For people who care about their food

Breeks, Penang

Gurney Plaza
Gurney Drive
10470 Penang

Have you ever noticed how, if you’re hungry when you go food shopping, you’re tempted to buy far more than you’re actually going to eat? It’s a problem we’ve come across particularly when we’ve been travelling – you go out to buy yourself the makings of a sandwich that you can rustle up if you get peckish in your hotel room, and before you know it, you’ve got enough for a four-course meal!

We went shopping in Gurney Plaza – one of Penang’s most prestigious shopping malls – yesterday, when the hunger pangs struck. Fortunately, Gurney Plaza’s got a large selection of relatively cheap eateries in an attractive outdoor courtyard. Less fortunately, several of them were the usual suspects (Starbucks, McDonald’s, Nando’s) or rather twee coffee-and-cake places.

But Breeks caught our eye. Actually it had first attracted our attention earlier, when we were looking at the mall guide. Much hilarity all round (where I come from, ‘breeks’ are underpants!), and we wondered what this place with the funny name actually sold. Mr Not Delia correctly guessed it was some kind of food outlet, but he gets no prizes because it was in the ground floor of a hotel building, which limits the possibilities.

Anyway, we nearly gave Breeks a miss – the menu card at the entrance to their outdoor seating suggested that it was a Korean restaurant, and that wasn’t what we fancied just then. But as we walked past, we saw a large poster on the wall advertising a wide range of Western food – salads, steaks and fish – most of it looking very appetising. It turned out that, although they were promoting some Korean specials, they’re actually an American-style diner.

So we changed our minds and sat down to look at the menu. (But not at the first table we came to. It was below a ledge which was obviously much frequented by birds, and the first chair I pulled out bore copious evidence of that. We moved hastily to another table.)

The fish and chips looked tasty, and very reasonable at just RM18.90 – not much more than £3. I persuaded Mr Not that he should try the Catch of the Day, fried with black pepper and served with pasta and garden vegetables, only slightly more expensive at RM19.90.

Sadly, Breeks doesn’t have a drinks licence, so beer was out. (I made a mental note not to go there for dinner.) But they do milk-shakes, so I had a chocolate one. They also do a colourful variety of mocktails, for what it’s worth. Mr Not played safe with cappuccino.

After maybe 10 minutes or so, my fish and chips arrived. We gasped – the portion size was enormous! They hadn’t sacrificed quality for quantity, though; the fish was a very nice breaded Pacific dory, the ‘chips’ turned out to be lovely tasty potato wedges, and there was a generous portion of coleslaw with juicy big sultanas too. A wedge of lemon and a dollop of tartar sauce (a bit gloopy, but not bad) rounded off the plateful.

There was no way I was going to be able to manage all that on my own, so I invited Mr Not to help me out while he waited for his meal to arrive. Just as well, as it turned out, because his didn’t arrive for another ten minutes or so.

When it arrived, it was also pretty large, though not as humungous as my fish and chips. The ‘catch of the day’, it transpired, was Pacific dory. In fact, the only other fish they seemed to have was salmon. It was nicely pan-fried, and came with a tasty chilli garlic mayonnaise. The pasta – a small tower of spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce – was perfectly OK, but didn’t really go with the fish as far as Mr Not was concerned. But the garden veg – sliced courgettes, carrots, green peppers and onions – were nicely sautéed.

The drinks were fine, too – my milk-shake wasn’t over-thick and chocolatey enough, and Mr Not’s cappuccino was a good large cupful.

Verdict: 3 out of 5
With a pretty high standard of food, you might have thought I’d give Breeks a higher rating than that. I probably would have done, but the size of the meal put me off – it was so big, I lost my appetite. Breeks claims to be an American-style diner; it certainly lives up to that in its portion sizes. As regular readers of this blog will know, I have strong views about portion sizes.

Would we go back again? Very likely. But next time I think we’ll probably either order something smaller or split one meal between us. One order of fish and chips shared between us would have been a substantial lunch – a third would have been plenty for me, and Mr Not would have been more than happy with the other two-thirds.

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