Inside the cafe it is opulent and olde worlde. Originally opened in 1905, the cafe is highly decorated in Art Deco style and has been a favourite haunt of poets, writers and artists across the decades. Mirrors run along the walls and a huge oak bar runs right along one side. Look up to see the beautiful ceiling with it’s huge chandeliers. There are wooden booths where you can sit inside or alternatively pick one of the many (and very popular) tables outside with their huge orange umbrellas. The locals know better than to try to get a seat and will stand by the bar drinking their Bica instead. Bica was invented here and it is basically a small strong black coffee like espresso. I generally think of it as rocket fuel!
Many people visit here to be photographed with the bronze statue of Fernando Pessoa whose life-size image relaxes just outside the cafe. There is even a small chair incorporated into the sculpture where tourists can sit pretending to be deep in conversation with the great man – or high on absinthe – take your pick 😉
The cafe sells a variety of snacks such as sandwiches and does a fabulous pastel de nata amongst other sweet delights. I tended to favour a galão which is a tall milky coffee served in a glass.
The staff are snappily dressed and quick but with the exception of one waiter who was always very polite and smiled, some of the staff are rather curt to say the least. I noticed a sign was hung over the toilets every day I went there “closed for cleaning” but discovered this seemed to be there to stop people just using them without actually purchasing from the cafe. When I decided to pluck up courage and ask if I could use the toilets, they indicated no problem.
Despite the grouchy service, I rather like A Brasileira and find it an enjoyable spot to sit in the early mornings. The whole of the street is pedestrianised and it’s good to just sit and watch the world go by. Aside from the many obvious tourists, locals still come here too. I watched a Portuguese family encourage their little boy to pose with Pessoa, an elderly gentleman reading the paper and a hippy girl who had found possibly one of the cutest dogs I’ve ever seen and was trying to find the owner. As I watched her feed the pup a few mouthfuls of pastry, I figured that he might just have found himself a new home with her.
Due to its enormous popularity, the prices are noticably higher here – 5 euro’s for a coffee and pastel de nata (circa 2008), but I guess that is to be expected. Opened originally as the place to go for a real Brazilian coffee they have kept their reputation for excellent coffee. Looking at the array of bottles behind the bar, I’m imagining that night-time drinking isn’t bad either.
Whilst Brasileira is sometimes impossibly busy, if you can find the right moment it is an iconic place to visit when you are in Lisbon. Find a seat, order a bica and take out your pen and paper. Inspiration is sure to follow…