There is something immediately warm and charming about Mon Marche. It’s a cafe run by a young couple, whose artistic flair is evident in the way they’ve transformed an old two-story apartment building into a restful haven that serves light meals, handmade desserts and pastries.
Located in a quiet lane near the bustling intersection of Xinyi and Anhe Roads, the cafe greets patrons with a laid-back atmosphere spiced up with lively decor in olive green, Turkish blues and mustard yellow.
In random corners, playful paintings lean against the wooden brown backdrop, while floral prints decorate parts of the wall to exude a tang of femininity.
The most amusing work of design in the house is a small opening on the second floor, which allows an unobstructed view of the open kitchen on the ground floor from above and makes the place seem more spacious than it actually is.
As pleasant and mellow as the establishment itself, the young proprietors are instantly likable with their genuine smiles and amiable service. On the day my dining companions and I visited, the hostess was particularly helpful in recommending items from the small but solid selection of craft beer and red and white wine. For those seeking non-alcoholic refreshments, Mon Marche offers choices of organic and fair-trade coffee (NT$120 to NT$190) as well as an assortment of Mariage Freres teas (NT$170 and NT$180).
The popular curry rice with pork (炙燒豬肉咖哩飯, NT$240) might appear mild and agreeable — it comes prettily arranged with cherry tomato, a sunny-side-up egg and lettuce — but is in reality a fierce little dish packed with punch. Equally good is the chicken meatball and rice (燉雞肉丸飯, NT$280),which presents the tenderly cooked, juicy meatball half-immersed in a spicy sauce.
Address:49 Wenchang St, Taipei(台北市文昌街49號)
Telephone: (02) 2706-7062
Open:Daily from 11:30pm to 12am, closed on Sundays
Average meal: NT$500
Details: Menu in Chinese and English; credit cards not accepted
Evidently, the kitchen of Mon Marche is prone to improvisation. One of my friends was told that the fried beef with pesto (青醬爆翼板牛飯, NT$350) he ordered was not available. He happily found that its replacement — the duck breast with cream sauce (白醬鴨胸飯, NT$350), which was not listed on the menu — was satisfyingly composed of thin slices of meat that were properly fatty.
The high point of our dinner came in the form of the mushroom quiche (NT$250 for a set that comes with salad plus tea or coffee). The pie is said to be freshly made in the kitchen on a daily basis, and the freshness shows. The quiche was so good that I had to order one more to go, and that one was equally delicious eaten cold the next day. The quiche comes in two other flavors: salsa and pesto chicken.
For a lighter meal, diners have three choices of sandwich, including smoked ham with cheddar cheese (切達里肌三明治) and orange-flavored curry chicken (橙香乳酪咖哩雞三明治), which also costs NT$250 as a set meal with salad and drinks.
A visit to Mon Marche is not complete without the desserts and pastries handmade by the hostess, who had traveled to Paris to learn from the Parisian patissiers. One of her signature items is tartin (NT$150), an upside-down apple tart that’s made by caramelizing fruit in butter and sugar amd then adding a pastry top. The clafoutis (NT$220) is a baked fruity dessert consisting of berries and apples. Served lukewarm, the dessert is a great choice on wintry days.
A word of reminder: Mon Marche is a popular restaurant and reservations are a must.