When Wu Kuan-wei (吳冠瑋) opened Isabella's House near the Shilin Nightmarket (士林夜市) about two years ago, he had a specific vision in mind: to create a fairyland where people could get away from the real world and find a temporary refuge in a miniature European theme-park. It is set in a freestanding, three-floor house painted in inviting yellow and blue.
The mood of the restaurant-cum-lounge bar is a little bit British, a little bit French, with a Mediterranean zest. Though it may sound kitsch, Wu has managed to create a pleasant harmony.
Designed as a British tavern, the first floor features box seats warmly lit in warm yellowish hues. Up on the second story, the French windows and skylight give it the kind of lighting of a beach house. Vibrant colors and white pebbles on the floor provide a laid-back hangout for friends and family.
For couples, the third level is the place to go. Decorated as a living room in French chateau style, it features several cozy sofa seats. Filled with the aroma of rose essential oil, the space is designed to arouse amorous feelings.
The multi-cultural theme is also reflected on the menu. International dishes are spiced up by the chef's creativity. The long list of main courses range from snails with filet steak, Japanese-style pork fillet to chicken pasta with asparagus, roasted chicken come recommended as the meat is tender and scented with dozens of herbs. Tomato tuna pasta is the most popular dish among young customers.
The joint also features an extensive menu of tea and specially concocted juices. The popular Bella fruit tea is made of fresh strawberry, orange and lemon and vegetable juice blending carrot, tomato, pineapple, mango, guava and celery is a grand mixture for the healthy-conscious.
British afternoon tea sets, fruit salads and sandwiches are good for the day. But when night falls and the whole place is lit with candlelight, there is a decent selection of cocktails and midnight snacks, including baked chicken wings, German sausage and light dish like kimchi pork and beef stew.
As a dog lover, proprietor Wu also tends to clienteles who don't want to leave their pet dogs at home. For NT$250, your canine friends can get a huge plate of lamb, beef or ham, as well as cookies.
In other words, it is a place that can take care of all your dietary needs from day to night and doesn't take itself too seriously.