SWORDS were wielded and champagne popped as the owners of a North-East restaurant showed they have got what it takes to keep a 200-year-old tradition alive.

At a ceremony rich in pomp and history, Les and Kendra Fry, who own Voodoo Cafe, in Darlington, joined the order of Chevalier-Sabreurs – an elite group who have mastered the art of slicing the top of a champagne bottle with a sword.

The tradition dates back 200 years to when cavalry officers in the French army would slice the tops off champagne bottles with a sabre, rather than remove the wire basket and ease the cork out.

The ceremony was performed by Maitre Sabreurs, Jonathan and Nikki Curran, and means customers at the award-winning bar and restaurant can now enjoy the spectacle for themselves.

Mr Curran said: “There is more pressure in a bottle of champagne than there is in a lorry tyre. This means the top of the bottle comes off very cleanly.

"It is also a great way to impress your girlfriend, wife - whoever you want.”

Voodoo Cafe is hoping to open its new champagne bar later this year, and is the only bar in Darlington registered to perform the historic display.

Mr Fry said: “We have always wanted to do it, and found it is surprisingly easy.”