“ Check the website below for more information. „
Bewleys Oriental Cafe on Grafton Street is the kind of cafe everyone wants to have near their home. We went last week on our trip to Dublin for breakfast and it was really good and a lovely atmosphere. I have since learned the company was a bit of a Dublin institution and this is the last remaining site in the City.
Bewleys sits on Grafton Street (towards the Liffey end rather than St Stephens Green) and has a very distictive frontage with stunning art deco style font on the sign and dark wood. Once inside there is a small coffee area which serves delicious looking cakes and tea and coffee. There are stairs up to more floors and behind these sits the deli-cafe. This serves a range of toasties, pastas, salads and light meals. At 10:30 AM when we arrived it was bustling with many people sitting enjoying the full Irish Breakfast in the light of the original stained glass windows.
We decided to forgo the tempting smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels for the traditional full Irish breakfast. I'm a veggie so asked for no meat. Also included was tea or coffee and orange juice. The breakfast consisted of bacon, sausage, black pudding, white pudding, poached egg, grilled tomato, and potato farl. The veggie had the same minus the meat and a large grilled mushroom. The orange juice was freshly squeezed and really helped with the post flight dehydration! The food was top quality and nicely for this kind of meal quite healthy as everything was grilled. The breakfast cost 9.95 Euro which is a little steep but considering it included the coffee and juice and this place couldn't be further from a London greasy spoon - more than worth it.
~ ~ The whole of Ireland has been shocked and stunned in the past week or so with the announcement that Bewleys, the world famous chain of coffee shops and cafes, are to close their doors for the last time sometime before Christmas. (2004) Bewleys two remaining Dublin cafes are both located in high profile (and high rent!) areas of the city; one in Grafton Street, the capitals main shopping area, and the other in Westmoreland Street, right beside OConnell bridge and the bustling tourist area of Temple Bar.
~ ~ Bewleys have been trading in Dublin since the early 1800s, having been founded by the Bewley family, prominent Quakers who moved to Ireland around 1700. They began the business as a company importing fine tea and coffee from the Far East, and their first retail premises opened in Sycamore Alley, just off Dame Street, in 1840. This was a shop selling primarily coffee, but it wasnt a café. It later expanded into adjoining premises on South Great Georges Street and evolved into Bewleys very first Oriental Café. This café was closed and sold in recent years. (Its now a trendy pub!)
Georges Street (in 1894) was the first of many Bewleys Oriental Cafés to open in Dublin. Westmoreland Street has been in business since 1900, and Grafton Street since 1927. Now they are to close, and with them goes a large slice of Dublins history, tradition and folklore. Like the weather, Bewleys was always with us, and the thought of Dublin without a Bewleys is like thinking of London without a Harrods or Edinburgh without a Jenners!
~ ~ Bewleys were a permanent part of the Dublin infrastructure, and beloved by generations of Irish people and countless overseas visitors to the Emerald Isle.
You could smell Bewleys long before you could see it. The intoxicating waft of freshly brewed coffee hit you at over 100 yards, and you could get a caffeine fix simply by standing in their doorway for a couple of minutes. It was one of my favourite pit stops whenever I visited Dublin city centre, and the mad cabbie spent many a pleasant hour or two downing countless mugs of lovely coffee, smoking a few ciggies, and perusing my daily Irish Times or a good book. This leisurely approach was all part of Bewleys charm. You never felt rushed in Bewleys, and could, if you wished, practically spend the whole day sitting at one of their tables with a single cup of coffee. No pressure was ever applied to get you to leave, or to make a further purchase!
~ ~ At Christmastime there was an old tradition of setting open coal and turf fires, where weary shoppers and frazzled business people could find some momentary respite from the cold, damp winter weather.
Bewleys was always a favoured haunt of literary and showbiz figures, even up to the present day. Many an aspiring author or poet found inspiration in its hallowed food hall, including one of Irelands most favoured literary giants, the late James Joyce. In my visits to Bewleys Ive often spotted both greater and lesser-spotted Irish celebrities, from politicians to rock stars (Bono) and all shades in between.
The Irish Times (the quality Irish broadsheet) office is located nearby in Dolier Street, and whatever hour of the day you visited Bewleys you could almost be sure to find one of the Times journalists firmly ensconced at one of the tables.
~ ~ The cafés themselves were like a throwback to an older period, when the world wasnt quite so frenetic and people seemed to have more time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Old, rickety wooden chairs and marble topped tables, beautiful stained glass windows, and gaggles of black and white clad waiters and waitresses. (The stained glass windows are to be removed and preserved, by the way) In recent years the waiters and waitresses disappeared, and Bewleys became self-service and staffed mostly by overseas and immigrant workers as the more affluent Irish moved onto bigger and better things with the coming of the Celtic Tiger. (Economic boom!)
Bewleys was sold to the Campbells Catering group of companies in 1986 when they first got into financial difficulties, and it was they who done away with the old waitress service and geared the cafes up for a more streamlined self-service system. Up until this time many employees actually spent their whole working lives with the company, and almost became as well known and famous as the cafes themselves!
~ ~ Bewleys were most famous for their coffee, sticky buns, and full Irish breakfasts. Coffee was imported from around the globe, and sold freshly brewed in the café, or packaged for home use and sold at the retail counter.
Despite a 12 million investment in upgrading and refurbishing the old cafes in recent years, the current trend towards a coffee and a sandwich to go and the increasing number of city centre pubs now offering bar lunches has seen Bewleys suffer a drastic downturn in trade. According to the CEO of Campbells, Bewleys parent company, the smoking ban that came into effect here in Ireland last March was the straw that finally broke the camels back. He estimates that it has been directly responsible for a further 10% reduction in their already dropping trade, and has made it impossible to continue trading.
~ ~ There is still a very slight hope that some last minute buyer will step in and save the day, but it now seems more likely that the two remaining cafes will go the same way as many other old Irish retail premises in the city centre of Dublin, and become yet another mass market retail chain store.
Bewleys will be sorely missed!
© KenJ November 2004
Bewley's was established around 1840 in Dublin by Joshua Bewley. There are now 3 Bewleys sites in Dublin, several in Ireland as a whole, several in England and 1 in Endinburgh and 1 in Japan. This is the kind of coffee house where you can sit and chat, read a newspaper for as long as you like. You never feel the staff wish you would leave, to free up a table. You can sit all afternoon if you like a read a book. Bewleys is actually famous for writers. A number of famous writers have been known to frequent Bewleys Coffee houses. Even today buddying authors are known to scribble their manuscipts there. The atmosphere is somewhat special. Bewleys is also known for there splendid tea, coffees, hot chocolate with mallow, Bewleys chocolates and Hampers. I love it. There are 3 in Dublin: Grafton Street, Westmoreland Street and Mary Street. My personal favourite is Westmoreland St. Even now every so often I visit Edinburgh just to go to Bewleys, although I would rather be in Ireland!!