It’s debatable whether ghosts actually walk the rooms and hallways of Kettner's in Soho, but it’s undoubtedly a venue haunted by a colourful past. In the kitchen you’ll find the spirit of Auguste Kettner, chef to Napoleon III who originally opened the restaurant in 1867. In the bar there lies the spectre of Oscar Wilde smoking and drinking in the hedonistic manner of his own Dorian Grey. The upstairs function rooms are tinged with the glamour of movie star soirées, and the intimacy of secret suffragette meetings. And down in the cellars you may even discover the tunnels through which King Edward VII visited his mistress Lillie Langtry.
Yet where Kettner's has a risqué history and a past reputation for cavorting and gallivanting, the newly refurbished venue has a bright and more sophisticated future ahead. The cocktail and champagne bar offers a range of drinks in a classy yet relaxed atmosphere, with a happy hour 4.00 - 6.30pm Sunday – Thursday and booths available to book. The diverse function rooms upstairs can be hired out for a whole host of parties and entertainment, from business meetings, to birthdays and weddings. And the downstairs brasserie now offers a pre and post theatre menu, priced at a reasonable £21.50 for two courses or £24.40 for three.
Its location on Romilly Street in Soho is ideally situated in the heart of the West End, within walking distance of Shaftesbury Avenue and its various theatres, plus the Phoenix Theatre, the Cambridge Theatre and, closest of all, the Prince Edward Theatre (perfect for a night watching Miss Saigon). The building was originally four Georgian town houses, which now offer a spacious interior that retains many of its original architectural features alongside modern functionality. It’s the sort of venue that feels special but without being over the top, formal yet approachable, and with a price point to match.
The theatre menu changes frequently and, although limited, offers a variety of tasty classics. On the night of reviewing, starters were predominantly salad based, the mains were light, and the puddings provided a simple sweet treat to round off the meal. The avocado, prawn and mango salad was a refreshing start to dinner, with small yet meaty prawns and morsels of mango that burst in the mouth. For main, the pork chop was well-cooked, accompanied by a rich sage mash and onion jus. Lastly the crunchy raspberry macaroon came with a fluffy raspberry parfait, whilst the lemon posset was creamy and delicious. Needless to say it was all washed down with plenty of wine.
There’s more to Kettner’s than just its food, however. On Tuesday nights the bar is filled with revelry and sultry jazz (sadly on hiatus throughout the summer but returning in the autumn). Afternoon tea and burlesque events can be booked. And, as is becoming a regular event, on 17th July Kettners will be hosting another Lights Out evening, with multiple rooms of drinking, dancing and fun with a WWII theme. Not satisfied? Then the beautiful function rooms can be hired for any number of personal events.
Choosing somewhere for dinner around your night at the theatre can be daunting with so many options, but if you’re looking to make a night of it then Kettner's comes recommended. With dinner served both before and after the theatre there’s no need to rush, the champagne bar is warm and inviting at any time of day, the food is simple yet satisfying, and the surroundings are brimming with history and sordid tales. Just beware of those ghosts.
For more information on Kettner's, visit their website: www.kettners.com
A big thank you to Rebecca at Official Theatre for organising the meal, and to our hosts Hannah and Sarah.