Café de Paris (London)

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Café de Paris
Café de Paris - London - 08.JPG
The club's entrance in September 2013
Address3–4 Coventry Street
Coordinates51°30′37″N 0°07′56″W / 51.51039°N 0.13215°W / 51.51039; -0.13215
Opened1924 (1924)

The Café de Paris is a London nightclub, located in the West End, beside Leicester Square on Coventry Street, Piccadilly.


Café de Paris first opened in 1924 and subsequently featured such performers as Dorothy Dandridge, Marlene Dietrich, Harry Gold, Harry Roy, Ken Snakehips Johnson and Maxine Cooper Gomberg.[1] Louise Brooks made history when she worked there in December 1924, introducing the Charleston to London.

Much of the early success of the Café de Paris was due to the visit of the then Prince of Wales who became a regular guest, often dining with notables from high society across Europe.[2] Cole Porter was a regular, as was the Aga Khan.[3]

During World War II, on 8 March 1941, the café was bombed soon after the start of a performance[4] and at least 34 people were killed[5] and around 80 injured.[6] Two bombs fell into the basement ballroom down a ventilation shaft and exploded in front of the stage.[5] The victims included 26-year-old bandleader Ken "Snakehips" Johnson,[7] his saxophonist Dave "Baba" Williams,[8] other band members, staff and diners.[5] One survivor was cheered by the crowd outside, when, on being carried out on a stretcher, he shouted to them "At least I didn't have to pay for dinner".[5]

The venue did not reopen until 1948[2] but re-established itself as one of the leading theatre clubs in London, playing host to Judy Garland, Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, James Mason, David O. Selznick, Jennifer Jones, Tony Hancock and Grace Kelly. In the 1950s Noël Coward often performed cabaret seasons at the Café de Paris[2] as did Marlene Dietrich. It was also used in the 2006 music video for I Think We're Alone Now by Girls Aloud.

In the 1980s the venue experienced a revived popularity, hosting scene locations for films including Absolute Beginners and The Krays.[3] Today the venue is used regularly for film location, and has been used for scenes in The Queen's Sister (based on the life of Princess Margaret) and in The Edge of Love (based on the life of Dylan Thomas).[3]

Brian Stein and his Maxwell's Restaurants Group purchased the venue in 2002.[9]

The Café de Paris, which hosts regular cabaret shows on Friday and Saturday nights, has a dress code for its club and dining room, which states:[10]

More smart than casual. No trainers or sportswear. Smart jeans are fine. No fancy dress or any other paraphernalia for hen parties. Vintage/Burlesque/cabaret attire is encouraged.

In fiction[edit]

The 1941 bombing of the Café de Paris is described in a chapter of The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh. The bombing and its aftermath have a considerable bearing on the investigation carried out by Lord Peter Wimsey in that book.

The café, and the 1941 bombing, are major plot devices in the 2011 novel Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch.

Disguised as the Café Madrid, this event is also featured in a scene in The Soldier's Art, Anthony Powell's eighth novel in his A Dance to the Music of Time series, on which several of the characters in the series are killed when "a bomb hit the Madrid full pitch."[11]

The Café de Paris and its 1941 bombing are discussed in the episode "Safest Spot in Town" in the BBC 4's Queers, a series of monologues in response to the fiftieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 and are mentioned in the novel Transcription by Kate Atkinson.

The bombing of Café de Paris is mentioned in a chapter of Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce (2018). It plays a pivotal part in the storyline.

The bombing of the Café de Paris is a main plot point in Matthew Bourne's production of Cinderella which is set during WW2 in London. It is the location of the main ball/party at the heart of the fairy tale. Act 2 begins with the cafe having just been bombed, destroyed and full of dead bodies. Then an Angel (the fairy Godmother equivalent) reverses time and brings the cafe fully to life.[12]


  1. ^ "Maxine Cooper". The Daily Telegraph. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Cafe de Paris Shady Old Lady's Guide To London. Retrieved 6 February 2011
  3. ^ a b c Brown, Jonathan (13 March 2008). "Film-makers resurrect love affair with the Cafe de Paris". The Independent. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  4. ^ Janes, Andrew (8 March 2013). "The bombing of the Café de Paris, Records and research". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Rennell, Tony (9 April 2010). "The blitz 70 years on: Carnage at the Café de Paris". Daily Mail. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  6. ^ Bergman, Camilla (18 August 2010). "Ken "Snakehips" Johnson". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  7. ^ CWGC Casualty Record.
  8. ^ Thomas, Ian (18 August 2015). "Black History Month – Black British Swing: Caribbean Contribution to British Jazz in the 1930s and 1940s". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  9. ^ Sherwood, James (15 March 2016). James Sherwood's Discriminating Guide to London. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 9780500773130.
  10. ^ "Café De Paris". Café De Paris. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  11. ^ White, Jerry (2008). London in the Twentieth Century: A City and its People. London: Vintage. ISBN 978-1-84595-126-9.
  12. ^

External links[edit]