It’s hot in Penang, really hot, so why not take a stroll to the Esplanade and enjoy a bit of sea breeze, If it’s a clear day you might even get a good view across to the mainland and around to Straits Quay and Tanjung Tokong.
Anywhere in Georgetown is really only a short walk, so you can get to the Esplanade (Padang) easily on foot. From Komtar it would take a maximum of 25 mins.
It’s an interesting area. On one side of the Esplanade you have Fort Cornwallis and although it’s not the oldest fort in Malaysia it is still pretty impressive. When Francis Light took control of Penang from the Sultan of Kedah in 1786 the fort was built to protect Penang from invading Pirates, from Kedah, and the French.
It was actually never used for this purpose and was mainly an administrative office for the Island.
A lighthouse in the shape of a ships mast was built at the fort in 1882, but similarly it served no navigational purpose. In 1804 the fort was updated in brick and stone from it’s original nibong (palm) construction and in 1920 it’s 9 metre wide moat was filled in due to a severe outbreak of malaria.
Today the fort is a tourist attraction and has recently been privatized. Just inside the fort is a statue said to be the figure of Francis Light. In actual fact it is really William, his son. Since no painting of Francis was ever found, the closest likeness was that of William, who, like his Dad, was also a pretty amazing guy considering that amongst other things he founded and designed the City of Adelaide, now a sister city to Penang.
To be honest, there’s not a lot to see in the fort. A cannon, Seri Rambai cast in 1603, takes pride of place on a corner of one wall. This has quite a reputation for helping barren women to become pregnant, if they sit on it and wish for a child! There’s a bit more of a story about the way it eventually ended up in Georgetown but otherwise it’s just a Cannon. In one part of the grounds is an ammunition magazine and in another area is an old chapel where the widow of Francis Light is said to have married her second husband, John Timmers.
Recently a restaurant has been built inside the fort which as yet we haven’t tried for the simple reason that it now costs RM 20 for tourists, (up in price this year from RM1) to enter the fort, even if you just want to eat at the restaurant. Okay, they apparently give you RM10 back on displaying your receipt if you spend over RM20 on your meal, but since we have already visited the fort dozens of times in the past I really don’t feel like paying RM 10 each for the priviledge of eating, especially when I can’t even check out the menu at the entrance to the fort. More of a matter of principle than the cost.
On the other side of the Padang you will find the recently re- painted and very colonial Town & City Halls. The Town Hall, closest to the main road was completed in 1883 and was largely used for entertainment. It had a full size ballroom, an assembly room and a library.
The City Hall, closest to the sea, gained its name in 1957 when Penang was granted City Status. It is well known as the first building in the state to have electric light bulbs.
This beautiful Victorian building built in 1903 continues to be the administrative department for the whole of Penang Island.
Around the corner from the Town Hall & facing Light St is The Dewan Sri Penang. Here is the main concert hall/ theatre for Georgetown where most of the top shows are staged, especially during the month long Georgetown Festival.
On the same side as the DSP but one street further on you will find Jalan Green Hall. Nearly at the bottom of this street on the right you will see Just Caffe. Don’t try finding it on a Saturday or Sunday. They’ll be closed. They are open every other day between 8.30- 5.30pm.
If you would like a touch of local culture then instead of walking along Light St to get to Green Hall follow the path along the water front past the City Hall. Stay close to the beach wall and keep going. You will pass a fairly large Malay food court on your left. After this you will cross a small bridge and continue over a very broken path. Watch your footing here as recent stormy weather and strong waves has broken up the path and it is a bit wobbly and uneven in parts. Most days here the locals enjoy catching a few fish. Be mindful of their fishing lines along the path.
Keep going until you see a small street food area covered with umbrellas. In the centre of the wall there is a set of steps. Duck your head as you go over the wall. There’s usually a canopy at about neck height. Walk through the stalls into the street. This is Green Hall. A few paces, and you will see Just Caffe on your left. There are tables, chairs and plants outside. You can’t miss it.
When you have found Just Caffe and if you appreciate good food, do sit for a while and enjoy. This is a super cool & relaxed cafe. The menu isn’t huge by any means but what they do have, they do very well and will have you coming back for more.
If you like panini then this is the best in town. Various flavours are on offer. The Patient Partners favourite is the Green Hall Guru. Loaded with chicken, cheese, greens, and a curry aioli, it’s simply exploding with flavour.
Mine is the Veggie Lovers panini with cheese, capsicum, basil pesto and aioli. The bread is so fresh and toasted to crunchy perfection.
I find it difficult each time we go there to choose between the panini and the pesto pasta. Both taste equally delicious. Basil pesto has to be one of my all time favourites. I could eat it daily if my quirky stomach could handle the garlic. At home I now make a walnut & basil pesto and use asafoetida, a pungent Indian spice that smells and tastes like onion & garlic and brilliantly tricks the taste buds into thinking its the real deal!
The basil pesto pasta at Just Caffe comes with slithers of chicken and a very generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and black olives.
There is often a beef stew to keep those red meat eaters happy and another Pasta with meatballs of either beef or chicken.
Cajun fries are a great side addition to the paninis or just something a little lighter for a snack.
Make sure you leave plenty of space for dessert, all of which are superb. The cinnamon scrolls are literally to die for, not to mention the melt in the mouth Dutch biscuit. We love these so much that at times we have put in special orders to take home and share with friends ( that’s of course if the PP doesn’t eat them all first!!) Kirsten’s cakes are all homemade so you can never be sure what will be the bake of the day, but I guarantee you won’t be disappointed whatever the choice.
I can’t stress enough how good the food is here but what makes it super special is the staff. The friendly, efficient and relaxed attitude of owners Kirsten and Kelvin make it a welcoming space to enjoy either a quick coffee & cake, a long lunch with friends or the chance to catch up on some study. ( the Segi College is just across the street). If their aim is to please their customers and make them feel welcome then that’s exactly what they do.
Coffee at Just Caffe is consistently good and a glass of their homemade lemonade or Italian soda is a welcome and refreshing drink after the hot but interesting walk to find one of the best lunch spots in Penang.
Open from 8.30-5.30 Mon – Fri.
Address. 52, Jalan Green Hall. George Town, Penang