12 High Tea Places for the Best Scones in Penang
When some friends found out that I work online, they were intrigued and thought I while away all my afternoons having high tea whenever I’m home.
It must have been that one time that I had a Chocolate Soufflé instead of a Scone in Penang.
Many thought I lead Tai Tai lifestyle with wonderful teatime treats.
Yes, it’s true that I am often in the midst of great treats and surrounded by food.
One wanted to apply for a job with me.
Pepe: Omg you get up at 11 am and then prep just for lunch, teas, and dinners. Do you eat suppers?
Me: Of course. NOT.
Pepe: This is not fair. Sounds so Tai Tai <makes whinny puppy sounds>
I can imagine his eyes welling up with “EYE MO” tears and his lips in a “why not me?” quiver.
Me: I bring you along.
Pepe: Let’s plan <claps gleefully>.
So where would you go for a Classic English High Tea?
Afternoon tea <I take coffee actually> on a lovely afternoon is one of those moments I rather spend with a good friend chatting and catching up.
Seriously, they make the best tea time companion.
Yes, you smirking as you read this.
We shall go again, Pepe!
For ladies who think of dolling up, go in a dress wearing the brightest pink lipstick, I’ll say, “Whatever rocks your boat Sista!”
What the boys and I like is a place to chill from the afternoon heat and chat in cool air-cond. Comfort away from the rest of the world and talk shop.
We like service, and the waiters who come by every so often to top up our teapots are just lovely!
So you like tiny morsels, I just like Scones!
The men like to have tea with me because I will order one entire cake if I could.
<Just think of cutting that cake into 8 wedges that you eat holding in your hand and you get the idea of my popularity>
But we also like to behave nicely in a nice restaurant so; we wait patiently and fawn over tiny “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” play mini pastry, finger sandwiches, cupcakes, and scones.
That’s after we spend 20 minutes arguing over what tea to choose from a list of 20!
Pepe: Aiyo, ridiculous la you. 1 minute putting forward questions and debating for each tea. Some of which I also cannot even pronounce and much less annunciate!
Me: <to waiter> May I have a coffee? Hot Americano, cold milk by the side? And just Scones for me. Pepe will eat everything else you serve.
The science of a perfect Scone
Before we even start eating, Pepe and I had a lively discussion on what makes the best scone, well just simply PERFECT.
I told him flatly, I tasted some very good scones and some really bad ones that fail the visual and taste test by a whole mile.
The scones that failed miserably were the six English Scones I baked during high school when I was 13. It was as my Domestic Science teacher said flatly, “A Rock Cake.”
She held it up, this raisin dotted monstrosity disk that looked like huge bugs shivered up and died in a pool of hard crust.
She tapped it hard on the kitchen counter.
The worst thing I ever did was to sneak in raisins, used my hot sweaty hands, and no baking powder.
I was 13.
It was somewhat a hybrid of a rock cake and a muffin. I wouldn’t want anyone to break their gnashers on one of these.
If you’re a Pastry Chefs reading this, the worst you could do (in my books) is to put raisins, cranberries and whatever other fruit into the scones!
If you can’t get the scones right in the first place adding anything else, which includes dusting the tops with icing sugar as well… a KISS?
KISS is an acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid”.
What is a scone?
The simple ingredients of an English scone are wheat or oatmeal with baking powder as a leavening agent and baked on sheet pans.
The scone is a basic component of the cream tea or Devonshire tea. And it differs from pastries, teacakes and other types of sweets that are made with yeast.
English scones are less buttery and less sweet than American scones, although both go by the same name.
How to make a legendary delicious luscious scone?
I often like simple recipes made with good quality ingredients. Freshly baked scones are one of life little pleasures. English Scones (shall I say British?) are the ultimate comfort food snack.
A good scone has a burnished golden top, a good even color beautiful and golden brown all over and even on the bottom.
I was looking for scones made right.
Airy on the inside, golden on the outside, with sufficient height – the perfect scone is a science all of its own. A good scone is not tall like a muffin.
It has the lovely layers from rubbing in the butter, that crack line which splits the scone as you twist it open into two halves of “biscuits” which are incredibly “fluffy” and delicious.
I can’t wait to spread good salted butter and “strobes” (strawberry conserve with a jammy thick consistency to it but its never store-bought jam, ok?) on my scones and wolf these down.
Pepe, no need the clotted cream or whipped cream.
Pepe: But, I must.
No body contact!
To make the perfect English Scones, there must be absolutely no body contact with the mix. Remember the butter has to be icy cold!
Pepe: Sounds almost virtuous!
English Scones – Incredibly Fluffy and Delicious Scone Recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour (10 ounces by weight)
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter icy cold butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
Bake it in a 425F oven for about 13-15 min until golden brown puff up in oven about triple in size.
The scone should rise to almost double its height with a little tear or cracks in the middle. Take it and split it just like a biscuit.
