Café Royal, London, 1895
The Café Royal, once one of London's most famous restaurants, first opened its doors in 1865. The owner, Daniel Nichols, was fleeing bankruptcy in France and had arrived in London two years earlier with his wife Célestine and her savings of just £5. Daniel suffered from diabetes and died in 1897. By the turn of the century this restaurant was the most famous in London. Célestine Nicols took over the management of the Café Royal after Daniel's death and ran it until her own death in 1916. This is one of the beautifully illustrated menus from that golden era. Embossed in gold, and with a rather smart poodle offering a basket of flowers as a gift, the menu is written in French which was the style at that time. Over the 143 years that the restaurant was open at 68 Regent Street in London's West End, its fans included Oscar Wilde, who one evening became so drunk on absinthe, he started to hallucinate. He wrote that he saw a waiter watering a field of tulips when in fact the waiter was stacking chairs in the bar. Aleister Crowley, Virginia Woolf, Winston Churchill, Noel Coward, future monarchs Edward VIII and George VI, George Bernard Shaw, Brigitte Bardot, Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Muhammad Ali, Margaret Thatcher and Diana, Princess of Wales all enjoyed the pleasures of the restaurant. In 1996, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay had his wedding there. The Café Royal closed its doors as a restaurant for the last time in December 2008. It has now re-opened as a luxury hotel - the Hotel Café Royal.