Café Nicola is a symbol of the history of Lisbon. It’s a Café full of history, tradition, and culture. It was, and still is one of the preferable meeting places of Lisbon’s intellectual elite, like the poet Bocage, who was a habitué and now has a statue as a reminder.
In existence since 1929, with an art deco façade from 1935, the Café also serves meals, with two specialties: “Bife à Nicola” and “bacalhau à Lisbonense”.
In the eighteenth century in Rossio, an Italian by the name of Nicola opened one of the first cafés in Lisbon which he called “Botequim do Nicola (Nicola’s Tavern)”. It was thus born in the Pombaline downtown and became famous during the reign of D. Maria I.
It passed through several owners and activities until, in 1928, Joaquim Fonseca Albuquerque transferred the then famous house to himself. The Café Nicola was born on 2 October 1929, a name adopted by the new owner.
From its exterior façade, designed by the architect Norte Júnior, to its silver tableware, no detail was forgotten. Inside, wooden carvings, wrought iron and many chandeliers made up its decor. A sculpture by Marcelino de Almeida invoking Bocage surprised everybody who ran in to the reborn café. The poet was also the main character on the canvases of the painter Fernando Santos which decorated the walls of the establishment. In 1935, the Café Nicola was refurbished, to give it a modern, geometrical Art Deco style, and provide its transition from the 1930s to the 1940s. The canvases were replaced by the current ones, representing the same scenes and belonging to the same painter.
Usually in the Cafés and, in “the Route of Portuguese Cafés with History”, the establishment will have earned its initial fame, it should be recalled, due to the fact that it was frequented by known writers, artists and politicians. Indeed, for the poet Bocage, it was like a second home. Who does not quickly think of the figure of the poet who became, for many, the turning point from the classical style to the romantic style. Importance of Bocage? Only his statue and the facade have remained unchanged.
The kitchen, of great importance at this Café which is nowadays a restaurant as well, is modest and hosts jazz or classical music concerts. And there is a specialty that goes beyond History… bacalhau!