Caffe Nero: The Best Espresso This Side of Milan
I first made my way into Galway with two bursting-at-the-seams brushed pink suitcases, a couple of leather jackets and one battered smartphone that had given up on beeping any time I received a mildly important email. I was fresh off the bus and already thrilled at the prospect of leaving New Delhi and all its accoutrements behind.
I checked into the Victoria Hotel on Merchant's Road and promptly donned my most stylish boots, asked the cheerful receptionist where I might find the best coffee and then my first Guinness pint, in that order. I was told that I could find both cafe and bar sitting snugly side by side right next to Eyre Square and it was there I directed my excited footsteps and found myself pushing open the door to the cutest little coffeehouse bathed in a royal blue colour and calling itself 'Caffe Nero'.
The interiors are composed of a jumble of aged wood floors, pretty exposed bulb lighting, a slim bookshelf containing covers such as the Twilight series and the requisite Fifty Shades of Grey copies which later became prime icebreakers during the many first dates I ended up having here over the next few months. Also in attendance were faux Chippendale chairs grouped around circular (and sometimes knobbly) tables. With typical gushing impulsiveness, I told myself I had found my favourite cafe in Galway and that I would probably come back here again and again until I moved away or died. Whichever came first.
The baristas were all friendly ladies who wore chic black t-shirts emblazoned with the legend 'The Best Espresso This Side of Milan'. It's hard to fault them for it because they genuinely served good coffee relative to the other cafes in town who only pretended to serve badly roasted swill. But I digress into caffeine snobbery.
Over the many rainy afternoons I ducked into this cafe for warmth and shelter, I found myself ordering their Mocha most often. Rich, chock full of the chocolate powder Caffe Nero is not at all stingy with, it's a nice drink to warm yourself up with before you start the next chapter of that book you've been trying to read forever. For when you feel like you've had enough of your annoying neighbour who refuses to turn down the music at 3 AM and you turn up bleary-eyed in town, I recommend biting into their happily pink Raspberry Croissant, which contains within its flaky folds a mass of molten raspberry jam that'll brighten up even the most frigid of frowns.
For the times when Galway tries to fool you with an unseasonably warm morning and you recklessly start thinking that it might just NOT rain that day, I suggest plonking down a few euros on their Iced Latte which tastes of spring and humid afternoons but sadly, not a splash of anything resembling coffee.
If you've just roused yourself from a day spent under the covers trying to ward off anxiety and that creepy co-worker who won't stop rubbing your knee inappropriately, you'd be well served by circling your hands around their potently calming Chamomile Tea. Sinking into its fragrant depths, you will hopefully gain a modicum of calm and mentally tell that asshole to fuck off and you'll be all the better for it. I promise.
If you find yourself being talked up by that cute guy in the corner who asks you what you've been shopping for by way of an introduction, I recommend ordering a mug of their deliciously thick Belgian Hot Chocolate for several very good reasons: it's a lot to drink, so it'll take you at least an hour to drink your way through it thereby prolonging chatting time; it's so tasty that you'll be tempted to ask him to share it with you while you discuss the shitty politics in India or the crazy upside-down condition of the global publishing industry. And when that cute guy suddenly disappears without a word, you can come back and sip on their Flat White to ward off the blues and finally concentrate on that assignment you have to hand in next Wednesday.
Their Cortado might help you get up the nerve to ask the girl sitting next to you about the cool AF skateboarding stickers on her laptop and make a new friend who turns out to be a brilliant economist from Albania and who is the most badass person you've ever met. She might then ask you for help with her essay or ask around for a new apartment for you and randomly take you out for a pint (or three, but who's counting).
In between carrying my coffee up the stairs to sit next to the gorgeous window seat and paying for my beverages using their cool app, I have had dates, impromptu discussions on the weather, smiled at curly-haired guys, made new friends, drowned my sorrows, had long-winded phone conversations with old friends and waited for the rain to die down. It's good to have a favourite cafe. In fact, I insist on having one in every city I go to.
Caffe Nero gets my vote for never shoving me off its comfy armchairs several hours after I've ordered one measly small coffee and being my port in a storm (literally, since this is Galway, after all).