In 1863, a French wine merchant called Daniel Nicholas Thévenon and his wife Celestine arrived in England in a bid to escape the clutches of creditors in Paris. So began a story that grew out of bankruptcy and culminated in the creation of Café Royal, a London legend.
Daniel Nicholas Thévenon
Daniel Nicholas Thévenon anglicised his name to Daniel Nicols. Within a couple of years he had conceived and established the place on London’s Regent Street he called the Café Royal. Daniel and Celestine had a son-in-law and it was he who took the family business to new heights. By the end of the century the Café Royal was renowned as a truly remarkable and original establishment with what was considered at one point to have the greatest wine cellar in the world.
By the end of the 19th Century Café Royal had already established an original reputation for excellent hospitality, dining and entertainment. French gourmet cuisine was introduced to the British capital for the first time and Café Royal quickly became known as possessing the greatest wine cellar in the world.
The Greatest Wine Cellar in the World
Early in its history, Daniel Nicholas sent for his cousin, Eugène Delacoste, from Burgundy. Delacoste had a reputation as an expert in selecting the best appellations and combined his passion with his impeccable palate to handpick each bottle for Café Royal’s wine cellar. This carefully built cellar was, at one point, widely recognised to be the greatest in the world.
Throughout the ages, Café Royal was the epicentre of fashionable London. Welcoming famed patrons, from royalty and celebrity, to the creative and the notorious, it has been an established and iconic landmark on the capital’s social scene, for over a century.
In its reincarnation this iconic London landmark now features 160 contemporary guestrooms, including 49 suites and six signature suites. A selection of restaurants and bars continue to celebrate Café Royals culinary legacy. As part of the Crown Estate’s plans to redevelop the southern end of Regent Street the property was acquired by The Set and closed in 2008. For over four years the property was cocooned while the radical restoration and redevelopment took place under the direction of David Chipperfield Architects.
Conceived by John Nash in the early 1800’s, Regent Street has a unified design, unusual for London. Originally called New Street, the Georgian thoroughfare was dedicated to the Prince Regent, who later became George IV. When the Café Royal opened at its southern end in 1865, the now famous sweeping, colonnaded Nash terrace was still relatively novel and continues to be a signature feature in central London.
Paying homage to this history, Hotel Café Royal continues to offer an exceptional list featuring a selection of wines from both the old and new world, with particular focus on French regions.
WHERE GREAT MINDS CAME TO DISCUSS GREAT IDEAS
Frequented by writers and artists such as Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, the conversations, inspirations and discussions at ‘The Café’ were profound. Arthur Conan Doyle, H G Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling, W B Yeats, Walter Sickert and James McNeill Whistler were all patrons. Distinguished figures such as Winston Churchill, Augustus John, D H Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Noël Coward, Jacob Epstein and Graham Greene were also often seen.
ROCKSTARS AND ROYALTY
Royalty also took to the place, and the Prince of Wales, later to abdicate as Edward VIII in order to marry Mrs Simpson, and The Duke of York, later to become George VI, often took lunch at ‘The Café’, as latterly did Diana, Princess of Wales.
The magnetic appeal of ‘The Café continued into the mid-20th Century. The sexy charm of Brigitte Bardot, the romantic date of the bejewelled Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and unforgettable visits of music and sports celebrities such as Louis Armstrong and Muhammad Ali were all part of ‘The Café’ routine.
In 1973 David Bowie famously retired his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust with a star studded party, dubbed ‘The Last Supper’. Guests included the biggest rock stars of the time, such as Mick Jagger, Lou Reed and many others.
In 1951 Café Royal became the home of the National Sporting Club, holding black tie dinner before bouts often frequented by Muhammad Ali. The original National Sporting Club founders, the Earl of Lonsdale and the fifth Marquis of Queensberry also laid down their set of boxing rules, ‘The Queensberry Rules for Boxing’ here in 1867.
As the spiritual home of boxing and as a nod to this profound heritage, the Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre offers one-to-one boxing with Marianne ‘Golden Girl’ Marston – professional fighter, protégé of Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Akasha’s instructor.