[Penang, Malaysia] Narrow Marrow on Beach Street

My first cafe visit for 2021 was to Narrow Marrow, the bohemian hangout by architect-designer duo, Alvin Neoh and Jamie Oon. The grungy old place, replete with an eclectic collection of antiques and junk (very fine line between the two here) has moved from its erstwhile old location (since 2014) to a newer, and not-so-narrow, spot on Beach Street.

Still operating only 3 days a week (Fri to Sun), Narrow Marrow pulls in the unconventional crowd - the painters, poets, writers, and musicians, and everyone else in-between. It still serves its blue-hued Coconut Clitoria Cheesecake, and its delightful Toddy Mojito, but its best-seller these days seem to be its tiramisu - simple and 100% authentic, unlike nearby ChinaHouse’s cakey Alexis Bistro clone.

:large_orange_diamond: Coconut Clitoria Cheesecake - it’s New York-style baked cheesecake, courtesy of co-owner, Jamie Oon. The name came from its use of the juice from the blue-hued clitoria ternatea flower (locally called “bunga telang”) to give the cake its trademark color:

:large_orange_diamond: Tiramisu - no complaints here.

:large_orange_diamond: Toddy Mojito - a combination of local toddy (fermented coconut water) , sugar, lime, soda water and mint.

:large_orange_diamond: Matcha latte

Narrow Marrow
312, Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street), 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-226 3083
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm, Fri to Sun. Closed Mon to Thu.


That’s a good looking tiramisu. I have a long term quest to find the absolute best version. I’ve not found it in Italy. My top two are currently San Carlo Fiorentina in Manchester (UK) and Trattoria Delia in Burlington, Vermont. Both have a good balance between the sweet elements, a good hit from coffee and the zing from booze. Too many just have a generic sweetness.


My first-ever taste of tiramisu was by Gabriel Fratini at his eponymously-named restaurant in Singapore around 1991 thereabouts. We’d thought it was astronomically-priced at the time - SGD16 (£8.90) for a single portion, but it was so good, I kept going back for it again and again. Many places in Singapore then copied Fratini and started serving it - Esmirada in Orchard, Domus at the Sheraton, etc.

In 1993’s “Sleepless in Seattle”, Rob Reiner mentioned the dessert to Tom Hanks, who asked, “What is tiramisu? Some woman is going to ask me to do it to her, and I’m gonna want to know what it is.” At the time, I felt strange that Tom Hanks’ character did not know what it was. Then, later that same year, I was in New York on a business trip and wanted to try the dessert there, and compare that to what we have in Singapore. Imagine my surprise then that my American colleagues there said they’d not heard of tiramisu! :scream:


Do they still serve toddy on the island? I have a memory of a few years back drinking it in Little India but I can’t remember where?

I’ve purchased before at a tiny roadside stand on the drive down to Melaka.

The old government-run toddy shops around town - the one you went to could’ve been the Market Lane outlet - have all been closed ever since the start of the COVID lockdown/MCO last March. But you still can get toddy in certain bars or cafes.

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My best ever tiramisu is from a French chef, Philippe Conticini. Most tiramisu has faint hint of coffee and far too sweet. Conticini’s version is structured like an Opera than a traditional one with extra texture.

My best home made Tiramisu is from the recipe of Yann Couvreur. Home made biscuit. Ultra dose of overnight moka syrup plus light chantilly mascarpone cream, and a good doze of amaretto. Good balance of every element. An absolute delight.

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With the name Narrow Marrow, I was misled to believe that I could see some bone marrows! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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That sounded real good.

My go-to tiramisu recipe was Nigella Lawson’s, which uses Bailey’s Irish cream:
Irish Cream Tiramisu | Nigella’s Recipes | Nigella Lawson

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Thanks! Will try making it. I’m a big coffee dessert fan, éclair au café, moka tart…

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I know, right? :joy: :joy: :joy:

It actually got its name from its original/old location on Carnarvon Street - a very narrow covered alleyway between two Chinese shophouses, which was only 10 feet wide!

Carnarvon Street, like all the other streets in George Town’s old Chinatown district, are lined with 150-year-old traditional Chinese shophouses, many of which have been re-purposed to become cafes nowadays. These buildings are protected under the city’s heritage building conservation laws, so no one can do large-scale changes to their structures.

Narrow Marrow started there in 2014, but moved to its current, “wider” location in Aug 2020.

And knowing the bohemian couple, architect-design enthusiasts, Alvin Neoh and Jamie Oon, the “narrow” bit of the cafe’s name would most likely come from the vegetable. :grin:

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They did quite a good job in the new place to preserve the atmosphere of the first café. I still like the original place a bit more with the strange juxtaposition of stuff. The new place is perhaps a bit more decorated but doesn’t have the same charm. What happened to that place, replaced by another café?

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That’s a good question! I need to make a trip down there one of these days and check it out.

Carnarvon Street is quite a busy street with quite a few popular Chinese kopitiams like OO White Coffee, Seng Thor and Ping Hooi.

Narrow Marrow’s old premises was tiny and one can easily miss it as one drives by.

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