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Kettners

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published October 6th 2010
Kettners has pedigree, both from being quite old and well established - it opened in 1867 - and from being favoured by influential folks. Even if some of them, sadly, aren't around to drink or dine with the current Kettners crowd. It's in a good spot for the theatres – which could be why it was such a favourite of Oscar Wilde and , but it's less clear what Edward VII must have loved about it – probably Lily... But Kettners original pedigree must have come from its originator, Auguste Kettner, chef to Napoleon III.

It's easy to see why these historical party people liked it. There's a champagne bar and restaurant downstairs and upstairs there are rooms of all different sizes, where all sorts of entertaining could, and can, take place, from large soirées, to evening meals for many, to private tête a têtes. One of the largest rooms upstairs is like a private room from a gentleman's club called The Apartment: wood panelled walls, low, panelled ceiling, bright blue painted bar – it's sadly not always open and serving, but when it is it's one of the best spots in London to spend an evening.

The brasserie has a historic but relaxed feel to it – the marble topped tables are very French, but not at all stuffy. And the food could be described the same way: essentially French, but a sunny French that's been influenced by the flavours of the Mediterranean – there's no surprise foie gras in any of their dishes. Kettners also flaunts a Pudding Bar, something that not enough restaurants have: it's what it sounds like, a long bar covered in all manner of sweet creations in frosting, cream, sponge and pastry, which is open for light lunches, afternoon teas and late night sweet craving sessions. Another way to enjoy Kettners without any fuss.

If the intention is to cause a bit of a stir then you'll be wanting the Champagne Bar, just as Oscar Wilde would have. Kettners is one of the few places in London where I've been served champagne out of one of those coupe glasses that is supposed to be the same shape as one of Marie Antoinette's breasts. And it's likely she would have been content with the selection of champagne that they serve – there are around 120 on the list, which they say makes it one of the most extensive lists in London, and I'm inclined to believe them. The champagne bar has comfy nooks and crannies decked out opulently with heavy velvet drapes, glinting gilt mirrors and low lighting – definitely designed to impress a date.

The wine list isn't as extensive – where would they store it all! - but it would more than likely keep Marie and Oscar happy as well.

Summed up in only a few words Kettners is something really special. People dress for it, and while the champagne bar is pricey, your restaurant check will probably surprise you, and the ingenius Pudding Bar is practically reasonable.
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Why? Would Oscar Wilde go anywhere average?
When: It's quiet on a Saturday early evening when you're hiding from the shops, but gets going later when you can expect to see a few nice frocks as well
Where: 29 Romilly St. Soho, London W1D 5HP, nearest tube station Piccadilly Circus
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