If you follow the tourist guidebooks, most — if not all — point to Café Majestic as a place not to miss while in Porto. Whether or not you will agree depends upon a few things, including your demographic, architectural taste, and budget.
As you can see by the pictures, the clientele skews to the older set (of which I’m a card-carrying member these days; this is not a dig!), most patrons are tourists rather than locals, and it feels more like a retro French Bistro. None of these details is a negative in of itself, but if you’re looking for authentic Porto, this would be like sending you to a café in Paris that serves Portuguese coffee… Paris has plenty of Portuguese emigrants but it’s not Portugal. In Porto, you won’t find many locals frequenting Café Majestic.
From what I’ve heard the food at Majestic is good but I couldn’t help but notice that their francesinhas are €20, surely the most expensive in the city. Last week I visited with the Vancouver friends, and there they had their first taste of Pasteís de Belém, which to my recollection didn’t invoke the same flavour sensation as it did in Lisbon but maybe my recollection needs an update.
The prices at Majestic are reflected in the level of service, the ambiance, and the menu, and if you’ve been to the Guarany Café you may experience some déjà vu — they were both restored by the same owner and similar in age (almost 100 years). Either of these historic café’s are worthy indulgences, if you’re in the mood for high tea in Majestic-branded porcelain under chandeliers. The architecture is Belle Epoque and will take you back in time to a bygone era, before any world wars or the RMS Titanic. The ornate ceilings, the replica chairs and tables, the renovation’s attention to detail — it is all impressive. But if you’re just looking for a Portuguese coffee fix without the uniformed wait staff and Belgian mirrors, I recommend any of the quality establishments around the city of Porto. No TripAdvisor needed, you can find them with your eyes closed.
May 20, 2015
Album: Portugal [Spring 2015]