The swift decent from Coventry Street into the bowels of Café de Paris enveloped my eyes in sudden darkness. I was ordered to follow a sultry specter, dimly discernable by flickering candlelight dancing on her hooded gown. She lead me further down into the belly of the club as my straining eyes slowly became accustomed to the lurid surroundings. Long shadows fraternized with Grecian columns while loose drapes hung languidly over the balcony in a perennial state of carefree repose. As I took my seat I gazed up into fiery eyes framed within an ornate Venetian mask and without a word my specter shrunk back into the shadows.
I was initially arrested by the sudden shift in tone from the frenetic street to the seemingly secretive club but after a short while it became apparent why it wasn’t necessary for me to utter “Fidelio” at the door. The mysteriously masked attendants tried to support Café de Paris’ aesthetic conceit but their lacey garments, which occasionally escaped the confines of their black gowns, like mischievous miscreants peeping from behind curtains, were ruthlessly undermined by glitter. The silver dust was cast flagrantly about the venue leaving its mark on everything from the menu to the urinal cakes. Nothing dispels an initial misconception faster than pissing on a urinal cake clad in a louche coat of dazzling glitter. Well, the enormous toilet attendant whose rich baritone voice serenaded me whilst I relieved myself comes in at a photo finish second.
I returned to my seat in a state of confuzzlement, not knowing what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect the complementary bottle of Prosecco. The lights dimmed as the bottle emptied and in a sufficiently loose and susceptible state I reclined into the show.
The imaginatively named Miss Frisky performed the role of host with relish. Her intensely tight corset accentuated her already voluptuous frame and her blazing red wig was reminiscent of a particularly volatile lighthouse. She was the beacon that gave a amusingly haphazard show some semblance of direction. Her booming voice befitted her bulging frame and she utilized both as she molded a crowd made malleable by a plethora of booze. The stylized emotion that characterized her singing voice made her lack of tuning redundant. When she buoyantly bounced banter with her audience the speed of her reposts made up for the wit they clearly lacked. She was in everyway the perfect host for the show. A show that included a gymnast whose back was as precisely chiseled as an ancient stone irrigation system as well as a heavily tattooed woman who dabbled with danger in her attempts to extinguish a novelty-sized match.
Café de Paris was a whirlwind romp that indulged in nostalgia as it recalled the glory days of early 20th Century Soho. It’s a perfect location for a raucous hen party, an office outing or a boozy birthday. Its classy conceit offers a beguiling façade that ultimately crumbles under the weight of the show’s actually-not-terribly-pretentious old fashioned fun. Hit it up.