tickets for the three top tier productions will be made available soon. Early bird tickets, students rates, and senior citizen prices for Sutra, I Musici and Pro Musica. Equally exciting and prestigious is the art exhibition from seven of the top regional artists presented by Valentine Willie.


Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui/Sadler’s Wells London
Date: 29 & 30 June
Time: 8.30pm
Venue: Dewan Sri Pinang
Admission: RM60, RM80, RM100 (Students RM20, Seniors 50% off)

Celebrated Flemish/Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui presents a brand new dance work, SUTRA, inspired by the skill, strength and spirituality of Buddhist Shaolin monks. He has collaborated closely with Turner Prize-winning artist Antony Gormley, who has created a design consisting of 21 wooden boxes which are repositioned to create a striking, ever changing on-stage environment.

Featuring 17 monks directly from the original Shaolin Temple in China, the piece also includes a beautiful brand new score for piano, percussion and strings by Polish composer Szymon Brzóska which is played live.

Italian Chamber Music Orchestra
Date: 7 June
Time: 8.30pm
Venue: Dewan Sri Pinang
Admission: RM60, RM80, RM100 (Students RM20, Seniors 50% off)

The renowned Italian chamber music group I Musici presents classical excerpts from some of Italy’s famous composers through several eras, as well as a contemplative interpretation of Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

I Musici is the oldest chamber group in Italy, and based on reviews, their performance here in Penang promises to be an emotional and majestic aural experience. This live performance will be truly memorable as even the ensemble’s recorded CDs have been awarded prizes by specialised juries; their production of Four Seasons by Vivaldi sold more than 25 million copies!

Valentine Willie presents 7 artists
Date: 7 June - 7 July
Time: 10.00am - 6.00pm
Venue: Whiteaways Arcade
Admission: Free

Top contemporary art collector, gallerist and curator Valentine Willie presents works by Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Jalaini Abu Hassan, Cho
ng Siew Ying, Kow Leong Kiang, Rebecca Wilkinson and Chan Kok Hooi from Malaysia, and Agus Baqul Purnomo from Indonesia.

Visit here for more information.

GTF2013 Commissioned Dance Project
Date: 29 June
Time: 6.15pm

Venue: Victoria Street, starting from Lorong Lumut
Admission: Free

This contemporary dance journey revitalises the tradition of street performances in the city, mapping the energy, behaviour and playfulness of George Town. This choreography is devised to celebrate cultural commonalities and to draw bridges across differences between our neighbouring countries, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Streets and five-foot ways (‘kaki lima’) will be used as performance stages in this delightful journey of dance, play and memory. Kaki Lima is presented by Ombak-Ombak ARTStudio and PEARL (Penang Arts Link), choreographed by Aida Redza (Malaysia) and Jefri Andi Usman (Indonesia) and features dancers from NAFA Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Singapore and Ombak Dancers Penang.

Bridges & Kaki Lima will be performed during the Victoria Street Project, a one-day event along the stretch of Victoria Street in George Town, Penang.

Date: 6 July
Time: 8.30pm
Venue: Dewan Sri Pinang
Admission: RM40, RM60, RM80 (Students RM20, Seniors 50% off)

Pro Musica returns in our programming this year with four outstanding international opera singers: Julie Mossay (soprano), Ines Madeira (mezzo soprano), Enrico Casari (tenor) and Laurant Kubla (bass/baritone) with a repertoire by Handel, Mozart, Bellini, Donizetti, Bizet, Delibes and Rossini.

Photography Festival
Date: 21-30 June
Venue: Various locations

This inaugural photography festival aims to engage and exhibit photography works by both professionals and amateurs through a series of public exhibitions, talks and forums, workshops and portfolio reviews.

Participating photographers include Texas-born Maggie Steber (who worked with the Smithsonian and National Geographic), Ian Teh from London (Time and Newsweek) and Che Ahmad Azhar (‘Chemat’) from Multimedia University, Malaysia.

The full schedule of events can be found here.

Film Symposium
Date: 28 June
Venue: PenangPAC, Straits Quay

'Roughcut' features regional filmmaking talent in Tropfest South East Asia’s first public activity in Penang. Tropfest SEA, part of the world’s largest film festival, present this film symposium together with a series conversations focused specifically on the craft and production of storytelling. This full-day event aims to cultivate outstanding storytelling on-screen and cultivate dynamic and creative filmmakers.

Date: 7 June - 7 July
Venue: Various locations
Admission Free

As an expansion to Mirrors George Town by Ernest Zacharevic (GTF2012), Secret Gardens of Earthly Delights continues to capture the spirit and living heritage known to Penang and George Town. Unique gardens are created in selected sites around George Town to form a public trail. Gardeners, landscape artists and installation artists were invited and selected to contribute their artistic skills towards improving the city’s landscape. The project launches on June 7.

Opening Ceremony
Date: 8 June
Venue: Esplanade field
Catch the master kiters with their beautiful kites at our opening ceremony, featuring representatives from ASEAN Kite Council, a rousing percussion group, a fiesta of events and activities from our NGO and community friends. Free kites will be distributed. The event’s main highlight happens in the evening, so hang around.

Forum, Dialogue & Music Gala
Date: 15 & 16 June
Venue: Town Hall
Admission: Free (Talks - upon registration)

Arus Melayu explores the complexity and diversity of the word and notion of ‘Melayu’ in the presentation of artefacts, ideas, perspectives and theories on genealogy, language and literature, design, motifs and architecture. The highlight of the event, which includes exhibition and music from Penang and the Malay diaspora, is a full-day talk featuring an exchange of ideas and perspectives by some of the top thinkers and experts on the evolution of Malay literature and language, genealogy, diaspora, trade and commerce, and the exchange of culture. Confirmed speakers are Dr Shaharir Mohamad Zain, Dr Muhammad Haji Salleh, Dain Said, and Eddin Khoo.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Anniversary Celebration
Date: 5 - 7 July
Venue: Various locations

A 3-day long celebration commemorating the inscription of George Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008! It is a celebration of the living heritage of George Town, demonstrated through traditional and multicultural arts and practices, food, craft, and events that highlight historical and cultural pride. This year’s Heritage Celebrations will take place on July 5, 6 and 7.

An online event booklet can be accessed here.