A dream to bit into.
Whether you decide to call it at home, little can top a perfect scone fresh hot out of the oven.
With its burnished golden top and light, and fluffy interior. This ultimate comfort food snack needs a dollop of cream and a smear of jam then we’re ready to go.
As far as home baking goes, perfecting the scone has been shrouded in mystery.
Retaining moisture on the inside while achieving that coveted golden edge – and enough height; is a science all of its own.
You can hide imperfection with butter icing or use chocolate ganache to enhance it.
It’s all in the way you handle the humble ingredients.
A Scone is unforgiving; there is no margin for error.
Cold hands 3cm egg wash
Inside is soft and fluffy, but not like a sponge cake. It should be rich and crumbly yet moist as you twist it to break it.
So began the long search for the elusive scones that took more than 3 months. As I edit this post, 5 long months had passed me by.
I ate and sulk.
I put feelers out on social media. Friends ate, made recommendations.
One even arranged for his hotel’s pastry chef to make me some over Chinese New Year. Thank you, I am touched as many friends continue to pamper and amuse me.
One friend took me to arguably the best. Alas, we waited for the café to open and for the owner to fire up the oven.
No spoilers just read on.
Penang’s Beautiful Mansion
#1 Macalister Mansion
Macalister Mansion is ranked as one of the best when it comes to a lavish teatime experience.
The Atas venue is an incredible experience with well-prepared scrumptious treats.
If you enjoy dining in a manor with a gorgeous interior, drop by for delicious bites of fluffy croissants, tomato buns, strawberry tarts, scones and cakes and enjoy a good cuppa TWG tea and a little tête-à-tête with a giggle or two.
I had coffee as usual. There were no Tai Tai in the house when I had tea with my companion. Needless to say, he said the nicest things and we exchanged the best stories and gossips.
As for the scones, these had raisins and were dusted over with icing sugar, served with unsalted butter and strawberry conserve. No clotted cream.
Macalister Mansion | 228, Jalan Macalister, George Town, 11400 George Town, Penang | Opening hours: 8 am – 11 pm.
#2 Suffolk House
Ordinarily, afternoon tea at the Suffolk House may not be right at the top of your head. But if dining in a historical building built by Sir Francis Light himself is your cup of tea, then be prepared to linger and take some photos. The ambiance is delightful and the scones are well dotted with raisins and served with butter, clotted cream, and 4 types of fruit conserve.
SUFFOLK HOUSE | 250, Jalan Air Itam, George Town, 10460 George Town, Penang | Tea for Two for RM90nett | Daily | 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm
#3 Farquhar Mansion
Posh, snotty and pricy, Farquhar Mansion’s afternoon tea is all about dining lavishly with sumptuous bites, along with a quality selection of teas.
No, I haven’t been here.
FARQUHAR MANSION | 33, Lebuh Farquhar, George Town, 10200 George Town, Penang | High Tea: 03.00 PM – 05.00 PM (Tue-Sun)
#4 1885 at E&O Hotel
I like the swankiest option in George Town and 1885 at E&O Hotel had the finest traditions of colonial style dining.
I rather fancy enjoying a tea with starched linens and impeccable service.
There are two types of scones; Classic English raisin and plain scones served with clotted cream and 2 types of fruit conserve. The scones are dense, and crumbly makes a heavenly mouthful.
1885 | 10, Lebuh Farquhar, George Town, Penang | English Afternoon Tea | RM67.95 net per person | Daily | 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
#5 2 PM Lounge
Pamper yourself to delightful tea time with a three-tiered silver stand of finger sandwiches, homemade scones, sweets, petite treats and a pot of tea of your choice.
2 PM LOUNGE | G Hotel Kelawai | 2, Persiaran Maktab, 10250 George Town, Penang | Afternoon Tea RM 50 (Serves Two) | Daily | 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
In George Town
#6 Auction Rooms Café
If you like a Refillable Afternoon Tea with a blend of Western and Malaysian delights, Auction Rooms Café offers a set with savories such as open-face smoked duck and nasi lemak sandwiches and mini scones presented within a vintage, birdcage-like tray. There are raisins scones.
AUCTION ROOMS CAFÉ | 38a, Jalan Sungai Ujong, 10100 George Town, Penang | Refillable Afternoon Tea for RM 76 (Serves Two) Daily | 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Up Penang Hill
#7 David Brown High Tea, Strawberry Hill
Tuck in exquisite teas and the fine eats as you enjoy a breathtaking view at David Brown’s Restaurant & Tea Terraces with an elevation of about 833 m (2723 ft.)
Enjoy the funicular train ride to the top for the best view of George Town.
The plain English scones come in a set of two served with butter, clotted cream and strawberry conserve has been described as best scones money can buy, but pricey with slow service.
