cool cafes in Penang

Narrow Marrow, A Cool Cafe in Penang

“Near the secret alley way café, things happen in the Narrow

Squished between two senescent shop houses in busy Carnarvon Street, Narrow Marrow percolates with charm and character. Lovingly made-over by an architect and interior designer team (Alvin and Jamie), the structure of the pre-loved property has been given minimal plastic surgery. Rather it’s been donned a new look with make-up and accessories.

Narrow Marrow, Penang
Narrow Marrow, Penang
Narrow Marrow, Penang
Quirky Decor
The former shop frontage of Swee Hup Merchant remains, with only a small signboard giving any hint to the café that can be found inside. Bare walls back an assortment of odds and ends including a rack of colourful suitcases, mixed media art pieces, and terrariums made in a miscellany of reused glass jars. Punk rock music takes hubby and I back to university days and quickly peps up our mood. Up-cycled furniture in a pot-pourri of configurations supplies seating and, judging by the bottoms occupying chairs, both tourists and locals alike have deemed this café worthy of a perch.
Narrow Marrow, Penang
Tables for Two
Serving breakfast, lunch and supper, the team at Narrow Marrow, back up a mix of western and Asian favourites, with a drinks menu of excellent espresso based coffees with some decent mocktails, beer, toddy, and fresh smoothies thrown in to please non-caffeine preferences.
You know we love our coffee, so a Cappuccino (RM10) and a black coffee are our first orders. Using a medium roast of Mokka beans, all espressos with milk are double shots. I’m lured into trying the Black Lemongrab (RM10). Co-founder Alvin tells that it’s a result of experimenting over time with the goal of making his morning brew even perkier. Spruced up with the unlikely additions of honey and lemon, I declare, “Goal achieved!”
Narrow Marrow, Penang
Narrow Marrow, Penang
Coffee Lemongrab
Toddy Mojito (RM10) makes the palm wine base less pungent, and turns out to be the founders’ secret plan of warming customers up to the idea of Toddy (a drink traditionally seen as one of the poor and drunken). The ploy: to introduce the beverage in a non-offensive form and gradually get guests accustomed to the distinctive taste before moving over to trying the local liquor all on its own.
Sodas are made in house with homemade syrups and sparkling water. We try the Ginger Palm Sugar Lemon Mint Soda (RM9). Ginger bits, lemon slices and a sprig of mint float in the glass bringing freshness to the beverage, while the palm sugar contributes colour and sweetness.
Narrow Marrow, Penang
Homemade Soda and Toddy Mojito
A compact menu of comfort food, composed of the founders’ personal favourites, is good value and guaranteed to satiate hungry tummies. Lamb Stew with Bengali Bread (RM14) is a Hainanese recipe. Lamb is pan-fried and battered, then transferred to a pot and cooked with chunks of radish, peas, carrots and seasonings. The fat fluffy slices of toasted white bread on the side are adept sponges for sopping up the flavourful gravy.
Narrow Marrow, Penang
Lamb Stew
Curry Chicken (RM12) is Jamie’s mum’s recipe and too is served with Bengali bread. Halved potatoes and chicken pieces soak up a rich orange curry with a slightly peppery edge, and again the bread is well utilized to polish off the final dribbles.
Narrow Marrow, Penang
Chicken Curry
Sweets reflect the overall homeliness of the rest of the menu with all items being made in house or by a family member. We try a Cranberry Butter Cookie (RM5) supplied by Jamie’s aunty. It’s a flawless partner to the espresso-based drinks: melt-in-the-mouth goodness.
Narrow Marrow, Penang
Cranberry Butter Cookie
Reasons to visit: cosy café full of character; interesting twists in the beverage menu; good value meals; Toddy Mojito; Cranberry Butter Cookie.
Narrow Marrow
252 A Carnarvon Street
George Town,
Penang, Malaysia
016-523 9278
Tues – Thurs 8am – 4pm
Fri – Sunday 8am- 1:00am
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  1. Hmmmmm – yeah well – hmmmmmmmm!
    Well it is well named!
    Washrooms ?????
    Probably a student or the "intelligensia" type hang-out place.
    I think I'd be just having a cold bottled beer there.

    • Just back from this weeks quiz conclusion – I won +17.
      For example thanks to geography I knew that Mt. Phou Bia was the highest
      mountain in the 4 Asian choice of countries – LAOS.
      Also musically that Gabriel von Eisenstein was in the opera – "DIE FLEDERMAUS".

      With regard to this "Narrow Marrow" place, I have when in my younger
      days eaten in such places – Nusa Dua, Bali, at "Swastika" restaurants – I was initially
      horrified at the blatant name but it is a Hindu symbol I believe with swastikas
      all over the place.
      Another great eatery and bar was an "Old West (USA) Saloon" place in Hua
      Hin, Thailand. These places are great to meet with the locals and the food was
      very good and far cheaper than the 5 star hotel's evening restaurant prices,
      naturally. Many of the younger guests at the major hotels ( eg: The magnificent
      Sofitel Central at Hua Hin) would be found at night and lunch enjoying themselves
      in these places.
      Breakfasts of course were at the hotel – included in the price of the accommodation.

    • You guessed it! This place is frequented my many artists in the area. They are good supporters of the local arts scene – which is really starting to shine in Penang.
      Congrats on you +16 BTW!

  2. Can't say I'm fond of the decor but that lamb stew looks really good! Name reminds me of what they call "gearbox" where they give you a straw to eat the marrow out of a huge chuck of bone.

  3. Quirky decor, for sure. Definitely unique. I am not overly fond of it…but I would love that lamb stew. 🙂

  4. Quirky decor, for sure. Definitely unique. I am not overly fond of it…but I would love that lamb stew. 🙂

  5. See, I told you I am the worst possible source of food advice to Penang. I don't even know this lovely cafe existed! 😉

    • Ha, ha… you've got some good ones up your sleeve – I suspect you're just keeping them secret so I don't blog about them! Hee hee! 😉

  6. Toddy mojito – I'd like to try that! Love these hole-in-the-wall places in Penang.

  7. He he… do they actually top every single dish with daun kesum?
    Lamb stew + daun kesum is a new combo for me, I have to say.
    I bet they go well together.

  8. such a cool spot … exactly the sort of gem one would hope to stumble on while wandering through the streets of penang! 🙂

  9. What a wonderful entry. I'd love to see it in person.

  10. Another great review and post. The food, drinks and cookie all look delicious. Thanks for sharing, have a happy weekend!

  11. The drinks look lovely.
    Can't say I'm fond of the walls, I would look in and keep walking. (Speaking my mind, so please don't take offence).
    The lamp stew looks ok..

  12. i love the classic and busted wall, it's got a style!!!
    judging from the new and artistic decor, old suitcase and stuff, i think it's suits even with fine dining dishes….
    [email protected] Chef

  13. I would like to try the lamb stew. Let's see when I can go to Penang.

  14. I like such a rough style.


  15. at first view felt like in Melaka. having such tradition and culture. very nice place.

  16. So much character! Penang is great for places like this.

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