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!!

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