While most restaurants undergo remodeling in order to look new, the Bolero — founded by a Taiwanese in 1934 and the oldest Western-style restaurant in Taiwan — was remodeled to make it look “old.”
“With the remodeling, we want our guests to get a feeling of this restaurant’s atmosphere when it was opened in 1934,” Bolero’s general manager, Liao Tsung-chi (廖聰麒), told the Taipei Times in an interview yesterday, one day after the remodeling was completed.
“Bolero is the first Western-style restaurant founded by a Taiwanese in Taiwan. The founder Liao Shui-lai [廖水來] was a fan of art and music,” Liao Tsung-chi said.
“That is why he named his restaurant after French composer Maurice Ravel’s Bolero and decorated the restaurant with art works,” Liao Tsung-chi added.
“We’re proud of the restaurant’s history, that’s why we wanted to recreate the atmosphere of the 1930s,” he said.
After years of working as a chef in several Japanese and Taiwanese restaurants, Liao Shui-lai decided to open his own restaurant, and chose to open a Western-style restaurant to be different from others, Liao Tsung-chi said.
To open the restaurant, Liao Shui-lai traveled to Japan and purchased culinary magazines from the US to learn Western cooking.
“Whatever he did, he wanted it to be perfect,” the restaurant manager said.
To provide the best service to the guests, Liao Shui-lai purchased the best stereo system he could find, and in the 1960s, Bolero became one of the first restaurants in Taiwan to install air conditioning, Liao Tsung-chi said.
Following its opening, Bolero was the most “chic” place for artists, musicians and wealthy businesspeople to gather in the 1930s through to the 1970s, he added.
Having worked at the restaurant since 1967 — first as a doorman, gradually working his way up to become the general manager — Liao Tsung-chi said that he had served many celebrities, including Formosa Plastics founder Wang Yung-ching (王永慶); founder of Chinatrust Financial Holdings Co, Jeffrey Koo Sr (辜濂松); composer Teng Yu-hsien (鄧雨賢) and singer Teresa Teng (鄧麗君).
“In the old days, Dadaocheng [大稻埕] was the business hub of Taipei, so a lot of businessmen and wealthy families lived around the area and they frequently came to the restaurant,” Liao Tsung-chi said.
“At the time we had to remember not only the regular guests’ names, but also the names of their children and grandchildren, as well as their favorite tables and dishes, so when they came in, we immediately knew where to sit them, and what dishes we should serve them,” Liao added.
Dadaocheng refers to the area around Minsheng West Road (民生西路) and Dihua Street (迪化街) in Taipei.
Due to fierce competition, business has not been as good as it had been prior to the 1980s.
However, Liao Tsung-chi said that the nearly 80-year-old restaurant is still a favorite for their old customers and young people who like the vintage dining experience.