I’ve been living in Penang for six years, and it never occurred to me to take a staycation.
When I was presented with the opportunity by the Lone Pine Hotel, I jumped at the chance. I have to admit that I had never even been there before. Although I’ve been to every other beachfront property on the Batu Ferringhi strip, somehow it eluded me.
I’m no stranger to the other hotels on the strip. They all have a happy hour that I have been known to frequent. But truthfully, the Lone Pine Hotel is a sleeper. They don’t do a lot of marketing. It is a quiet contemporary secret-spot that has loyal return visitors every year.
It has a laid back vibe, and because it’s a small hotel, on a large plot of beachfront land, it never feels crowded. There is ample space around the pool for lounge chairs, plenty of umbrellas and, you aren’t sitting on your neighbor’s lap unless you want to ;). But that’s another blog altogether.
From the minute you walk onto the grounds, you’ll feel the peaceful allure that is synonymous with the hotel. It is hard to deny the old world charm when you feel the gentle sea breeze through the hundred-year-old casuarina trees.
The Story Behind the Lone Pine Hotel
Well, first, let me say that the name “lone pine” is a misnomer. There are no pine trees on the current property and no evidence that there ever was. Only in the original logo, which looked like a pine tree.
The Australian owner, Dr. Albert McKern, named the hotel Lone Pine after mistaking the single casuarina for a pine tree. Plus, Lone Pine has a better ring to it than Lone Casuarina.
It all started with a bungalow that was turned into a 10-room hotel. It was one of the first hotels in Batu Ferringhi Beach, dating back to 1948. Over the decades, more rooms were built to meet the demand, but the hotel never lost sight of its origins.
Those original ten rooms are still available to book today, although they’ve been renovated to meet today’s contemporary style.
There is a prevailing idyllic colonial charm to the property, yet it has all the contemporary comforts expected in a modern-day hotel.
The Ambiance at the Lone Pine Hotel
The hotel is in the heart of the Batu Ferringhi beach strip. Outside of George Town, it is one of the more touristy areas in Penang. Every night there is a market selling tchotchkes and mostly massed produced stuff from China.
Image: Lone Pine Hotel
Perfect for buying that Faux-lex you’ve always wanted.
Regardless of that, when you walk onto the grounds of the Lone Pine Hotel, all that is forgotten. It is a serene respite from the fray steps away.
After we checked in, we walked down the narrow stone pathway through the grass. Just beyond the privacy of the hedges are the pools. The shallow pool for kids has a section of about 50 jets bubbling up from the bottom. It didn’t take long for this big kid to check it out.
The large pool is L-shaped, and right next to the restaurant, The Bungalow. You don’t have to go far for lunch. Actually, you never have to leave the pool at all.
Servers are standing by, on-the-ready, to bring you poolside nibbles and cocktails, or pretty much anything your heart desires.
There are plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas spread throughout the grass around the pools. However, I fell for their teepees. The teepee has a thick grey pad to lay on, which makes it super comfy and nap-worthy.
Between those and the hammocks, I was eased into sloth mode, and happy about it.
The Garden at the Lone Pine Hotel
The overall feel of old colonial charm is not a thing of the past at the Lone Pine Hotel. The original buildings from yesteryear still ooze with the glamor of the era.
I could just imagine the people here in the 1950s, sitting on their rattan chairs in the garden, with their morning coffee, reading the newspaper, or sitting under the shade of the trees, drinking gin and tonics. Gazing at the ocean as the waves lap the shore. The Lone Pine Hotel transported me to another era.
To the left of the pool is a long swathe of brilliant green grass studded with a few rows of mature casuarina trees. The garden meets the beach. It is only separated by a low fence and more trees that have to be almost a century old.
Other than a few hammocks, they’ve kept the garden an open expanse for weddings and events.
It’s a picture-perfect place for a vow-renewal (hint-hint Mark).
Image: Lone Pine Hotel
Picture this: It’s sunset. The sky is turning sorbet shades of pinks and oranges. You are standing barefoot on rose petals strewn atop the green grass. The waves of the Andaman Sea are licking the shore. Leaves from the century-old trees are floating in the sea breeze like a swaying kite.
