D espite the 35˚C heat, at least 20 people sat perched outside the Melange Cafe one lunchtime last month waiting for a seat. By 2pm, their numbers had doubled. Such crowds are typical for the Zhongshan North Road establishment, which enjoys a favorable reputation because of its urban chic setting and afternoon tea fare: coffee and
tea drinks, Belgian-style waffles and sandwiches.
Other reasons for the long lines are that the cafe doesn’t accept reservations and also seems to attract large parties of ladies who lunch, female shoppers in their 20s and kids on summer break. But it is definitely possible to get a seat quickly — go alone or with one companion and ask to the sit at the bar.
Melange has remained as popular as ever since the Taipei Times last visited the cafe at its old location on Nanjing West Road in 2004. Moreover, the new location’s decor, which is a departure from the Japanese coffee house ambiance of its Nanjing West Road days and now feels more like a European-style cafe, offers a better first impression.
It’s hard not to admire the bar’s spacious and smooth white marble-top counter, which is cool to the touch and easy on the eyes.
Trendy-looking cafes in Taipei tend to overdo their sandwiches, but Melange hits the right notes with its club sandwich (NT$110), a very reasonable price considering the sandwich’s quality. The cafe keeps its ingredients simple: non-sweet white flour bread, smoked chicken that does without the strong taste of artificial flavoring, ham, thinly sliced scrambled egg, and a light spread of mayonnaise.
Melange Cafe seems to take a near fanatical pride in its beverages, which take up a lot of the menu, on which they are adorned with art deco-like motifs. Patrons are asked to purchase a drink of at least NT$90, whether for dining in or take-out, and food doesn’t count towards this minimum charge. The “summer fruit tea,” (NT$150), which a waiter noted as a popular choice, is a mix of brewed black tea (Lipton yellow label), fresh apple slices, kumquat and passion fruit.
The drink didn’t elicit any “wows” from this reviewer, but was refreshing enough and well presented, arriving in a mini-glass pitcher along with a small wine glass. Another house recommendation is the green tea au lait (NT$120), which uses green tea powder imported from Japan.
One friendly regular sitting at the bar, a woman who appeared to be in her late 60s, said she stops in once a day for coffee because of the “freshness of the beans” and the attentive service she receives from the white uniformed, beret-wearing staff. She might also appreciate the fact that the drip-blend coffees, which include Blue Mountain No. 1 and Kenyan AA and range in price from NT$100 to NT$180, come in porcelain cups that are immersed in hot water while the drink is brewing.
A few Taiwanese foodie blogs point out that the strawberries and cream with waffles dish (NT$140) is reason enough to go, but the waffle with green tea ice cream and sweet red beans (NT$130) was saccharine to the point that it generated a sugar overload. The waffles, though served fresh and hot, were a tad too sweet and had the consistency of cake dough.
Melange Cafe is close to Zhongshan MRT Station (中山捷運站), Exit 2.
Address: 1F, 23, Ln 16, Zhongshan N Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市中山北路二段16巷23號1F)
Telephone: (02) 2567-3787, (02) 2563-6768 Average meal: NT$200 to NT$400
Open: 7:30am to 10pm on weekdays;
10:30am to 10pm on weekends; open until 11pm on Fridays and the day before holidays
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