The quiet and green La Mairie Cafe offers such relief from the typical Taipei streetscape that one could almost forgive the restaurant for its overpriced, mediocre food.
The restaurant is located within The Mayor’s Residence Arts Salon (市長官邸藝文沙龍), a Japanese-style house originally built in 1940 as an official residence for the capital’s mayor.
The space is now run privately as a gallery space and venue for meetings and events.
Upon entering, visitors will likely be struck by the spacious grounds, which cover approximately 800 ping (2,645m²). Tall camphor trees dotted around the perimeter shade the entire grounds, which also sport a well-kept garden. The house has been well preserved structurally, with its most distinctive feature the sliding doors commonplace in traditional Japanese houses.
But La Mairie feels more like a homey Taiwanese teahouse that has taken over a Japanese restaurant. I sat with two companions on well-worn rattan chairs and tables at the cafe’s outdoor terrace, a space that was a little crowded for three. The terrace, however, did exude a certain charm with its creaky old wooden floor and Chinese lamps adorned with Hakka floral prints.
The menu consists of a hodgepodge of Western food that caters to local tastes.
A house recommendation, the La Mairie-style lamb shank (NT$450, NT$650 with set menu) was disappointing: the meat was too chewy and gamey, and the overly salty brown sauce didn’t help.
Main course set meals, which range from NT$650 to NT$780, include soup, salad and an appetizer. With the latter, avoid the baked mussels, which were a letdown. The dish arrived artfully presented, with diced red, green and yellow pepper and crushed herbs sprinkled on top, but the mussels were rubbery and tasteless while the breadcrumbs on top appeared stale.
Address: 46 Xuzhou Rd, Taipei City (台北市徐州路46號)
Telephone: (02) 2392-9510
Open: 9am to 10:30pm, meals not served after 9pm
Average Meal: NT$310 to NT$660
Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards accepted
On The Net: www.mayorsalon.com.tw (in Chinese only)
One of my companions had the risotto with mushroom (NT$260, NT$460 with the set menu), which she liked but said was excessively peppery. The other was unimpressed with the rice and fried pork chops, which came with thousand island dressing (千島焗排骨NT$330).
Other moderately priced meals include pasta dishes that cost between NT$240 to NT$300. There’s no need to splurge to enjoy the grounds, though. The cafe has a NT$90 minimum charge, which can be covered easily by choosing from an extensive selection of beverages and desserts. Coffee and tea drinks range from NT$110 to NT$200, well worth the price for a quiet afternoon and tranquil scenery without having to leave the city.
Visit on weekdays or outside of lunch to avoid the crowds. La Mairie is located across from the National Taiwan University College of Social Sciences and College of Law on Xuzhou Road (徐州路). A quick way to get there on public transport is to get off at Shandao Temple MRT Station (善導寺捷運站), walk south on Linsen South Road (林森南路) and turn left at Xuzhou Street.