Healy Mac’s Irish Bar & Restaurant – the friendly gastropub at Straits Quay, Penang
Healy Mac’s Irish Bar & Restaurant has a winning formula with a successful chain of gastropubs in Malaysia (one in Penang, one in Ipoh and four in Kuala Lumpur), Indonesia, Spain and Ireland. Having to do more than the luck of the Irish, it is hard graft, dedication and desire for constant improvement that the owner Liam Healy and his team have managed to establish an authentic Irish identity for his gastropubs since 2009.
Healy Mac's prides itself on scrumptious food, good drinks, welcoming atmosphere and friendly customer service. It is all these that led to its outlet in Jalan P. Ramlee being awarded the "Best Irish Pub In the World (Outside Ireland)" by the Irish Times in conjunction with the Diageo in 2015. The pub won the award for its commitment to Irish food and hospitality, its promotion of Irish culture as well as being a social centre for the local Irish community. Healy Mac’s has also garnered other awards over the years and the business continues to grow from strength to strength.
Healy attributes its winning secret to one key factor – friendliness. Each of his gastropubs has an Irish manager who shares Healy's infectious enthusiasm, drawing in a legion of friendly faces. Let us take a close look the outlets in Penang, strategically located at the tranquil Strait's Quay Marina, offering a breathtaking view of the pier and the serene Andaman Sea beyond.
Here are some of my favourites from the menu. For salads, I would opt for the classic Caesar salad – crispy Romaine lettuce tossed with crispy bacon (or grilled chicken) and roasted garlic croutons, topped with a generous helping of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
If you enjoy something more flavourful, try the Greek soft feta cheese salad, garden greens tossed with pimentos stuffed olives, roasted pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes, drizzled with an aged balsamic vinegar dressing and a touch of yoghurt.
I love smoked duck and having it in a refreshing salad is delightful. The chef even adds strawberries and mango into the mix for a fruity touch.
If you are at Healy Mac's for lunch and looking for something light, go for the mouth-watering Louisiana-style chicken breast panini, seasoned with Cajun spices, topped with red onions and oozing with melted cheddar. It is served with French fries and salad on the side.
There are some creamy soups and good basic pasta dishes, including spaghetti carbonara, Bolognese and aglio olio, as well as creamy salmon pasta.
What better place to enjoy traditional Irish delight than at Healy Mac's! Slurp up a serving of the traditional Irish lamb stew (stobhach gaelach in Gaelic). The heart-warming comfort food has chunky cuts of tender New Zealand lamb, potatoes, carrots and celery, flavoured with rosemary and thyme. Served with homemade rye bread, it warms the cockles of the heart.
Another must-try item on the menu is the Guinness steak pie, served in a frying pan, proper flaky puff pastry topped the scrumptious stew. Indulge and you will find out why Irish eyes are smiling with the delicious "pie". The shepherd's pie is another tasty option.
Healy Mac's also serves all-day full Irish breakfast. This brings back fond memories of the first time I had such a breakfast in Ireland. It was at Kelly's Resort Hotel & Spa in Co. Wexford. The breakfast buffet had a plethora of items that make up the full Irish breakfast – fried eggs, rashers (large slices of back bacon), bangers (pork sausages), baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns and of course, black pudding. Black pudding is made from animal blood and flavoured with spices. It is unique, enjoyed by those with an acquired taste.
In the protein section, there are chicken, beef, lamb and fish options. Top on my list here is the signature organic pork knuckle, available in two sizes. It is roasted to perfection with a crispy crackling skin encasing tender succulent flesh that falls off the bone easily. The dish is served with sauerkraut and roasted potatoes plus a choice of sauces – apple, red wine, black pepper or English mustard. This is one of the best dishes to relish at Healy Mac's, especially when one is in the company of friends (at least three to four) who are able to share in the feast. The pork knuckle goes extremely well with a tall glass of Kilkenny or the velvety-smooth goodness of Guinness.
