David Brown's

Special thanks to David Brown's Restaurant & Tea Terrace for extending this food review invitation.

Today's restaurant is at a higher elevation than usual (730 meters above sea level), although not nearly as high as some places that I had dined before. Yes, we are going up Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera)!
To reach the summit without doing a 5-kilometer hike from Penang Botanic Gardens (yes, I have done that before), we need some mechanized help. The Penang Hill Railway is the most popular mode of transportation nowadays. First constructed in 1901, the funicular railway has undergone several overhauls including the most recent one in 2010.
A 2-way ticket costs RM10.00 for Malaysian citizens, and RM30.00 for foreign nationals. There are special rates for a purchase of 10 tickets or more. The train runs from 6:30am to 11:00pm daily, at intervals of 15-30 minutes depending on demand. The scenic journey itself takes 20 minutes each way. Parking at the foothill is very convenient as there is a large multi-level parking complex.
The scenery at the summit is spectacular indeed. The serene atmosphere is a stark contrast to the bustling streets of George Town. Penang Hill offers a number of beautiful sights and attractions. A complete tour of Penang Hill can easily take an entire day! Nevertheless, our destination today is Strawberry Hill, which is one of the several peaks at Penang Hill.
Strawberry Hill is where our dinner place, David Brown's Restaurant & Tea Terrace, is located. This restaurant is named after David Brown (1778-1825), a Scottish philanthropist during the British colonial days of Penang. As a prominent and generous landowner back then, David Brown also lent his name to Padang Brown and Brown Gardens.
On the way up Strawberry Hill, the Sky Terrace provides breathtaking views of the western side of Penang Island. The Sky Terrace serves mostly snacks and cakes to casual visitors who wish to take a moment to enjoy the scenery.
At the top of Strawberry Hill is an English-style manor with beautiful landscaping on the side. This two-storey structure has been rebuilt in accordance to the same footprint as the original. The elevated location of David Brown's makes it the highest restaurant in Penang.
The front of the manor is beautifully landscaped with potted plants, lush trees and a lily pool. While most people reject the idea of outdoor dining (especially during the day), it is quite feasible here due to excellent shade and cool mountain breeze. The daytime temperature at Penang Hill is typically around 25oC.
The name of Strawberry Hill originates in the initial attempts by Captain Francis Light (1740-1794), founder of the British colony of Penang, to plant strawberries on this hill. Although the present temperature is not ideal for growing strawberries, the climate was much cooler back then.
There are contemporary attempts to replant strawberries at the manor's grounds. Initial results are limited but encouraging.
Moving indoors, the dining hall is furnished with quaint ornaments à la English cottage style. Guests have the choice to be seated at proper dining tables or on cozy couches.
For the first course (hors d'oeuvre), David Brown's has a good selection of soups and salads. Each of these delicacies is freshly prepared and uses natural ingredients only. In addition, freshly-baked bread is provided as well.

The Waldorf Salad (RM15.00) is made from diced apples and chopped celery, gently tossed with homemade mayonnaise dressing. The salad is served over iceberg lettuce for aesthetic appeal. Roasted walnut is added to the top.
Next, the Garden Salad (RM15.00) is a mixture of romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, black olives, pickled cucumber and onion rings. Homemade sesame sauce is provided for an appealing tangy flavor.
If smoked salmon is your cup of tea, the Smoked Salmon Salad (RM22.00) is the right choice for you. Strips of delectable smoked salmon is added so that its pleasant saltiness complements the juicy garden salad.
As for soup, my personal favorite is the Mulligatawny Soup (மிளகுதண்ணீர், RM20.00). This English soup is inspired by fiery herbs and spices from the Indian subcontinent. The soup is infused with savory meat broth, green mango chutney, pineapple, curry powder and curry leaves. Rice, fried onion and a pinch of lime are provided separately. These ingredients are added to the soup before consumption.
The soup is immensely appetizing to the last drop. The spiciness is only mild, so this appetizer should be tolerable for most people. The Mulligatawny Soup is certainly highly recommended.

