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Café Majestic
— since 1923 —

On 17 December 1921, having recently arrived from the first aerial crossing between Lisbon and Funchal, and shortly before departing to what would be the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic, aviator Gago Coutinho was present in the inauguration of the number 112 of Santa Catarina street in Oporto. In a former handcraft store now stood the impressive Café Elite. Suggesting the Parisian chic, so fashionable then, in 1923 the prestigious coffee shop would change its name to Majestic.

Impressed by its architectonic splendour and Art Nouveau decoration —signed by architect João Queiroz and inspired in the work of his master, Marques Silva — Gago Coutinho would visit Majestic countless times, frequently in the company of the famous actress Beatriz Costa. Amongst the illustrious regulars of Majestic are names such as José Régio, Teixeira de Pascoaes, Leonardo Coimbra, Júlio Resende and Manuel de Oliveira —who was present in both the first and the second inauguration of the coffee shop, that took place on 15 July 1994. The place was also visited by international dignitaries such as Romy Schneider, Jacques Chirac, Juscelino Kubitschek and, more recently, J. K. Rowling — who presumably wrote here the preliminary notes for her first literary success: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

In 1927, also under the ownership of Sociedade Majestic Café, Pavillion Majestic was inaugurated. A movable beerhouse, it was located in front of Rua do Castro, where later stood Bar do Molhe and where nowadays stands Pizza Hut.

Although, by intervention of a group headed by the son of architect João Queiroz, Majestic was declared a Public Interest Building on 24 January 1983, this safe harbour for social gatherings, artists and intellectuals had suffered, since the beginning of the 60s, the consequences of a decline in the Portuguese cultural life. This had led to multiple firings and to the selling of the coffee shop’s assets, so Majestic found itself stripped of its original beauty and refinement. Happily, this wouldn’t be the last chapter in the story of the prestigious coffee shop. In 1983, Agostinho Barrias risks the acquisition of Majestic, which takes us to the next chapter of this story.

THE RECONSTRUCTION OF MAJESTIC CAFÉ

Committed to restoring the original splendour to the most charismatic coffee shop in Oporto, the Barrias family took old photos that where found by chance by Fernando Barrias at Foto Beleza, in order to remake, down to the slightest detail, the space’s original furniture, lamps and pillars. Having met, by coincidence, the son of the craftsman who, in 1937, accompanied his father to refurbish Majestic’s sofas, the Barrias ordered him the same service. One day, when visiting the artisan’s workshop, they found the sofas submerged in the river. Astonished, they soon found out that this was the technique used to detox the wood from the damages caused by exposure to smoke and other agents.

Despite not getting any help whatsoever from the State or the City Hall, the Barrias family closed Majestic for rehabilitation works in 1992 and the works were shouldered by the family’s own financial assets. The coffee shop finally reopened on 15 July 1994. Signed and submitted to IPPAR by architect Teresa Mendes Pacheco, and having waited 3 years in the City Hall for approval, the project allowed for the rehabilitation works, finally restoring Majestic’s former glory and magnificence.

Having received numerous international prizes and recognitions, Majestic was declared the sixth most beautiful coffee shop in the world by the website cityguides. Attended by both residents and visitors from all over the world, it is currently one of the most distinctive and representative places in Oporto’s cultural history. The movie director Manuel de Oliveira wrote about Majestic, during a visit to the coffee shop on 2 April 1998: “Every time I come to Majestic, I passionately remember the first inauguration with architect Queiroz and the second inauguration right after its fortunate rehabilitation. Having a simple coffee here is remembering plenty of stories from times gone by.”

The continuation of this in Guarany Coffee →  
Majestic Café

 

2018-06-13T13:57:17+00:00