The organic pork spare ribs, grilled to perfection, are well marinated. The flavourful meat is tender and succulent. It is served with truffle oil, mashed potatoes and a Guinness barbecue sauce. The fish and chips at Healy Mac's is equally good, served with mushy peas and a tartar sauce on the side. If you like sausages, try the mixed platter – Emmentaler cheese sausages, frankfurters and Thüringer Hungarian sausages, drizzled with truffle oil and served with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.
Also lip-smacking is the hearty Australian beef burger, made with 100% lean minced beef, topped with sharp cheddar cheese, thick black pepper sauce and served coleslaw and thick-cut French fries. The popular thin-crust pizza is made with homemade pizza dough and tomato sauce, topped with a variety of items and imported mozzarella cheese from Italy. Freshly baked pizza is heaven!
Besides the mouth-watering cuisine above, Healy Mac's also draws in people who fancies a pint or two. Generous with drinks, the beverage menu has an extensive list of stouts, beers, wines, spirits, ciders, cocktails and more. There are also plenty of Irish drinks on offer – from Irish stout and coffees to Irish beers, creams and Irish whiskey. Do take advantage of promotions and happy hour sessions. Sláinte!
Guinness is a must! It is an iconic dark Irish stout (although the Guinness website calls it a beer) that is made from malted barley and roasted unmalted barley. The taste is smooth with an opaque, dark amber colour where the aromas are usually reminiscent of coffee with possible hints of chocolate or cocoa.
The story of its invention starts with Arthur Guinness, who founded the brewery in 1759. I visited the Guinness Storehouse on the grounds of the brewery when I was in Dublin. Enjoying a pint at the Gravity Bar while taking in the 360° panoramic views of Dublin city was a memorable experience.
Healy Mac’s offers more than just food and drinks. It provides a convivial atmosphere that is unmistakably Irish. Many come to unwind, to socialise, watch live sport matches on flat screens TVs and enjoy live music.
Supporting the Irish community in Penang
In 2020, the Penang Irish Association (PIA), together with Healy Mac’s, invited Atlantic Productions, a British production company to Malaysia to put together four documentaries, two on Healy Mac’s and two on PIA (one on the annual St. Patrick’s Day Ball and the other on the St. Patrick’s Day Festival). The documentaries illustrate Healy's strong support for events promoting Irish celebrations, culture, music, dance and sports.
It is easy to understand why Healy Mac's is successful whereas many establishments in the same line have closed their doors. Healy's generosity has led to PIA adopting the gastropub as their club house, holding function and events at this venue. Both local and foreigners frequent Healy Mac's, bringing along friends to this special place. Having friendly staff alone cannot buy loyalty like this!
The man behind Healy Mac’s
Leaving home at 16, Healy headed for New York and stayed for six months, working part-time jobs to make ends meet. He revisited the Big Apple three years later and worked in a bar. After gaining business experiences in Canada, Dublin and Europe, he took up the challenge and operated a construction firm in London. In 2000, Healy ventured to Southeast Asia, opening a timber factory in Jakarta. The successful eight-year run came to an abrupt halt, hit by the global recession. Picking himself up the following year in 2009, he established Healy Mac's Irish Bar & Restaurant in Changkat Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur. It was the first in the chain of successful gastropubs that followed suit. He never looked back and drove the business to great heights.
Never resting on his laurels, Healy believes in listening and learning more through his daily encounters. "The world is the best classroom anyone can truly attend and experiences are the best lessons one can ever receive", he adds.
In 2015, the Healy Mac’s chain established an outlet at Breaffy House Resort, Castlebar in County Mayo (an hour's drive or so from Glenamoy, the village where Healy grew up). It was indeed a proud moment for him to be able to bring back home his multi-award-winning international chain.
Most befitting of Healy’s achievements is his philanthropic work, supporting orphanages in Ipoh, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Cambodia.
Written by Adrian Cheah
Photographs by Adrian Cheah & Maggie Territt
© All rights reserved
7 December 2021
Healy Mac's Irish Bar & Restaurant
3A-G9 & 10, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Pulau Pinang
T: +604 890 3477