Insert you and your loved one and voila, the most magical setting for a wedding. Could it be any more romantic?
Image: Lone Pine Hotel
Amenities and Activities at the Lone Pine Hotel
Penang is packed full of things to do and see. Within a 30 minute drive in either direction, you can be exploring George Town and its street art or flying down the World’s Longest Waterslide at Escape.
But since Mark and I live in Penang, we were planning to enjoy our staycation by planting ourselves and exploring the gorgeous grounds of the hotel.
Between the Pure Energy Spa (which has heavenly treatments), the pool, and the restaurant, there is no need to leave.
Image: Pure Energy Spa
If you want a romantic dinner for two in the garden, complete with four-courses and a bottle of wine, it’s yours for RM569.
Want to learn to cook local food? You can take a two-hour, hands-on cooking class with Chef Aames, for RM93.30. It comes with a glass of wine to go with your homemade lunch.
Exercise lovers can get their sweat on in the gym before they start the day. Or you can do laps in the large pool.
Our Room at the Lone Pine Hotel
Image: Lone Pine Hotel
All 90 rooms are smoke-free and range in size from 45 to 118 square meters. They were all renovated in 2018, except a few which they are working on currently.
We stayed in a Super Deluxe Sea-facing Room, which was a spacious 55 sqm. I’ve stayed in apartments smaller than that!
It was a beautiful bright room with dark wood parquet floors. The king-size bedroom is separated from the sizeable bathroom by a massive sliding pocket door. Not just a plain door, this baby is backed by a super tall full-length mirror. Not that I want to stand all day and stare in the mirror, but how come most hotel rooms have half-sized mirrors?
I’m a full-sized person and want to see my shoes and my shoulders, at the same time. It’s not a lot to ask.
Image: Lone Pine Hotel
The room had a modern manliness to it, like a moodiness. It was clean and contemporary with charcoal grey and brown textiles, with a hint of lapis blue. There are ceiling fans in the bedroom and on the balcony, which help move the sea breeze throughout the space.
They didn’t miss a detail when renovating. The rooms have plenty of drawers, robes, extra pillows, a mini-fridge, and coffee and tea with great big mugs.
Our room had an extra living room, which I thought was an adjoining room until further inspection. It had a large daybed, another flat screen tv, and a table; ideal for ordering 24-hour room service and watching a moving on a rainy night.
As an added touch, they provide a box of traditional Dragon Ball biscuits made locally. That recipe dates back to the mid-1900s.
Image: Lone Pine Hotel
My favorite part of the room wasn’t the extremely comfy bed; it was the balcony. On one side is a daybed ideal for lounging and reading a book. On the other, a plunge bathtub that made me, a bath-hater, jump right in.
Seriously, I am not a fan of bathing, especially in Penang’s hot and humid climate. Our home has a bathtub, and the only time I’ve ever been in it was to take an ice bath as a dare from my husband (in case you’re wondering, I cried).
Anyway, the bath at Lone Pine beckoned me like a good glass of bubbly does, I couldn’t say no.
With a view of the verdant towering trees and the sea just behind them, I could have spent all day there.
Service at the Lone Pine Hotel
The service is impeccable. Everyone walks around with a smile, from the cleaning staff to the GM. It adds to the overall charm of the hotel.
They check on you but aren’t annoying, overly attentive, or invasive. The minute you raise your head to look around, they come over to see if you need anything.
Very observant, in all the right ways.
I watched the staff to see if they were treating us differently. But that wasn’t the case. They were welcoming and watchful with every person there.
The fact that the Lone Pine Hotel has devoted customers is a testament to the hotel and its staff.
The ambiance is fab, the staff is wonderful, let’s move on to the food; Malaysia’s national pastime.
Nibbles and Sips at the Lone Pine Hotel
There is an actual bar on the premises, called Batubar. It is spacious, has a pool table, and a few TVs. It is comfortable enough to sit in, but it is just across from the lobby, so we didn’t spend much time there.