DAVID BROWN’S RESTAURANT & TEA TERRACE | Strawberry Hill, Penang Hill, 11300 Air Itam, Penang | David Brown’s Petit Four | RM 108++ (Serves Two) Daily | 3 pm – 6 pm | Devonshire Cream Tea | RM 28 ++ (Serves One) Daily | 3 pm – 6 pm
In a Mall
#8 TWG Tea Salon Afternoon Tea
Tea specialists TWG has a tea room with rows of exquisite tea tins where you can enjoy the ultimate luxuries of fine tea treats and rest your feet from shopping.
If you’re alone you can order a teapot of TWG Tea of your choice, which has a choice of 2 scones or muffins that come with tea jelly, whipped cream, and one patisserie.
The scone is soft but lacks the rich buttery flavor perhaps so that it doesn’t overwhelm the aromatic TWG tea jelly.
TWG TEA | Gurney Paragon Mall, Level 1, L1-10, Persiaran Gurney, Penang | Grand High Tea | RM 118 (Serves Two) Daily | 3 pm – 6 pm
#9 Winter Warmer Coffee & Tea House
Winter Warmer built their reputation around a vintage theme, English teas, classic Victorian furniture, and rose-themed teacups and plates in identical outlets.
The raisin scones are scented with rose petal and served with butter, whipped cream and a fun-size jar of rose jam.
If you’re in the mood to sip something more fanciful try their candied ginger or rose milk tea.
WINTER WARMER COFFEE & TEA HOUSE | Gurney Plaza, 170-G-38, Gurney Drive, 10250 George Town, Penang | Afternoon tea set: RM75 net/set Daily
#10 Annabelle’s Place
Annabelle’s Place is a British restaurant and this by far is the best place for scones. The owner is a chef and baker and makes her food with love.
I went one afternoon (too early) and waited while she makes everything from scratch. If there’s one thing I didn’t like about raisins in scones, well I love these so much I ordered 3 sets to share with a friend.
ANNABELLE’S PLACE | 10, Lebuh Lembah Permai 4, Tanjung Tokong, 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Penang | Tea begins at 3 pm until 6 pm | Tel: 04-890 1098 | Closed on Sunday
#11 Le Petit Four Patisserie
Just when I thought all the good pastry chefs take off from little Penang, I find Le Petit Four Patisserie which someone tagged me on FB 18 weeks ago! So sorry, my traveling schedule has taken me around the region.
The best joke is the Patisserie has the same off day as me.
I finally made the trip just to taste the scones from this little French Bakery.
There is no discernible difference in the taste to the height of scones. Visually these are the best and highest I’ve seen. So I chose the “tall boy” scone for tasting.
The scones are baked fresh daily. Alas, I was there just after lunch, so they heated it up for me.
It twists off into two unequal halves; the texture is biscuity on the edges and crumbly on the inside. It is dotted with cranberries which I rather like. I was surprised myself.
Most make it with raisin which I don’t fancy as it too sweet.
It was served with unsalted butter <why?> and strawberry jam which looked too red and bright.
LE PETIT FOUR PATISSERIE | 310, Lebuh Pantai, 10300 George Town, Penang | Business Hours 9 am until 6 pm | Closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays
What I eat with Scones…
The best scones are just made with an artisan touch. It is homemade, quickly and simply without much fanfare.
Scones, when made correctly, will stay moist for about two days. They freeze well if there’s any left over, to begin with.
The most important thing is the good scones can be toasted without toughening up like a child throwing a tantrum.
I prefer to twist the scones into halves. Splitting them with a fork down the center preserves the lovely texture.
Most of the time, I want to get as much surface area as possible for them to absorb soft butter and jam.
I think it’s just me.
Above all else, I need salted butter.
Most of the hotels and cafes will hand out unsalted butter that is too cold to spread.
So I drum my fingers, smiled but getting annoyed as my scones cool down just to wait for the butter to soften.
Above all else, yes. If you’re serving scones, you need clotted cream.
Devonshire cream or Clotted cream produced in the county of Devon, England has a minimum of 55% butterfat which makes it decadent than whipped cream.
So how do you handle butter, jam and clotted cream and yes, that scone?
Interestingly, in Devon, clotted cream is traditionally spread first on a scone and then topped with jam.
As for me, whatever works best <soften butter please>, clotted cream and jam is just about right.
So where would you want to go for the best scones in Penang?
#12 The Best Scones in Penang
Finally after a 5 months hiatus, as I juggle travel and ticking off lists. I’ve come to a simple conclusion.
The best scones are homemade served with the best with Strawberry conserve (not store bought jam!)
The cover photo is a 10-minute scone that my friend John made when I pop over for tea in the afternoon.
He simply makes the best scones. These are light and moist that they fall between cake and a well-made muffin.
As John said, scones are easy peasy to mix and bake in a hot oven very, very quickly.
We use the best times to chat over tea and preferably not to complain more about scones but to enjoy our afternoons quietly.
The best scone is always made fresh, made quickly and eaten leisurely with good friends.