As for Cream Of Mushroom (RM18.00), the rich mushroom soup is quite appetizing thanks to the use of fresh mushrooms. A piece of bread crouton is added to the soup.
Cream Of Tomato (RM16.00) is also very delectable. I like the sweet-tangy sensation of thick tomato coulis. The soup includes a piece of crouton as well.
As for Aglio-Olio, al dente is key to perfection. This pasta dish remains one of the simplest recipes in Italian cookbooks, but it is very difficult to master. Fortunately, this serving is acceptable in terms of firmness. The spaghetti is seasoned with mushrooms, chili flakes, garlic and ground black pepper. Flavor is decent but I feel that it is too salty and oily.
The Rib Eye (RM69.00) is prepared from air-flown Australian beef and grilled to medium. The steak is coated with delightful barbecue sauce, while the center remains pink and juicy. As for sauces, the available choices are mushroom, garlic, black pepper or Bombay. On the side are mixed vegetables and fries.
From the marine kingdom, the Grilled Salmon Fillet (RM52.00) is cooked with a delightful layer of crisp on the skin. The fillet is served with tartar sauce on the side and topped with sliced almond nuts. Mixed vegetables and fries are also provided on the side.
Roasted Vegetables On Bubble And Squeak (RM42.00) is a less-common traditional English delicacy. Bubble & Squeak is made from mashed potatoes which is shaped in a slab, then shallow-fried on a pan until the surface is slightly toasty. On the side is an assortment of juicy roasted vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, eggplant (aubergine or brinjal), onion and button mushrooms.
Bubble & Squeak derives its name from bubbling and squeaking noises when cooking mashed potatoes. This dish was popularized during World War II because it is a convenient way to improvise any type of vegetable.

Another English comfort food is Chicken And Mushroom Pie (RM48.00). This is an open pie, where pie pastry and its supposed "fillings" are served separately. A thick stew of chicken and fresh mushrooms is prepared and served on the plate. Then, a piece of pastry cap is gently placed on top.
The chicken and mushroom stew is very savory and exceptionally delectable. The flavor may be overpowering when consumed directly; this is where the puff pastry comes in. As for the pastry itself, it is delightfully light and scrumptious, easily enjoyable on its own.

Moving on to desserts, the ultimate weapon in David Brown's arsenal is the Bombe Alaska (RM48.00). As the pioneer and one of the few restaurants in Penang to serve this dessert, the Bombe Alaska remains a favorite among David Brown's regulars. Bombe Alaska is a dessert of extremes. It is known as "glace au four" in French, which means "ice oven".
The preparation of Bombe Alaska begins with a biscuit base and an assortment of fresh fruits of the season. Next, the fruits are covered with chocolate ice cream, which is in turn covered by a thick layer of meringue (whipped egg whites with sugar). The dessert is placed in an oven briefly for the meringue to set. Brandy is poured over meringue, then flambéed to leave a layer of caramelized sugar on the surface.
Because meringue is an excellent thermal insulator, the chocolate ice cream within the layer of meringue remains frozen. This dessert for two is meant to be enjoyed by eating the fruity ice cream and fluffy meringue together. Since it takes time to prepare the Bombe Alaska, please allow 20 minutes for it to be served.
As today is Mother's Day, the restaurant provides a complimentary serving of Napoleon Cake to each proud mother. This cake is also known as mille-feuille, which means "thousand leaves" in French. It consists of three layers of puff pastry, with butter cream sandwiched between pastry layers. Vanilla ice cream and fresh fruits are served on the side.
One may be forgiven to assume that the kitchen of this fine restaurant to be run by highly-experienced chefs. It is a surprise to know that this is not the case at David Brown's. At the helm of the kitchen are Head Chef Deon Ooi & Sous Chef Ken Lee, both accomplished chefs in their early twenties.
It is inappropriate to talk about food and loo simultaneously. This is why I refrained from mentioning about the bathroom till the very end. At the gents' restroom, there is a century-old urinal which is still operational!
After sunset, Strawberry Hill presents an entirely different atmosphere. The hill overlooks the entire northeastern quadrant of Penang Island, including the bustling Georgetown in a short distance. During a clear night, one can also view lighting from the Penang Bridge and the landmass beyond the strait.
The serene ambience at David Brown's is unlike any other place in Penang. While enjoying the lovely evening breeze and magnificent panorama, the romantic setting an excellent opportunity to get down on one knee, if you catch my drift...
Name: David Brown's Restaurant & Tea Terrace
Address: Bukit Bendera, 11300 Air Itam, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-828-8337
Business hours: 11:00am-10:00pm
Website: http://www.penanghillco.com.my
Coordinates: 5.42423 N, 100.26944 E
Directions: Take the Penang Hill Railway to the summit of Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera). At the summit, follow the signs to Strawberry Hill or David Brown's. You need to walk several flights of stairs to reach the restaurant. There is a multi-storey car park next to the lower station.

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