Bewley's Cafes to close…

David Vance regrets the demise of two Dublin landmarks – which were frequented at one time, he reports, by two of his literary heroes – Brendan Behan and James Joyce! Although once grand, both have perhaps suffered from long term lack of investment – there’s a particularly drafty spot at the back of the one on Grafton Street, even in summer!

  • Gerry O’Sullivan

    There was an interesting obituary for Bewleys written by Ernie Whalley, editor of Food & Wine Magazine, on his website ForknCork recently.

    Basically he says that many of those who most openly mourn its passing, probably haven’t been there in years. And that it’s been substandard in terms of both product and service.

  • David Vance


    I agree that it’s been running down over the years but it was still a place of sanctuary and it did retain vestigial charm.

  • ShayPaul

    True David but it was a tip and as for the coffee …

  • George

    Embrace change or die. That’s the way it is in Dublin. No time for sentimentality there.

  • Keith M

    The South Great George’s Street Bewleys used to be my favourite and then later on the Mary Street, but they closed a few years back. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that the remaining Bewleys went downhill when the old native Dubliner tea ladies (with whom you could have a bit of cheerful banter) were replaced by surley foreign staff who’s first language clearly wasn’t English.

    The level of service in shops and food outlets in Dublin has gone down dramatically since Irish people see these jobs as somehow beneath them.

  • ShayPaul

    Oh Keith M

    that is walking the racist tightrope.

  • Keith M

    ShayPaul “that is walking the racist tightrope”. Oh please! Who mentioned race? I don’t care what race these people are as long as they are able to do their job in a customer friendly way.

  • ShayPaul

    Oh please :

    “were replaced by surley foreign staff who’s first language clearly wasn’t English.”

    Why not talk about the poor management that allowed such low quality customer service to be installed.

    Read your post again …

  • George

    your post implies that level of service is dependent on nationality rather than level of training and quality of working conditions.

    The reason the service has declined is because Bewleys pay less for their workers than the going rate so they get the most unskilled people, those with little or no English.

    It is not the poorly paid and trained staff who are to blame for the crap service, it’s the Bewleys millionaires who ran a successful business into the ground.

    But instead you blame the very people Bewleys are exploiting to squeeze every last cent out of the place.

  • ShayPaul

    Spot on George

  • Mick Fealty

    Storm in a teashop anyone?

  • Nathan

    Bewley’s is as Dublin as Dublin gets. I honestly can’t believe it has come to this.

    As for Brendan Behan, he was so much in love with that place that he actually held his wedding reception there!

    And those with very selective memories, will wipe out their memories that fact that Victor Bewley sharing afternoon tea in the place with the head of PIRA at the height of the Troubles in the 1970s. He was asked to act as a go-between between the IRA and the British government I believe.

    Every generation has its fond and not so fond memories of that place.

  • Davros

    I didn’t know that about Victor Bewley being asked to be a go-between. I wonder if it was linked to a Quaker connection?

    Quaker families and commerce

    The Bewley Legacy

    The Bewley family is French in origin. They moved from France to the north of England in the middle ages. During the religious turmoil of the 17th Century some members of the family became members of the Religious Society of Friends.

    In 1700, at the age of 23, Mungo Bewley came to Mountmellick. In 1780, Mungo II, grandson of the first Mungo, established a linen factory which employed over 150 local people. He was also one of the founders of the Quaker School in Mountmellick. His eldest son, Samuel set up a silk business in Dublin, and in 1834, his second son Charles established a tea importation business. Charles’s business over time developed in Bewleys’ Oriental Cafés which for generations have held a special place in the heart of Dubliners and are still in operation today.

