Standing guard over the residents of George Town for the past 127 years is the grand old dame of Penang, the Eastern and Orient Hotel, fondly referred to as the E & O.
A self described 5 star hotel, it’s the very essence of old British Colonialism, part Raffles Hotel, part Galle Face Hotel, it’s seen off two world wars and the fall of the British Empire while watching over the rise of modern Malaysia and still managing to keep it’s old school charms.
It has welcomed the glitterati of the literary and entertainment worlds including Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Noel Coward, Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Hermann Hesse.
Consequently, one of the done things, by all the best people in George Town, is to take high tea in the 1885 tea rooms.
Overlooking beautifully landscaped gardens and the Andaman Sea the rooms ooze old world charm and class. Drapery, linen, silver service and hushed tones are the themes for the day.
The high tea, starting at the very civilized hour of 2pm offers a selection of the very best teas from around the world, you can choose from a least a dozen different varieties, Assam Mokalbarie, Darjeeling Jungpana, Verbena, Morgentau just to name a few, we decide on a Vanilla Roibosh for her and a Darjeeling Jungpana for him.
With the promise of ” An African herbal infusion tinged with the delicious richness of creamy vanilla” and “An extravagant strong black tea from the region of Assam – strong, spicy and malty” we wait eagerly on our pots.
The tea arrives almost instantly in beautiful white porcelain pots, pipping hot and aromatic, soon after, the first of the lovely little treats is presented.
A tall, two tiered tray, traditional in style as you would expect, on-top sit four little scones, we have pots of fresh cream and raspberry jam to accompany them.
While below, an assortment of sandwiches, smoked salmon, roast beef, cucumber, chicken breast and a little voulevant to finish. These were all a little disappointing to be honest, a bit dry and cardboardish, as if they’d been out waiting for us for too long.
Much better are the little cakes that come next, piled up on an antique plate they arrive pretty quickly after the sandwiches have been devoured. Still a little dry, and a couple aren’t to our taste, almond nuts on chocolate covered strawberries for instance, but still quite nice.
The room is in hushed silence as fellow tea takers enjoy their afternoon treats, a gentle murmur and the clink of spoon against china, it’s a lovely room with a very calm and classy atmosphere, just let down a little by the quality of the finger sandwiches.
By Malaysian standards it’s quite expensive and would be an event afternoon for a lot of the locals at 70 Ringgits per head, we felt at those prices the food should have been a little more in keeping with the grand surrounds.
All photos copyright Ross Duncan: firstname.lastname@example.org