Penang’s Eastern & Oriental Hotel has been a faithful witness to the island’s history. Since 1885, the one constant is the hotel’s combination of exacting service and interpretations of colonial luxury. One of the E&O Hotel’s new restaurants, Java Tree, celebrates the turn of the past century’s social mores. Here, diners have opportunities to both savour – and taste – the pomp and the ceremony from Penang’s lively colonial past. Though just fresh from a major refurbishment throughout most of 2019, the restaurant faithfully recreates a history book setting that reassuringly taps into the culinary vignettes that abound at the legendary hotel.
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Java Tree at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel is named after the iconic java tree that has stood on the E&O’s seafront garden lawn even before the property was built, this semi-formal dining restaurant exudes a relaxed style with simple elegance. A celebration of heritage flavours, the Java Tree’s menu blends the best of Straits Nyonya and classic European cuisines, complemented by fine wines and beverages. Java Tree is located at lobby level, Heritage Wing. Business Hours 6:30pm – 11:00pm (daily)
The two-part menu spans both European and Nyonya specialties. The Occidental-meets-Oriental approach is perfect for times when those in your dining party can’t decide between going totally local or sticking to Western sensibilities. Starters include the blackened top hats, morsels of crispy pastry shell textures meet cooked sliced jicama, carrot, and cuttlefish. There’s also the family favourite otak otak, cooked with local mackerel, coconut cream with a smidgen of turmeric. These flavours as well as those of the pineapple prawn curry and oxtail gulai are as authentic as they come, and would invariably get a Nyonya matriarch’s highly coveted nod of approval.
In the European section of Java Tree’s menu, stalwart entrees such as the French onion soup, and mains like the beef wellington, and beef bourguignon have been selected for their timeless appeal. The soup is made from onions simmered till golden, beef stock, and a slice of tasty Gruyere on toast. The beefy mains too, haven’t veered too far of culinary norms of the 1950s. The beef wellington features tenderloin baked in puff pastry, while the bourguignon is simmered in red wine, and served with a familiar assortment of vegetables such as pomme mousseline, baby carrots, sugar snaps, pearl onion, and mushrooms. Portions for all mains are substantial. This includes the hunky baked chicken fricassee with satisfying mash potatoes made with just the right amount of butter.
Desserts at Java Tree can be chosen from the mobile cake trolley that makes its rounds when guests are ready for their postprandial glass of port. The classic selection of tempting cakes and tarts changes regularly, and is a good reason as any to linger a while longer at the restaurant, soaking up the location’s palatable heritage.