Kettner’s, the Soho restaurant founded in 1867 by a man once thought to be a former chef of Napoleon III, has been reborn as an affordably glamorous hotel and restaurant courtesy of the Soho House group (the private members club which backs onto Kettner’s).
In its heyday, it’s said that Auguste Kettner’s establishment was the location of trysts between Edward VII and actress Lillie Langtry, who were able to rendezvous thanks to a network of tunnels between the restaurant and Palace Theatre across the road. Oscar Wilde became a regular. Later, so was Agatha Christie.
In restoring and enhancing the beautiful building’s many listed features, the upstairs “cabinets particulier” dining rooms, (apparently home to much naughtiness in the past), have been transformed into 33 rather spiffing bedrooms, which mix French-inspired touches with William Morris headboards, are heavy on pattern and texture yet retain their original Georgian fireplaces and wooden floorboards.
The room to book is the first floor 80sqm Grade II-listed Jacobean Suite, which not only boasts a spacious art nouveau-decorated living and dining area, but also a large freestanding copper bath and its own private entrance onto Greek street. (From GBP800 per night)
Meanwhile, downstairs, the creamy, delicate plasterwork, listed mouldings and original mirrors of the restaurant and two bars have been returned to their former glory – thankfully without losing Kettner’s slightly naughty past. Even the mosaic floor in the champagne bar was painstakingly restored.
Thus, has begun another chapter in the history of a Soho institution that first brought French cuisine to London. And, whilst no tunnels were discovered during the renovation, arranging a discreet tête-à-tête at today’s Kettner’s (especially in the Jacobean Suite) is infinitely much easier than it was 150 years ago.