When the first Cafe Bastille opened off Shida Road (20, Ln 60, Taishun St, Taipei City,台北市泰順街60巷20號) nearly six years ago, people went there for the Belgium beer and the slightly artistic and alternative vibe. It has since expanded with a second location near National Taiwan University (91 Wenzhou St, Taipei City, 台北市溫州街91號) and last month opened its third, on Wenzhou Street near the corner with Heping East Road (和平東路).
This expansion has seen facilities upgraded, but in other areas Cafe Bastille has dropped the ball.
The space itself at the newest addition is appealing, with big windows and a narrow veranda to make the most of sunny days. Tables are nicely spaced, giving some level of privacy, and the mismatched contemporary furnishings show a good eye for design. The menu is large, but unfortunately variety does not make up for quality.
There is breakfast, there is afternoon tea, there are quick meals ranging from Thai lemon fish to meatballs, there are finger foods, sweets, Belgian beer, cocktails, wine and numerous varieties of coffee and tea — all designed for quick, easy preparation, which is evident in what comes to the table.
While it is certain that the Belgian beers, which constitute one of Cafe Bastille’s principle appeals, are unaffected, the meals (from NT$170) are so obviously out of a packet that I was somewhat aghast. “Brazen” is the word that came to mind.
There is a plenitude of “coffee shops” that sell pre-packaged food around the Shida area, but most make some effort, no matter how pathetic, to disguise or at least decorate the contents of the can (or packet) of food they serve. Bastille III is above, or below, such deception. It didn’t help that the staff didn’t know how to operate a microwave, serving up a plate of barbeque meatballs and penne that was partially cold. This discovery was particularly galling as I only dug into the meatballs after overcoming a very real abhorrence to the sight of the slimy khaki substance that was supposed to be the gravy.
Address: 7 Wenzhou St, Taipei City (台北市溫州街7號)
Telephone: (02) 2362-9981
Open: Daily from 8am to 11pm
Average meal: NT$200
Details: Chinese and English menu; free wireless Internet
Japanese teppanyaki, Italian lasagna and French seafood paella round out this international tour de farce. The tapas menu, which is how the range of finger foods was described, includes popcorn (NT$150), mozzarella sticks (NT$280), a variety of cocktails and, of course, Belgian beer. Service was minimalist, though a member of staff was kind enough to point out the conveniently situated power sockets so that I could use my laptop. The Wi-Fi connection was excellent, and the coffee adequate.
As a place for drinks with friends, the pleasant, airy space and the huge menu have a certain appeal, but the sophistication of Bastille III extends no further than the decoration and beer.
The restaurant/bar has a basement area that can be used for small performances and exhibitions.