As you pull up to the driveway of Macalister Mansion on Macalister Road, you are drawn in by the colonial façade of one of the most gorgeous buildings you will find on the iconic island of Penang. The boutique hotel of Macalister Mansion houses one of the most unique finds you will come across on the island, its Dining Room, a kitchen run by award winning chef Eric Heijkoop. Arguably one of the best fine dining restaurants you will find in Malaysia, where the attention to detail of the dishes is impeccable both in terms of flavour and visually.
The Macalister Mansion was built in the early 1900’s and was named in honour of Sir Norman Macalister, one of the first British Governors of Penang from 1808 to 1810. This building houses 5 distinct rooms, the Dining Room, The Den, the Living Room, The Cellar, The Lawn and 8 rooms.
The kitchen here at the Dining Room is run by Eric Heijkoop, Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage, where the standards he has set for himself is unbelievably high, accepting nothing but serving the best culinary experience. Having previously worked at Hotel Chateaux Eza in France and running his own Restaurant Capsicum in Torrelodones, Heijkoop also received an award from the La Luna de Metropoli de El Mundo 2009. His combined culinary experience from traditional French and Spanish cuisine; and coupled with this Dutch, American Indian and Chinese heritage is prevalent throughout his cooking. His culinary skills are prevalent, blending a bit of everything into a gastronomic adventure. When asked how he would describe his cooking style, he replied: –
“I did my training in Holland in traditional French cuisine, and I have worked in many other countries. My most serious training has been in France for 10 years. I grew up in Spain and lived there for many years, so that is why, I picked up a lot from Spanish cuisine and its flavours. My cooking style, I would say, is Modern Global Cuisine, with solid French techniques and influences from Spain and Asia.” — Eric Heijkoop, Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage, Macalister Mansion
As you walk into the dining room, you are greeted by two majestic and whimsical creatures, a blue buck and a pink doe, both under a luminescent white tree that is the centrepiece of the dining room. The pristine white aesthetics is prevalent throughout the theme of the Dining Room, with multiple private rooms available for something a little more cosy and personal.
The first appetiser of the night is the Cured Japanese Pink Snapper, Crispy Fish Skin, Bacalao Brandade, Emulsion of Oyster, Sea Fennel and Shichimi Togarashi. This dish is a perfect blend of east and west, with crispy fish skin, balanced with the cured Japanese pink snapper, firm to the touch, with a nice dollop of Portuguese bacalhau brandade, a salted cod emulsion, and balanced with the metallic emulsion of oyster. The sea fennel adds a tinge of bitterness to the dish, giving you a mixture of contrasting textures and flavours.
The next appetiser to be served is the luxurious Truffle Spheres with Mousse of Foie Gras, Dehydrated Enoki Mushrooms, Forest Soil and Beetroot, where the different textures and flavours is once again prevalent. The truffle sphere with mousse of foie gras is proportionate and rich in texture, which is balanced out by the grassy texture and scent of the dehydrated enoki mushrooms. The forest soil adds a playful sandy consistency which is sweetened by the beetroot and micro greens.
The soup dish, the Pot au Feu of Flower Prawn and Black Chicken, Perfumed with Ginseng, and a touch of Lemongrass and Coriander, was a most interesting take on a very traditional Chinese herbal classical dish. This dish is cooked like the traditional French beef pot au feu, except with its key ingredients changed to that of the Silkie, a Chinese black chicken known in Asian cultures for its herbal health benefits. The addition of flower prawns add seafood sweetness to the broth, tinged with the bitterness from the ginseng, and a slight hint of floral notes from the lemongrass and coriander, a perfect modern interpretation of a very traditional dish.
The next dish was the Scallop Velouté Infused with Vanilla, Cereal Pearls Curry and Caramelised Cauliflower, one of the most visually unique and palate pleasing dishes. The scallops are perfectly pan-fried, not overcooked on the inside, peppered with grilled leeks and beautiful dehydrated cauliflower that looked like tiny white trees. The cauliflower adds a nice dry straw-like consistency to the dish. The curried barley is something that is rarely prepared in this way, where the starch has been removed and enveloped in curry, giving the very bland grain a flavourful punch. The scallop velouté, which is lightly perfumed with a hint of vanilla, is then poured over the dish resembling soupy comfort food.
The palate cleanser that was served, the Olive Oil Sorbet was the perfect break to the rich appetisers. The sorbet, which is infused with lemon and olive oil, comes through with the taste reminiscent of limoncello, but light to the taste and melts the moment it touches your tongue.
