The Alley

Special thanks to The Alley and TourDirections Penang for extending this food review invitation.

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Located at Stewart Lane near the Kuan Yin Temple, The Alley is a modest café easily overlooked if not for the small signboard in the front. In fact, the store facade still bears the previous incense shop's as an agreement with the owner. This turns out as a blessing in disguise as many regulars are pleased with the vintage storefront.
The Alley is literally located next to a small alley, hence its namesake. The café is open daily from noon till midnight. While the main focus is on coffee brews, this eatery also provides light meals and desserts for customers who desire more than a sip.
The beverage menu consists of various of hot and cold caffeinated concoctions, fruit punches, frappés and chocolate drinks. As for food, there is an assortment of cheesecakes sold by the slice, and finger snacks such as churros. The Alley is also one of the few places which serves cronuts.
Keeping in line with the nostalgic atmosphere, there is a jar of candy known as Kong Th'ng (贡糖) or Kacang Tumbuk at the front counter.
The interior fixtures, furnishing and dining utensils are highly improvised. For instance, old glass bottles are reused to serve drinking water. Discarded tabletops are salvaged as wall ornaments.
We were fortunate to meet Mr. Loo Ping, one of the three proprietors behind this business venture. Formerly a barista and on his final year to earn an optometry degree (interesting résumé), Ping serves as our host tonight and patiently explains the whole nine yards behind this café.
Our feast commenced with a couple of cronuts servings. A cronut is an amalgam of a croissant and a doughnut. Sporting layered texture reminiscent of a croissant, the pastry is made into a roll in an approximate shape of a doughnut. Despite popularity in the States, cronuts are only available in handful of places in Penang. This is most likely due to its labor-intensive preparation process.
The Salted Caramel Cronut (RM8.00) has a coating of glazed caramel and a light sprinkle of salt, yielding an interesting combination of sweet and salty flavors. The pastry is soft and moist throughout all layers, while the buttery texture gives the cronut a delightful taste with each bite.
My personal preference is the Nutella Cronut (RM8.00), where a rich spread of Nutella (a brand of hazelnut chocolate spread) is applied on the top side.
Another novelty at The Alley are Churros (RM9.00). Also known as Spanish doughnuts, these breadsticks-like snacks are essentially elongated pastry squeezed from a churrera, a syringe with star-shaped nozzle. The pastry is deep-fried briefly until the desired crispiness is attained.
The taste of churros are lovely and somewhat addictive. Although good on their own, churros can also be enjoyed with dips. Five types of dips are available: cinnamon sugar, caramel, Nutella, chocolate and salted caramel. All five are nice, but I think Nutella works best here.

The order of Cappuccino (RM11.00) is served in a porcelain cup with saucer, the typical type used in traditional coffee shops. The cappuccino is quite strong with its medium-dark roast. A small bag of Kong Th'ng is provided. This hard candy is made from peanuts and sugar. Although commonly enjoyed on its own, Kong Th'ng tastes surprisingly well after a brief dip with some coffee.
The Mocha (RM11.00) is served in a more contemporary mug. Latte art (where a pattern of steamed milk is poured on the surface of espresso shot) is featured here. Today's latte art is the "Tulip", the one which every barista needs to master before graduating from in the academy. The Mocha has rich chocolate flavor, infused with a strong shot of dark espresso. The overall verdict on the drink is satisfactory.
Like democracy and trigonometry, frappé (foam-covered iced coffee drink) was invented by the Greeks. However in today's context, the frappé refers to any iced coffee drink in American lexicon, which may or may not have the Greek's signature frothy top. The frappés served tonight are Choc Mint Frappe (RM13.00) and Choc Oreo Frappe (RM13.00). The former has a heap of undissolved chocolate with a hint of mint flavor, while the latter is infused with extra chocolate goodness in the form of crushed Oreo chips.
The Iced Chocolate (RM11.00) is an ice-blended chocolate drink which is typical in many coffeeshops. A layer of foam appears on the top.
Moving to something fruity, the Pinky Guava Frappe (RM13.00) is made from thick guava cordial (not fresh guavas) to pack a refreshing chilling punch. As for the Macho Mango Frappe (RM13.00), this drink is named so to counteract the feminine name of the its partner.
Our sweet tooth cravings are duly satisfied with the availability of cheesecakes. Unlike most places, the cheesecakes at The Alley are unbaked but instead refrigerated. Therefore, the cakes are best consumed when still cold. Owing to the lack of kitchen space, the number of choices is rather limited. Cakes are sold by the slice, roughly 1/12th of an entire cake. Whole cakes are also available but advance ordering is appreciated.
The Strawberry Orange Cheesecake (RM10.00) is the crowd favorite tonight. Made freshly from a pleasant blend of citrus and strawberry essence, the cake is topped with marshmallow in the shape of whipped cream. The combination of fruity delights and marshmallow is simply irresistible that we had to agree that a single slice is simply not enough to go around.
The Lemon Cheesecake (RM10.00) carries a mild tangy flavor reminiscent of sour lemons. In spite of this, I find the cake very enjoyable too. The slice of fresh lemon is provided alongside, but think it is meant for visual appeal rather than anything else.
As for the Black And White Cheesecake (RM10.00), the chocolate base is interspaced with small pockets of dark and white chocolate chips. This is exactly what any self-respecting chocolate addict desires. Otherwise, I feel that its sweetness is simply too overwhelming for the tongue.
Another personal favorite of mine comes in the form of Dirty Chai Cheesecake (RM10.00). This cheesecake is littered with chai Indian spices, hence appears "dirty" in outward appearance. Due to its pungent scent and flavor, some people may be uncomfortable with this dessert. Nevertheless, I still find it within acceptable range. Although special in nature, I very much prefer several of the other cheesecakes earlier.
Last but not least, Ping revealed a secret beverage not available on the regular menu: Dirty Chai Coffee (RM11.00). This drink is made from espresso and chai spices with a pinch of cinnamon at the end. It is an enjoyable alternative from the usual coffee choices.
Embracing a trending café concept, The Alley also features a section with clothing on sale: Pestle & Mortar, a designer brand from Kuala Lumpur. Merchandize is placed here on consignment basis, so there is a decent stock of sizes for each design.
I think The Alley is certainly an interesting café for anyone with an affinity for fine espresso. The availability of cronuts, churros and non-baked cheesecakes makes this a unique eatery for the adventurous diner.
Name: The Alley
Address: 5, Lorong Stewart, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-261-3879
Business hours: 12:00pm-12:00am
Website: https://www.facebook.com/thealleypenang
Coordinates: 5.41846 N, 100.33834 E
Directions: From Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, turn into Lorong Stewart, the narrow lane beside Kuan Yin Temple. The Alley is located on the left before Lorong Stewart becomes a one-way street. Street parking is available along Lorong Stewart and Lorong Muda, but may be in short supply during certain hours.

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