Bewley’s Cafe closes it's doors

Posted: 07/05/2020 17:04:41


So last night we received the news that another Dublin institution had decided to close its doors for the last time, with the announcement that Bewley’s Coffee House has decided to cease trading. Sadly, it joins a long list of much loved companies that have gone by the way side, such as Clery’s, Switzer’s and Cassidy’s.
We at Geodirectory will miss it for sure (especially the out of this world Chocolate Eclairs) and wished to pay homage to this legendary Dublin culinary icon.

The history

The story starts in 1835 when Samuel Bewley manages to get his hands on 200 chest loads of tea and brings this new found and highly sought after commodity from China to Dublin.

Up until now the East India Tea Company were the only ones bringing tea into Britain and Ireland, and with such high demand in the UK, very little of the stuff made it’s way across the Irish sea; Bewley’s changed that. 5 years later his Brother Joshua formally setup the China Tea Company as the business expanded to cater for the ever increasing demand for tea and coffee in Dublin. In 1894 the first ever Bewley’s Café was established on South Great Georges Street. It was the first to roast their own beans on site and thus offered a better quality caffeine hit than its competitors.
Joshua’s son Ernest introduced the Jersey Cow to Ireland and the milk from these cows added to the quality of the Bewley’s cakes and hot beverage offerings. It was Ernest who oversaw the construction of the most famous of the café outlets in Grafton Street, and it opened it’s doors in 1927.


The building

One of the most striking features of the building is without doubt the beautiful ornate stained glass windows that dominate the front of the building. These were designed by the famous artist Harry Clarke who hailed from Blessington in Wicklow. Various pictures of flowers, birds and sea creatures adorn these magical windows which have peered out at passers by on Grafton Street through the good times and the bad.
There is also the area known as the “James Joyce Room” which pays homage to that great writer. (the Westmoreland Street branch of Bewley’s features in the book Dubliners).


The food

One thing that always stood out was the quality of Bewley’s produce and in fact there was a time when, if a relation of a family living down the country came back from a trip to Dublin without cakes from Bewley’s, it was regarded as close to a mortal sin in their eyes!
Made-to-Order Sandwich areas are now ten a penny with most Centra and Spar outlets including them in their store fit-outs. However, it is said that Bewley’s were the first to bring such a concept to Ireland when they opened their ‘Sandwich Bar’ downstairs in the Grafton Street outlets sometime in the mid-late 80’s.
One of the things people looking forward to when the restrictions were ended was to haul ourselves and a good book into Bewley’s to enjoy the sheer indulgence of a velvety smooth Hot Chocolate coupled with the crème-de-la-creme of Chocolate eclairs, which now sadly we will not now be able to do.
Thinking back to the times you also paid this Grafton Street institution a visit; we’d love to hear your memories of Bewley’s – Check out the Geodiectory Facebook page to drop us your comment.

We have started a new blog series called "Memory Lane", diving into the deep history of Ireland's most famous streets. First up is Dublin's O'Connell Street Lower, home to GeoDirectory! Read here.

Photo Credit:
Dublin City Council (Library Gallery)
Barrett Mahony Consulting Engineers (BMCE)

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