“You like Penang?” A friend once asked.
I guess I do. I didn’t spend much of my growing up years here but I spent almost all of my school holidays in Penang when I was younger.
There’s something about Penang which is charming although the traffic can be crazy at times. But Sundays are good days for exploring Penang, at least the little nooks and crannies where the tourists won’t go. But I cannot be too sure. These days, tourists are a heck of a lot smarter and know more than the locals. I take that back. Friends of mine who are occasional visitors to Penang often confound me with the places they find and the unknown things they experience.
Things and experiences I take for granted at times.
Today it was Armenian Street. I’ve been to Teresa’s Edelweiss Cafe all but once and I’d been raving about it to Nic. The ambience and the decor can really sweep you back into an era where life moved a little more leisurely.
Teresa is a friend of a friend. We met when I was lunching at her restored Nyonya house in the inner sanctum of Georgetown, Armenian Street specifically. Previously old, dirty and left to rot, the house was lovingly restored by Teresa and her husband to its former grandeur.
It helped that both of them were passionate collectors of items of yesteryears. Old photos, old Nyonya doors, slabs of tiles, granite, clocks, well, anything which we deem old and useless, Teresa and her husband positively adore. Her husband restores, fixes and polishes items that most people throw out and gives them a new life, literally.
Because the edelweiss is her favourite flower, Teresa (who had been a tour guide for many years) named her cafe Edelweiss and you can see this Swiss national flower motif in her homely cafe – especially on the stone slabs before you enter the Nyonya house. (I want to break out into a song each time I think of Edelweiss…it reminds me of that song in “The Sound of Music”.)
The two-storey Nyonya house is now her baby and her cafe, and if she has her way, her new home too. The ground floor is used as a cafe, decorated pleasingly with her restored items. There’s a nice bar counter too besides the marble-topped tables and original kopi tiam chairs. The airwell brings in the day’s sunlight, illuminating the centre portion of the house and she has cleverly used the airwell to house her potted plants.
The upstairs section, I’m told by Teresa, is meant to be a museum later, to display her finds and treasures of bygone eras. I was quite privileged to be given a tour of the upstairs once by Teresa herself and I am quite sure that anyone who visits will be taken down memory lane. She has painstakingly arranged her treasures according to Penang culture and people, the things they used then, their customs, the way they lived.
Tourists who wander accidentally into Teresa’s cafe will be surprised and pleased – many do drop by to snap photographs of this amazing place.
Teresa’s love for all things old and her husband’s ability to fix old lamps, clocks and such and to give them a new function in the cafe is something you must see for yourself. Her passion for heritage buildings in the innercity of Georgetown is evident.
It’s not so much the food (although the vanilla Movenpick ice cream with apple cake is a must-try if you happen to drop by) but the love and care poured into the cafe is what makes Edelweiss such an enchanting place to visit for a quiet lunch.
Edelweiss Cafe is located at No.38, Armenian Street, 10200 Penang (Tel: 04 261 8935). Closed on Mondays. Open from 12 noon to 11pm with set lunches and set dinners available.