A new addition to the quiet alley near Shida neighborhood, 'Ecole Cafe is conceived of as a retreat for people who want to shy away from places occupied by boisterous 20-somethings who frequent the area. It offers an admirable collection of music, magazines and books, displayed on European antique furniture.
The European ambiance comes as no surprise when you realize that proprietor Chien Min-fu (簡銘甫) also owns the store specializing in antique furniture, decorations and lamps made in Europe, mostly Denmark and Germany, from 1950s to 1960s, located next door.
A regular traveler between Taipei and Berlin, Chien opened the cafe for people to pause, chill and recharge. "It's a place to meet people, to throw around ideas," said Chien, who is also a travel writer with two personal guides on Beijing and Berlin under his belt.
Apart from coffee, there is a selection of Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling and Turkish mint teas that sooth the nerves as well as the mind. The chef, who studied in Lyon, presents authentic light repasts such as panini with either chorizo, salmon, duck breast and cheese (NT$160), cheese platter (NT$250), quiche (NT200) and a tapas set (NT$250) that varies daily. These can be washed down with your pick of beers from Germany, Belgium and the UK or handmade cakes and brownies.
A spacious basement furnished with antique sofas plays host musicians of all kinds every Friday and Saturday night. A music zealot who has built up an sizable collection of European and American indie music over the years, Chien likes to share his treasury with the like-minded customers, who may also browse through the design-related magazines and books on display.
Address: 6, Ln 1, Chingtien St, Taipei (台北市青田街1巷6號)
Telephone: (02) 2322-2725
Open: Weekdays from 1pm to 11pm; weekends from 1pm to 12am; closed on Mondays
Average meal: NT$400
Details: Menu in Chinese and English; credit cards not accepted
"I want to help give more visibility to "Made in Taiwan" designs and environment-friendly products that are still overlooked by the mainstream market," Chien said. "It is one of my dreams to open up a store in Berlin that carries Taiwan's handmade products, as people appreciate handmade things more even as globalization becomes an increasingly powerful force."