After 143 years, last orders at London's Café Royal

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The last of the tea and toast has been taken, the waiters, caterers and cloakroom attendants have all gone home, and a part of the capital city's social history has closed. The Café Royal, where Winston Churchill waited anxiously to know his political future, and Oscar Wilde began the quarrel that ruined him, has served its final cream tea.

The last private party was held in a cellar on Saturday night...

Exceptionally, the closure of the Café Royal is not a story of the recession. The Crown Estate, which owns the building, is embarking on a £500m redevelopment to open up the southern end of Regent Street and create 44,000 sq ft of new open space. After Trafalgar Square, it will be the biggest new open space in central London for 30 years.

The frontage of the Café Royal and the public rooms overlooking Regent Street are all Grade I listed, and will be preserved but the inside of the building will be converted into a hotel run by an Israeli company, Alrov. It is expected to be finished in time to take guests visiting London for the 2012 Olympics.

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