You can have drinks brought to you anywhere you decide to saddle up. For us, having drinks by the pool is more our speed.
I do hope they stop using straws and other single-use plastics. They are a beachfront property, and we should all do our part.
The Bungalow was originally the family beach house back in its heyday, and it still feels cozy inside. However, we chose to eat outside because…well, we could.
I wasn’t expecting much from a hotel restaurant. I never do. But I was beyond pleasantly surprised with the food in The Bungalow.
All I can say is that Chef Aames has mad skills.
We were there for two days, and I gained two pounds.
Our first meal was dinner, a three-course affair that was made even more lovely by the falling rain on the rooftop. The lights were dim, and there was soft jazz playing in the background.
As soon as we sat, the smiling servers came, placed napkins on our laps, and took our drink order.
We started with the Nyonya Platter (RM25.50), which had otak-otak, loh bak, and pie tee.
Otak-otak is fish cake or custard cooked in banana leaves, which truly sounds gross. But it is one of my favorite Nyonya appetizers. It was spiked with lemongrass and coconut, a blend that I can never get enough of. It usually has a silky custardy texture, but the chef put his spin on it and made it more like the texture of an omelet. Loved it!
Loh bak is usually made from pork marinated in five-spice, wrapped in bean curd skin, and then fried. But since the Lone Pine Hotel is halal (there is no pork), the chef made it with chicken and shrimp instead. Even though I’m a big pork loh bak fan, I didn’t even notice a difference. It was delicately spiced and served with a chili sauce for that extra kick.
The pie tee, or “top hats” were not my fave of the plate. Although the filling was quite delicious, the cups were a little soggy.
For our main course, we had the spicy red snapper (RM38) and the prawn assam pedas (RM38).
The snapper was marinated in a local spice blend and served with a fiery side of tamarind sauce. It’s cooked on the grill inside a banana leaf, which adds a delicate flavor but also makes it succulent. I don’t recall ever describing a piece of fish as juicy, but it was. The winner of the night!
Prawn assam pedas translates to sour – spicy prawns. And it was all that. Plump prawns cooked in a tangy curry sauce and served with rice and poppadum to soak up the gravy. It was delightful, and we happily made it disappear.
We were beyond full when they brought dessert, and I only planned to have a bite so I could write about it. Then they brought sago gula Melaka (RM18), and pandan crème brulee (RM18), and that idea flew out the window.
Sago has that same chewy texture as the tapioca “bubbles” in bubble tea. It’s a local specialty. The sago is cooked in coconut milk and then drizzled with palm sugar (gula Melaka). It was divine.
The crème brulee was Shrek green from the pandan leaves, but Chef Aames plated it beautifully. It had a subtle flavor of the slightly sweet screwpine plant but was missing my favorite part, the crunchy top.
Nevertheless, we finished both desserts!
After dinner, we waddled back to the room, ducking the raindrops. That comfy bed was calling.
Next up … breakfast!
After waking up to the sounds of the ocean and watching a couple of bright yellow birds chase each other in the casuarina trees, Mark peeled me off the balcony. Regardless that we were still full, it was time for a little breakfast, which comes with the room.
On the way to the restaurant, a dusky leaf monkey family was sitting on the roof of the Batubar, playing in the trees overhead. They too, are Lone Pine regulars.
The breakfast is no small thing. There is a buffet, but also cooked-to-order foods like eggs and noodles. You can try local specialties like nasi lemak and roti canai or order a couple of poached eggs to go with your French toast and turkey bacon. There is fruit, cheese, and cereal for something lighter.
Enjoy it all with a strong cup of coffee while sitting under the fans next to the pool. You won’t go hungry.
This time we only sampled a few dishes because we suspected lunch would be something grand, and we already felt like stuffed pigs. I ordered some poached eggs, which were bright orange and runny, just the way they should be.
While waiting, I chatted with some regulars from the UK who said they couldn’t get enough of the Lone Pine Hotel. They come every year for a week of relaxation and pampering.
Lunch for Kings
After a few hours of working (they have good WIFI), we returned to the Bungalow for our last meal.
