I was in London for an event and enjoyed the city.
We checked in @ the nice 5star Hotel Royal, better the historic Hotel Café Royal in London.
This has to be one of the strangest hotels in which I have ever stayed. It was once the the home of high Bohemia. In the Café Royal’s Grill Room Oscar Wilde fell in love with Bosie, and where Beerbohm, Whistler, Coward and a parade of brightly burning characters ate, drank and talked hot air, right up until the Seventies, when its glamour finally faded. Now it has reappeared as part of a 160 bedroom Israeli owned hotel, sister to the Conservatorium in Amsterdam and Lutétia in Paris. Designed by David Chipperfield Architects, the Café Royal is once again a place to see and be seen.
Nowadays it’s a little-frequented Champagne and cocktail bar (with light dishes too), invaded by an a bit motionless sea of modern red leather chairs.
But there are highlights. The Café Royal’s new Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Retreat is set to be one of London’s most calming underground hideaways, specializing in (aquatic massage) treatments. And its six Historic Suites, just unveiled, are surely the capital’s most intriguing. I road tested the Empire Suite, fashioned from a huge, gilded and pillared fourth floor room. It was certainly hard to get cosy, but its finish, fittings and luxurious attention to detail were impressive. The Historic Suites, rich in period features, have personality and presence and brought us back to the hotel story.
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 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.
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 and champagner from both the old and new world, with particular focus on French regions.
Frequented by writers, actors 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 and Graham Greene were also often seen.
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.
My tip 4 London: Sushi Samba / Hero Tower:
Located on the 38th and 39th floors of the Heron Tower, SUSHISAMBA delivers a unique blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, culture, music and striking design to the City of London. The location features the highest outdoor dining terraces in Europe, offering unparalleled, 360 degree views of the City. Two panoramic glass elevators whisk patrons from the ground to the 39th floor, opening up London from inside-out as the lifts climb further and further upwards. SUSHISAMBA’s main dining room – with its dramatic ceilings – overlooks views of London with floor-to-ceiling glass on three sides. A grid of lights hung through the open bamboo ceiling at varying heights creates a magical experience during daytime and evening, creating an intimate dining experience. The indoor-outdoor elements featured throughout the space, most notably, the designed structural orange tree on the west terrace. The tree sculpture reinforces the earth-to-sky motif while being an artwork in itself, reminiscent of great 20th century art and creates a dialogue with the street art found throughout the space.
London, EC2N 4AY
London is always fun.
Check in, its worth it.