Hotel Café Royal is a historical landmark in London. Renovated in 2008 from the widely regarded Café Royal – the restaurant was frequented by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Brigette Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor. Now one of the most prestigious and celebrated hotels in London, it is situated on Shaftesbury Avenue, and is now a hotel of grand, impressive proportions, yet still with a hint of its former self.
We went along on a Friday night, to sample the delights of the newly renovated ‘Oscar Wilde Bar’ and to enjoy their weekly Cabaret – ‘Salon des Artistes’. Restored recently to its former glory, we were awe struck upon first walking in. The interior is ornate, with gilded walls, large mirrors, and intricately painted ceilings; it seems just the place that Oscar Wilde would have socialised with George Bernard Shaw and other contemporaries over some iced champagne. After closing our jaws, we proceeded to relax and order some cocktails. The Friday night menu is short and sweet, and although limited choices, it is more than you typically see in most London hotel bars. We started off with a Pink Panther, a refreshing and tropical mix of lychee, guava and coconut juice, with white rum, and an Easy Grass – a slightly sharp with a little sweetness mix of Dictador Colombian gin and lemon grass syrup.
Onto the food, we ordered the meat option, unsure of what to expect. What came was a slightly surprising mix of dishes, presented in a tiered cake stand like an Afternoon tea, similar to the one pictured above. But there were no scones or sandwiches in sight. We decided to work our way down, starting with the top dish, a generous plate of charcuterie, with a selection of salty parma ham and breasola. The meat was high quality and very enjoyable. Moving down our tiered stand, we tried a dish of fried chorizo balls and mozzarella. The chorizo balls were delicious, meaty, salty and oily, but the mozzarella seemed a little out of place, and its delicate taste was slightly overpowered by the chorizo. At the bottom was a chicken and potato tagine. The chicken was a little dry, and the flavours a strange following to the other courses. On a more positive note, other accompanying dishes were a cheese plate and fresh olive bread. Now, the bread was definitely the culinary highlight, a warm crusty loaf that was perfectly doughy. They make this fresh on site every day, and you can really tell.
You might be thinking that our night started off a little shakily, but to be honest, the beautiful setting really kept us captivated, and a very talented pianist in drag played some of our favourite jazz classics making sure we were well entertained.
As we tucked into our cheese platter, with some delicious truffled brie, the lights began to dim and to our surprise, a man in a green sequined cat suit strutted out, with black eyelashes like butterflies, and began singing ironic witticisms about the weather, the war and love. Accompanied by a low voiced lady with a Marge Simpson hair do, the duo known as Bourgeois Maurice entertained us, kept us laughing and provided enough sparkle to fill our, now empty, champagne glasses. Oscar would’ve been proud.
Over the course of the evening we were entertained by Lady Carole, an Irish all singing and ukulele playing woman dressed like a Game of Thrones character, a suited man dancing to putting on The Ritz, who could throw his hat in any direction and have it land perfectly on his head, a stripping piano player with sequinned nipple tassles, and more hilarities from Bourgeois Maurice. We tapped and hummed along, losing ourselves in the bizarre yet magical Salon des Artistes at the Oscar Wilde Bar.
Overall, we were impressed, and had a memorable and enjoyable night. It’s a rare gem in London, where you can enjoy a risqué cabaret in one of London’s most historical sites. We would go for the room itself, it’s breathtaking and transports you back to the turn of the century, when Churchill would have sat debating his political moves, and Oscar Wilde was accused of sodomy… If you fancy an evening that’s a little different, we would recommend you head here on a Friday to enjoy the wonders of the intimate setting and the Salons des Artistes. Tickets for the show only (no food) are £30, which is definitely worth it. We wouldn’t stay past the Cabaret, as their changing roster of house DJs attracts a rather middle aged audience, although it will make for some funny impressions to relay to your friends.
We The Food Snobs x