We must have looked like we were starving because Chef Aames gave us a lunch fit for kings.
On the weekends, they have a special BBQ lunch menu for RM25. You can choose from grilled lamb chops, beef skewers, BBQ chicken, grilled fish, or a cheeseburger. All the lunches come with a side of perfectly crispy fries and a lightly dressed side salad.
Chef Aames gave us the lamb, beef skewers, and fish.
The chops had been marinated overnight in some secret spice blend that I plan to pry out of the chef. They were so flavorful and cooked perfectly; they were served with a side of rich mushroom sauce.
The spiced Tilapia was very light and flaky. It might have been a little salty for some people, but perfect for me. It came with a lemon and cream sauce, which balanced out the piquant flavor of the spices.
The beef kebabs had large pieces of meat interspersed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, and onions. They were perfectly peppery and tender. If they aren’t sharp enough for you, they come with a black pepper sauce to drizzle on top.
Dessert again? Why Not.
Because it’s vital to have dessert with every meal, we had two. And I’m not sad about it either. We had the coconut panna cotta with mixed berry compote, salted coconut crumble, and a spoonful of ice cream (RM18). The blend of the tart berries with the creamy coconut = heavenly. It might have been the best dessert I’ve ever eaten.
Mark is fortunate he got a bite.
Luckily, Mark was distracted by the mini-lemon meringue pie (RM18) in front of him. It’s one of his faves.
The meringue was light and fluffy and browned on top. The crust was nice and flaky. I prefer the lemon to be a little tarter than it was, but Mark was a happy man.
Happy Hour and Special Events
Image: Lone Pine Hotel
The Lone Pine Hotel is doing happy hour right; they have two! Get happy there from 3-8 pm and 11 pm-1 am daily. Most hotel bars along this strip have one happy hour; I don’t mean once a day, I mean one hour a day.
Happy hour wines range from RM16-22nett, and large buckets of beers are RM68nett.
Besides the full menu, they also have snacks like crab quesadillas (RM15), truffle fries RM10), pizzas (RM25), and a cheese and meat platter (RM35).
Since the silly season is upon us, The Lone Pine has events galore. They have a Christmas Eve dinner buffet (RM208), a Christmas Day lunch buffet (RM158), and a New Year’s Eve buffet dinner (RM208). That includes free-flow beer and wine, so better get a Grab.
We made plans to go to the Christmas Day lunch before we had ever been to the Lone Pine. Now that I know how lovely the vibe and food is there, I’m even more excited.
Beside incredible flavor, the common theme in all of the dishes was the presentation. Chef Aames puts love into that food. From edible flowers and molded chocolate to sliced berries and caramel drizzles, I ate my way to a larger skirt size.
It’s not cheap hawker food, but that’s not why you go to the Lone Pine. It is elevated local food with exceptional service at affordable prices. Not fancy hotel prices, reasonable ones.
Lone Pine Hotel: The Verdict
Outside of the glorious food, the restaurant needs some TLC. It isn’t up to the same standard as the renovated rooms, but that is in the works. It’s feels tired. And honestly, that is my biggest criticism of the Lone Pine Hotel. Some areas feel like they’ve been neglected when compared to the loving restoration of the rest.
However, aside from that, you won’t long for anything at the Lone Pine. We didn’t want to leave.
Generally, when people visit Penang, I don’t recommend staying in Batu Ferringhi. Most people don’t come here for the beaches, so I usually tell them to stay in George Town. However, since staying at the Lone Pine Hotel, I would change my tune.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of George Town for a few days. This is the place. Or if you just want a change of scenery, book a room. It’s so worth it!
I am usually a beach girl (hello … Sand in My Curls), but I didn’t even think about the beach while staying at the hotel. There is something about the pool and the garden that makes the Lone Pine feel secluded and enchanting. Like I’d been whisked away to another time and place.
So, I didn’t get sand in my curls, but I did get a dose of relaxation, which felt like a world away from my “normal” Penang life.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Lone Pine Hotel, and my stay was covered. However, all thoughts in this review are 100% my own opinions.