LONDON — Tucked away in a quiet corner in Soho, Kettner’s has long been a much-loved London haunt, with a VIP list that reads like a 20th-century Who’s Who: Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Oscar Wilde, Bing Crosby and Margaret Thatcher.
Opened in 1867 by August Kettner, said to have been the chef to Napoleon III, it’s just been revamped by Nick Jones, founder and chief executive officer of Soho House, who bought it last year. Renamed Kettner’s Townhouse, the space now boasts 33 bedrooms, as well as a restaurant and Champagne bar.
It’s the second open-to-the public hotel and restaurant by Soho House Group, after Dean Street Townhouse, and Jones said he wanted to ensure it felt both accessible and glamorous.
“It’s for everyone,” he said. “I didn’t want it to feel inaccessibly fancy, so it’s relaxed, but with a bit of old Soho glamour. I’ve been looking at the history of Kettner’s since we bought it, and it’s so much fun bringing it back and putting something August Kettner hopefully would be proud of in there.”
A lot of the restaurant’s original features, including the 18th-century spiral staircase leading to the upstairs private bedrooms, the Champagne bar’s mosaic tiled floor and original Georgian fireplaces, have been preserved in a bid to bring Kettner’s back to its former glory.
The menu has also been updated — thankfully — with lighter, locally sourced ingredients. “The original menus were quite creamy and fatty, so we have made a menu for now that winks at the past,” said Jones, pointing to the Kettner’s omelette and terrines as highlights.
Other dishes include roast cod served with wild mushrooms, Toulouse sausage served with white kale and Lake District farmers fillet of beef.
Linda Boronkay, Soho House Group’s design director, said every choice was informed by the building’s history.
“In the restaurant, we wanted to create an Anglo-French feel, looking at the history of the building — Kettner’s was thought to be one of the first French restaurants in London — and tying in its Soho roots,” Boronkay said. “Downstairs, there are three distinct areas — the dining room, Piano Bar and the Champagne Bar, which all have their own character.”
The bedrooms are inspired by French boudoirs, with antique sinks and vanities, green velvet furniture and printed wallpaper that references “Kettner’s reputation for naughtiness,” according to Boronkay. It’s said that King Edward VII was able to court his mistress, the actress Lillie Langtry, thanks to a tunnel that ran from the restaurant to the Palace Theatre nearby, where she performed.
In that spirit, the restaurant’s first-floor private dining room has been transformed into a suite with its own entrance on Green Street.
While the old crowd may have been a louche one, the new Kettner set is looking more wholesome. Before the official opening last month, the British Fashion Council took over the ground floor to host a farewell party for its outgoing chairman Natalie Massenet.
Guests included Daniel Kearns, Rejina Pyo, Osman Yousefzada, Anya Hindmarch and Erdem Moralioglu, who all wore paper masks of Massenet’s face when they arrived, and put them on before the guest of honor entered to the tunes of a mariachi band.
The new Kettner’s is also the latest reveal in Jones’ hospitality portfolio, and could make a rumored IPO more attractive. So far this year, Jones has opened Kettner’s and is set to reopen the original Soho House on Greek Street, as well as new locations in West London, Brooklyn, Amsterdam and Barcelona. The Soho House outpost at 76 Dean Street will also remain open.
According to a Sky News report, Jones has been mulling a listing on the New York stock exchange which could value the group at 1.4 billion pounds. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have been hired to oversee the initial public offering and an official announcement is expected around the middle of this year.