London’s leading figures have graced Café Royal for 150 years
Now a Grade I listed building, Café Royal was founded by a Daniel Nicols – née Nicholas Thévenon – in 1865. The former wine merchant had come to Britain fleeing creditors with not a centime to his name. Fortunately, according to Keith Waterhouse’s definitive book about Café Royal, 90 Years of Bohemia (first published in 1956) Thévenon’s wife Célestine had squirrelled away some funds for such an occasion. The couple used these to open Café Royal on Regent Street; at the time a somewhat notorious strip of theatres and gin palaces.
Under their charismatic stewardship, Café Royal became the first gourmet French restaurant in Britain and boasted the most acclaimed wine list in the world.
With elegant Mayfair to the west and creative Soho to the east, the world-famous venue has played a pivotal role in the capital’s rich cultural history; a focal point for the radical innovation that springs from great minds meeting.
A HAVEN FOR CREATIVES AND FREE THINKERS
Café Royal’s famous regulars have included authors HG Wells, Walter Sickert and DH Lawrence, artists Aubrey Beardsley and Wyndham Lewis, and demagogue Aleister Crowley. It was the focal point of the legendary clash between Oscar Wilde, perhaps the Café Royal’s most vocal supporter, and the ninth Marquess of Queensbury, who drew up the modern rules of boxing here. ‘White Collar Versus Blue Collar’ boxing matches were held alongside sumptuous dinners, in the days when only the upper class were legally permitted to take part in amateur sports.
During the Jazz Age, a younger Winston Churchill, playwright Noel Coward, author Virginia Woolf and musician Louis Armstrong were among the faces seen. In the Sixties, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, plus the indomitable Brigitte Bardot, laid a blueprint for modern glamour at Café Royal.
Unforgettable visits from iconic stars
In the latter 20th century Café Royal was a haunt of Princess Diana, Andy Warhol and Muhammad Ali. David Bowie famously laid his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust to rest at a dinner titled 'The Last Supper' attended by Mick Jagger and Lou Reed amongst other rock royalty. As they did throughout, the Beau Monde flocked to party beside such charismatic and wildly entertaining figures.
What unifies all these individuals isn’t merely their iconic status, but also their trailblazing nature: an attitude which seems to have intensified once they found themselves within the walls of Café Royal.
The Club at Café Royal is the latest landmark in its enduring tradition. Once again the Regent Street venue is a crucible for writers, artists, poets, musicians, free thinkers, fashionistas, business leaders, entrepreneurs, aristocracy and athletes carving out their place in time.