Sunday, July 25, 2010

Coffee: Bewley's on Grafton Street

Bewley's on Grafton Street is something special: in terms of its size, age, architecture and heritage it outclasses every other cafe in the city. It's been around since 1927 and is loved by many Dubliners, for whom memories of its coffee and sticky buns are an essential part of their image of the city. Several years ago the possibility of closure was met with outrage.

All of this makes it hard to review Bewley's, because there is Bewley's as it is today - just another coffee shop in a city full of coffee shops - and the Bewley's of Dubliners' fond memories, a sort of Platonic ideal of a cafe. I can only comment on the former.

Bewley's takeaway coffee gets a nice, simple fail. The espresso itself is fine, but any of the milky variations of coffee are not. The latte, macchiato and cappuccino are just plain bad. My best guess is that there's too much milk and not enough coffee; the quantity of milk overwhelms the coffee flavour.

This suspicion was confirmed by the quality of the coffee I got when I ordered cappuccino with my (very tasty) lunch. This was a different coffee experience entirely; with the right amount of milk, the milk now brought out the coffee's quality instead of drowning it. Of course it helps that the cafe is spacious and has a balcony overlooking Grafton Street.

Prices are a little high for sit-in coffee, but no more so than is to be expected for the area. Take-away coffee is cheap if you get the €2 special offer that runs from Monday to Friday.

Conclusion: Excellent if you want to sit, relax, sip coffee and watch the world go by. Acceptable if you want a take-away espresso or Americano. Avoid entirely if you want a take-away latte, macchiato or cappuccino; there are far better offerings from nearby competitors such as Carluccio's and Fixx.

Next week: Butlers

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