The fish dish for the night, Roasted Stingray with Gremolata, Saffron Mussels, Dulse Seaweed, Lemon Purée and Mollusk Foam, was very unique, another fusion perfection. The stingray, a very firm fish, is roasted to perfection, crispy on the outside, and firmly fresh on the inside. The gremolata adds a zesty sting of lemon to the bite, while the dulse seaweed with its unami flavour and soft consistency evens out the sharp taste and firm textures. The strong flavour of the saffron mussels adds a nice change, while the intense sweet and tangy lemon purée and mollusc foam adds more dimension to the dish. The combination of flavours and textures is both exciting and enticing.
The main course of the night was the Lamb Loin with Crème of Black Garlic, Morels and Pickled Onions, probably the most recommended dish on the menu. A perfect panko covered loin of lamb is slow-cooked under the perfect temperature ensuring the perfect medium rare consistency. The dish is served with spreads of black garlic, a rich, syrupy and intense flavour reminiscent of tamarind. The morels add a spongy and sharp umami flavour to the dish, complimented with Japanese gobo (burdock root), which adds a mild but woody textured consistency to the dish. Sweet corn and a tiny dumpling is added to the dish for a play of textures, temperatures and balance.
The first dessert of the night was the Cassis Sorbet with Lemon Meringue, Blackcurrants and Champagne Foam an intensely tangy, sweet and sour blackcurrant sorbet, complimented with drops of lemon meringue and black currants. The champagne foam adds a complexity to this dish with its fizzy and dry flavour, astringent to the taste, but perfectly relevant.
The final dessert of was the Strawberry Cannelloni with White Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Soil, Pistachio Crumble and Strawberry Sorbet, the perfect tone down from the almost too exciting cassis sorbet. This dish has all you would ever want for a dessert finale. The strawberry cannelloni is fluffy and spongy to the feel, light in taste and not too sweet. The white chocolate adds a nice creamy flavour, while the chocolate soil adds a nice texture. The pistachio crumble is firm and not overpowering, while the strawberry adds a burst of sweet and tangy cold temperature to complete the dessert, an outstanding dish.
Although not part of the Dining Room, a must try from the Living Room is the Tiramisu Lollipop. This little morsel of joy is a modern twist on an Italian classic. This dessert is shaped in a chocolate sphere, complete with a small wafer and coffee crème. The surprise comes at the end when you pop the whole thing in your mouth with a burst of amaretto, probably one of the best interpretations of a tiramisu you can come across.
The Dining Room at Macalister Mansion Experience
Chef Heijkoop’s interpretation of dishes shows impeccable balance of flavour and textures and incredible plating. When asked what is his philosophy to cuisine when it comes to presentation, he stated: –
“As you know the food industry is the kind that involves all senses. A long time ago a chef once told me that to have a great dish, you need to first be able to entice the guest with the eye, the first impression of the dish. Obviously if a dish doesn’t look appetising, mentally you will think that it’s not going to taste good. Secondly, the aromas of the dish when they bring it to you, it should bring you memories, excitement, adventure, sensuality, all those things that the chef really wants to share with you. And then, the most important one, the taste. All these combinations of textures, colours, and flavours that blend together will transport you to a moment, a place… the joy of life. I think that when you come to a restaurant, you come to have an experience. It’s about the entire experience that will make it a memorable moment.”
The Dining Room is a must try for fine dining aficionados around the world, from its intricate and very well thought out Macalister Mansion’s Degustation Menu, to the use of rare ingredients, to the thoughtful textures and temperatures, much attention has been given to the construction of each dish. Elements of molecular gastronomy and classical cooking go hand in hand in many of the dishes, with painstaking technique and time used to carefully bring each dish alive, and not to mention the superb plating. Definitely a must visit.
To get better acquainted with the chef, see our exclusive Interview with Eric Heijkoop.
For current review, see our review of Dining Room Winter 2015 by Macaslister Mansion.
For a choice of a heritage hotel, see our review of Macalister Mansion.
For a complete travel experience, see our Ultimate Guide: Penang Street Food.
228, Macalister Road,
10400 George Town,
+604 228 3888
Tuesday to Sunday, 7.00 pm to 11.00 pm
| PHOTOGRAPHY BY: LILA BAKAR & MACALISTER MANSION | WEBSITE: DINING ROOM BY MACALISTER MANSION |