Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street is an institution, known to everyone in the capital. But how much do you really know about the place?
I cannot claim Bewley’s Café as one of my Hidden Gems, but what a lot of people do not know is it hides many jewels. I urge you to follow your nose indoors to discover the multitude of faces inside. I do not just mean the coffee slurping, cake crunching, savoury salivating clientèle that grace it with their presence. I do actually mean the many surprises on offer within its many walls.
Tea bags are not the only thing steeping here, history is coming out of every orifice. You will leave the hustle and bustle of Grafton Street through the heavy front doors, into the entrance where the twinkle of lights will dazzle you, while the smell of pastries and coffee will draw you close. With the distant lingering of street music ringing in your ears you can take a moment here to recover your senses.
Bewley’s is the largest café and restaurant in Ireland and your next decision is simple as not one of the 400 seats and 18,000 sq. ft. of space will disappoint you. You can choose from a table lying under the streams of light reflected through renowned artist Harry Clarke’s final piece of work before his death, the magnificent stained glass windows, dating back to 1931.
Or if this doesn’t float your freshly whipped cream, then you should make your way to the next floor where you will find the James Joyce room, called after one of the many literary souls who warmed its seats and kept its heart beating during the hard times and the good. Like many shop fronts on this historical street, Bewley’s has gone through its own revolution.
This Café has history in its bones, opening its doors after the war of Independence to a broken Ireland, it has cheered, applauded, celebrated and commemorated its ordinary and its extra-ordinary heroes, as well as serving up damn good coffee.
You can take the lift directly to the theatre or wander the staircase admiring those plays that have gone before us. Housing music and drama, at lunchtime and evenings, this 50 seater chamber breaths antiquity, while embracing the modern world. Protected from the street by red velvet curtains and shielded on all walls by a dark green backdrop, this space has a vague 1950’s Jazz bar vibe about it. A cheap, cheap soup and brown bread is available during the show or you can fill your boots from the delicious menu downstairs.
A lunchtime performance is exactly what it says on the tin. Getting in before 1:10pm and out by 1:50pm will allow you to enjoy some classic and modern culture on your lunch break.
The theatre is currently hosting ‘Fishes’, written and performed by David Fennelly, which runs until 5th April. With many moments of serious laughing out loud and more moments of out loud seriousness, this one act wonder is a rollercoaster of emotions. After approximately 15 minutes of giving us a false sense of security this multiple shocker, sure shocks our socks off.
If you do one thing in the future, let that thing be a trip to this magical place. It will feed your belly and your soul, while giving you a nourishing sense of belonging to a moment in bygone times.
78-79, Grafton Street
Tel: 01 672 7720
Lead image via Bewley’s Facebook page; Bewley’s facade by Helen Hulston on foursquare; ‘Fishes’ by David Fennelly © Max Power