One could argue that no trip to Dublin is complete without a visit to the iconic Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street, which first opened its doors in 1927. It’s one of those names that is associated with the great cafés of the past (such as Café de Flore), and certainly one I had heard of long before my Coffee Spot days. With its gorgeous façade, sumptuous interior, lovely artwork and full table service, it’s definitely an experience. As regular readers will know, it’s exactly the sort of experience that I like (for example, another Parisian favourite, Angelina, springs to mind).
It helps that the coffee’s not too bad either. All roasted on the premises, Bewley’s offers a standard espresso-based menu, along with the option of a cafetiere for one or two, plus tea, hot chocolate and soft drinks. There’s a very tempting (and large) range of cakes and pastries, plus full breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. There’s also a range of wine, cocktails, beer and cider.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s an intimate little theatre on the top floor, which puts on one-act plays at lunchtime (complete with optional light lunch) and cabaret, jazz and comedy in the evenings.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
It was the theatre that originally brought my friend Sarah and I to Bewley’s Café on Dublin’s pedestrianised Grafton Street. An intimate little space on the top floor in what was the café’s Oriental Room, it’s the smallest theatre I’ve seen a production in (although I’m aware that there are smaller theatres out there). The total capacity is 50 people, including the cast and serving staff! After the play, we went downstairs to sample the coffee.
The first thing that struck me about Bewley’s was the opulence. The glorious façade on Grafton Street is worth a look in its own right, although it’s a shame about the hole that someone’s dug in the street right outside! Shades of London’s Four Corners Cafe here.
While the façade promises much, stepping inside is initially a disappointment. There is seating to the right, stairs up to a large, interesting mezzanine level, and a large takeaway counter to the left. Were this any other coffee shop, I’d have been quite excited, especially by the mezzanine level. However, therein lies the problem: it could be any coffee shop: the promise of “Bewley’s Oriental Cafés Ltd”, as the gold lettering on the front proudly proclaims, is somewhat lacking.
Fortunately, Bewley’s is only kidding you. Step through to the back room, where you wait to be seated, and you realise the full opulence of the place. My words won’t do it justice, so take a look at the gallery (although my photos aren’t that much better, so you could also try Bewley’s own virtual tour if you like).
Here is what I was looking for: lovely artwork, stained-glass windows, a full balcony above, tables, booths, interesting, intimate little spaces. I was sold. We ended up with a table for two on the first-floor balcony overlooking the main room, but I would have been equally happy downstairs in a booth or in one of two interesting spaces that branched off the balcony via their own flights of stairs. You can also sit in the mezzanine level at the front and there’s a separate room above that with its own bar. Since it’s full table service and the staff seat you, the only issue is quite how you manage to get a seat in one of those areas (shades of my experience at Café de Flore), but I was happy where I was.
So, onto the coffee. We came for coffee and cake, although both decided that coffee and sticky bun was more appropriate to the surroundings. Sarah had a mocha while I settled on espresso, having toyed with the idea of having a cafetiere, just because it was on the menu. One thing that did surprise me was how down-to-earth the food was: burgers, pizzas and toasties all made an appearance on the menu, all of which felt a little out of place with the setting.
The coffee itself was perfectly acceptable. Sarah liked the strong chocolate taste of her mocha, while I found my espresso very much to my taste, although very old-school: strong, bitter and a very dark roast. It was very well made, nice and short and with a lot of body. We also liked our sticky buns, which were loaf-shaped, made of a rich dough, with a glazed top and packed full of fruit.
|79 GRAFTON STREET • DUBLIN 2 • IRELAND|
|http://bewleys.com/bewleys-grafton-street-cafe||+353 1 672 7720|
|Monday||08:00 – 22:00||Seating||Tables, Booths|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 22:00||Food||Full restaurant|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 22:00||Service||Table|
|Thursday||08:00 – 23:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Friday||08:00 – 23:00||Wifi||No|
|Saturday||08:00 – 23:00||Power||No|
|Sunday||09:00 – 22:00||Mobile||N/A|
|Chain||Yes||Visits||10th May 2014|
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