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Penang's Hip Neighborhood

Wine bars, graffiti art and starlit dining are drawing Penang's cool kids to Nagore Square. BY MARCO FERRARESE. PHOTOGRAPHED BY KIT YENG CHAN.

Published on Jun 17, 2016


PENANG'S CREATIVE LIFEBLOOD HAS LEAKED OUT OF main heritage arteries Chulia Street, Love Lane and Jalan Muntri to feed the pounding core of Nagore Square. This one-way street, lined with gracious two-story Nyonya shophouses, connects Hutton Lane and Burmah Road andis a 10-minute walk from the western end of Chulia Street. Nagore Square remains an insider's secret, sheltered by a jumble of less-developed side streets. It is getting way too cool to stay on the QT for long though, so now's the time to follow the beat of this neighborhood on the rise.

Nagore Square
The entrance of Nagore Square.

Nagore's upsurge started when Lithuanian graffiti master Ernest Zacharevic's entourage of international and local artists found their gathering space at Pik Nik (15 Nagore Road; +60 16 448 1517). The motley group unleashed their creativity upon the very walls of this colonial terrace house back in 2011, transforming it into Nagore's—and George Town's—first café for hipsters. Today, Pik Nik is still a magnet for free-spirited mavericks, but also a cozy place to lepak, the local lingo for chilling out. Besides sipping hot cuppas, try the Waffle Salmonster (RM12); the smoked salmon, scrambled egg, mayonnaise and black pepper is Pik Nik's best piece of art. At the end of 2014, international street-art project Urban Xchange propelled Pik Nik's edgy art farther down Nagore Road. The vine-tangled lots were transformed from a cluster of worker barracks into canvases for colorful spray-painted murals. As the new luster drew attention, Nagore Road's placid Nyonya houses bloomed into brand-new restaurants and shops, and in May 2015 a crew of debonair young locals set up three rows of restaurants, watering holes and boutiques in the former cell-like shelters. Now Nagore Square is all about alfresco fine dining and casual hangouts, where the scene-makers gather to while away Penang's steamy nights. Above the chatter and clinking of glasses you can almost hear the rhythmic pounding of the city's quickening pulse.

Pik Nik
Palling around at Pik Nik.



The quirky name is not the only draw to What the Duck (40 Nagore Rd.; +60 4 227 8840), an Asianfusion restaurant set in a restored Nyonya house. The menu is all about, you guessed it, duck, from the bananatopped sizzling brownies that come garnished with Italian zabaglione and duck's-egg ice cream, to their signature duck confit. Served over kumara mashed potatoes and roasted garlic, the confit is marinated in spices and oil for an entire day before it starts its slow session in the oven. Call to book one ahead.

What the Duck
The star of the menu at What the Duck.

+ For quicker eats, Tian Yi Tian (49 Nagore Rd.; +60 16 410 7610) serves Taiwanese and Malaysian fare in the center of the square, right under the stars. Try the Snowflakes—fresh lychees and fruit-flavored granite topped with cream—or ice cream spring rolls for dessert, or, if you are more in the mood for something delightfully deep fried, opt for the Taiwanese popcorn chicken. + Brix & Baume (124 Burmah Rd.; +60 4 229 8254) serves cakes and assorted sweets right at the beginning of Nagore Road.

Brix & Baume
Sweets at Brix & Baume.



Ardor Bar & Coffee (41 Nagore Rd.; +60 4 226 3198) is best visited at night with a cocktail in hand, though after one too many you may want to shift gears and try one of their coffees—the hearty beans are imported from northern Thailand. + Annexed B Kitchen (42 Nagore Rd.) serves saucy pastas and nibbles that marry perfectly with a cold beer. + Opposite, hole-in-the-wall Bottles Wine Bar (73 Nagore Rd.; +60 17 408 2928) offers international labels from as far as Chile and France, and makes for a romantic yet casual stop to swig a cup under the moonlight. + At the back of the lane, three side-by-side bars Paraiso, Inside Bar and ColorCube (55 Nagore Rd.; +60 4 226 3198) make up the holy trinity of Nagore Square's nightlife, offering a good selection of cocktails, bottled beers and the latest dance beats. They often host DJ sets and talented live bands smack in the middle of the starlit seating area.

Bottles Wine Bar
The hole-in-the-wall, Bottles Wine Bar offers international labels at Nagore.



Finding vintage eyeglasses boutique Foureye Studio (45 Nagore Rd.; +60 16 470 3555) next to Nagore Square's hippest bars shouldn't be surprising. After all, these days glasses are an integral element of the hipster uniform. "Many of my international customers appreciate having a drink with a new pair of spectacles," jokes shop manager Lucas Ooi. Thick retro-style Clark Kent frames are de rigueur here, but it's not all about nerdy black. + Crossing the road to boutique Sixtyfive (65 Nagore Rd.; +60 17 432 1510) you can browse for the latest locally produced or imported casual-chic brands to complete your look.

Foureye Studio
Complete your hipster uniform at Foureye Studio.



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Penang’s young street artists unleashed graffiti murals at Pik Nik.
  • The entrance of Nagore Square.
  • What The Duck.
  • The Snowflakes, fresh lychees and ice cream at Tian Yi Tian.
  • Brix & Baume at the Nagore Square's entrance.
  • Art alfresco at Nagore Square.
  • Art alfresco at Nagore Square.
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