The Working Holiday Scheme has given an amazing boost to the relationship between Taiwan and Australia. Once Australia was hardly on the map for young Taiwanese, other than perhaps as a place to study English, but now Taiwanese are travelling to Australia in their in droves. No matter where I am in Taiwan, as soon as people here that I am from Australia, they have a story about a sister, cousin, friend or even themselves who has visited Australia (or is about to) on the scheme. Last year over 22,000 Taiwanese decided to work, travel and study in Australia and this year immigration statistics indicate that the number will grow exponentially once again.
So what has this got to do with poffertjes, a type of miniature Dutch waffles?
I had coffee with a visitor from Australia last week, who told me she had found this quiet cafe with a map of Australia on the wall. When I visited Poffertjes Cafe, I found that the Australian link was even stronger: they had a whole wall dedicated to odd things from Australia (including even an environmental shopping bag from a local supermarket), and the overall vibe in their cafe was like something from a milk-bar in an Australian country town. I felt right at home.
This was not coincidental: owners Vera and Momo set up the cafe after returning to Australia on a Working Holiday Making trip. They clearly liked their journey downunder so decided to showcase some of their memories in their cafe.
I must admit to having a sweet tooth, but so far have managed to avoid developing an addiction to waffles. Which is a good thing, because Taipei seems to have a love affair with waffles, usually choosing to drench them in an unhealthy amount of artificial cream and syrup. My friend talked up the waffles, but I must admit that at first I offered to share a plate of strawberry and pudding flavoured ones to be polite. But after the first one, I found myself sneaking another, then another again, and then even more, hoping all the while that she wouldn’t think I was making a disgraceful pig of myself.
There were several things that to my mind lifted these waffles above the ho-hum. Firstly, I liked the fact that they were freshly made to order. We had to wait a little while — and the smell while they were cooking was tantalising — but it was worth it. I also liked the way that they were sprinkled with raw sugar. And the pudding sauce, with the ice-cream melting over it, was indulgently divine. I couldn’t even begin to compare it with mock cream imitations.
We visited late afternoon and I was in a difficult frame of mind for choosing beverages. I have trouble drinking coffee at the best of times, and I did not feel like tea. Both of which was a shame, as their selection of tea and coffees looked very good. I was tempted to try their special milk tea, but in the end I choose an unusual cereal drink that combined white and black sesame seeds. When it arrived, my afternoon tea companion was amused. “It looks like breakfast cereal,” she said, pointing out the cornflakes on top. But for me, it hit the right spot. It was foamy, sweet (without being sickly) and hot, and the sesame-seed based drink was wholesome and satisfying.
I was so busy chatting that I forgot to write down the price of our meals but overall it was inexpensive: NT$300 (around US$10) for coffee, my cereal drink and a plate of waffles.
Poffertjes Cafe would be a great meeting place for anyone from Australia, planning to go there, or just returned from a trip. While it might not be in an obvious location, it is convenient once you know where to look. It is around five minutes’ walk from the Taipei Long Distance Bus Station at the base of the Taipei Main Railway Station, above ground from the Zhongshan mall that connects the Taipei Main Railway Station to the Zhongshan Station. (Physical address is No 18, Lane 52, Chang’an East Road — 台北市長安西路52巷18號). Actually, this whole area is a lovely place to explore: the area near the Zhongshan MRT has been identified by the Taipei City Government as a cultural and creative zone and there are interesting boutiques, shops and public artwork to entertain. Just be sure to leave room afterwards for some poffertjes waffles.