  • Davros

    Bewley’s Oriental Cafe, Westmoreland Street

    Paul Durcan

    When she asked me to keep an eye on her things
    I told her I’d be glad to keep an eye on her things.
    While she breakdanced off to the ladies’ loo
    I concentrated on keeping an eye on her things.
    What are you doing?–a Security Guard growled,
    his moustache gnawing at the beak of his peaked cap.
    When I told him that a young woman whom I did not know
    Had asked me to keep an eye on her things, he barked:
    Instead of keeping an eye on the things
    Of a young woman whom you do not know,
    Keep an eye on your own things.
    I put my two hands on his hips and squeezed him:
    Look–for me the equivalent of the Easter Rising
    Is to be accosted by a woman whom I do not know
    And asked by her to keep an eye on her things;
    On her medieval backpack and on her spaceage Walkman;
    Calm down and cast aside your peaked cap
    And take down your trousers and take off your shoes
    And I will keep an eye on your things also.
    Do we not cherish all the children of the nation equally?
    That woman does not know the joy she has given me
    By asking me if I would keep an eye on her things;
    I feel as if I am on a Dart to Bray,
    Keeping an eye on her things;
    More radical than being on the pig’s back,
    Keeping an eye on nothing.
    The security Guard made a heap on the floor
    Of his pants and shoes,
    Sailing his peaked cap across the cafe like a frisbee.
    His moustache sipped at a glass of milk.
    It is as chivalrous as it is transcendental
    To be sitting in Bewley’s Oriental Cafe
    With a naked Security Guard,
    Keeping an eye on his things
    And on old ladies
    With thousands of loaves of brown bread under their palaeolithic oxters.

  • Nathan

    Yep Davros, while PIRA were bombing Belfast Victor was talking about peace with terror bosses over tea and buns. According to his memoirs anyway.

    Memoirs aside, he was quoted as saying: “I always had an open mind during my meetings with terrorists.

    “I’d never met people like that before who held those kind of views.

    “You imagine terrorists must be desperate people to do the kinds of things they do.

    “They are very reasonable. They are people of very strong conviction and dedication and they have goals in life that they were brought up to believe in.”

  • Davros

    Nathan, Quakers have tried to be non-judgemental which is why they have been highly regarded by both Loyalists and Republicans eg for their work at the Maze.

    They have thrown up the odd dodgy – Bulmer Hobson and Charles Bewley in Ireland and Tricky Dicky in the USA, but overall they have been a force for good.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ” were replaced by surley foreign staff who’s first language clearly wasn’t English.”

    Ruth Patterson or the Sth Belfast Brigadier couldn’t have put it better.

  • Nathan


    Indeed, and thats why Quakers are generally well known for their good humanitarian record.

    Unlike Bewley, who received an honorary degree from TCD in recognition of his altruistic work across Ireland, not many get recognised.

    Wasn’t it an English Quaker, Will Warren I think who befriended Martin McGuinness. Warren invited his friend Bewley up to Derry to stay and that connection meant that Bewley shared meetings with McGuinness in the early 1980s.

    Two decent Quakers who had a great concern to make some kind of contribution to peace and reconciliation.

  • ulsterman

    Will Bewleys in Belfast follow?.

    God Save The Queen.

  • Fraggle

    Nah Ulsterman, I think Bewley’s in Belfast is safe due to the dirt cheap property rents, low wage culture and the shoddy quality of the alternatives (Clements aside). Then again, Starbucks (incredibly popular but incredibly low quality) has started the invasion, maybe it (Bewley’s in Belfast) will go too.

  • Alan

    As long as Cafe Renoir hangs on in there, I’ll be happy.

    They have the best scones – their only rival is the Bay Tree in Hollywood, they seem to make cinnamon scones for the Cafe in the old Regent House Building in Newtonards, and a wee place in Greyabbey. Unfortunately, the other places are a bit of a trudge from Belfast city centre.

  • Twenty Major

    Bewley’s has been awful for years. Why anybody is crying about it is beyond me.

    And Keith M has a point before all the PC brigade go mad. Sure the bosses have to take some responsibility but I can’t be the only one who finds it maddening having to repeat and repeat and repeat again in a restaurant or bar because the waiter/waitress can’t speak English.

  • Fraggle

    The Leprehaun in Derry is another recent casualty. It closed after the recent floods but was going to close anyway. The owner had gambling debts and had to give the place to the bookies. they are now going to use the place as a bookies, as if there isn’t enough already in derry. I’ll miss the place due to the quality of the baking. the coffee, however, was atrocious. The last time I went in, I didn’t see the near ubiquitous espresso machine so I just asked for a coffee.

    white or black? – asked the helpful waitress.
    black please – I said
    would you like milk in that? – said the waitress

    I shit you not.

  • Michael Turley

    “but I can’t be the only one who finds it maddening having to repeat and repeat and repeat again in a restaurant or bar”

    The only time I have experienced this was in Burger King after watching an international rugby match and in the middle of a major bender. I don’t think the poor girl will have improved her English from our brief but difficult chat.

    The surliest staff I’ve dealt with recently are the Irish staff in Tescos on Baggot Street.