Reviewing Kettner’s is always going to be hard for me. I have some really fond memories of this Soho institution. Right from lazy Sunday brunches at the Brasserie to Laurent-Perrier filled boozey evenings in the Champagne Bar next door, I love everything this versatile space has to offer.
I am pretty sure I am not the only one who looks back at Kettner’s with a sense of nostalgia considering it’s been here since 1867! Opened by Auguste Kettner who was chef to Napoleon III; this Grade II listed series of four Georgian town houses has seen it all. The starry clientele list at Kettner’s includes Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie, Bing Crosby and the list goes on. It is also rumoured that King Edward VII ordered a secret tunnel to be built between Kettner’s and the Palace Theatre so that he could meet his mistress Lillie Langtry at Kettner’s during the intermissions. If only these Victorian walls could talk!
Speaking of walls, Kettner’s has gone through quite a few refurbishments throughout the years. The most recent one saw it’s proprietors, Gondola Holdings (of PizzaExpress, Zizzi, ASK fame) swapping the shabby-chic pizzeria for a more sophisticated brasserie with a menu to match. This Soho institution in it’s latest reincarnation is a series of elegant rooms with light fresh walls, distressed mirrors, chic banquettes and low lighting. Walking through the pudding bar with it’s white piano surrounded by tall potted plants and soft glowing brass lamps, you instantly feel comfortable in this space. It’s glamorous, theatrical and classy with just the right amount of ‘shabby’ to make it work.
My latest expedition to Kettner’s occurred last Sunday when Seb and I booked a table for his family who were down in London for the weekend. It was absolutely packed (as usual) but the experienced team were on top form and made sure we were promptly seated and browsing through the menus – this kind of service only comes with experience and the Kettner’s team have been here long enough to know what they are doing.
The Sunday Brasserie menu is a great collection of hearty winter favorites like roasted pumpkin soup and salmon gravadlax along with a few curve ball options like confit of duck. They also have a good selection of steaks and burgers if you do fancy some pure protein. The Beef Carpaccio, Truffle Mayonnaise and Parmesan starter was a great start to the afternoon. You cannot go wrong with well seasoned beef with hints of truffle and Parmesan. My starter of Parma Ham, Ogen Melon and Mustard Fruits really surprised me. I was expecting some good quality Parma Ham with freshly cut melon and rocket which Kettner’s delivered on but the mustard fruits was what made this dish really special. It gave the Parma Ham a real kick without overpowering it.
We also tried the Baked Goat’s Cheese with Beetroot Marmalade and the Warm Four Cheese Tart with a Multi-Seed Salad. Both cheese based dishes were beautifully presented and made us want to just dig in. The beetroot marmalade perfectly complimented the baked goats cheese and added depths of flavour to an otherwise boring large piece of cheese. If you are vegetarian or just don’t fancy some meat, you have quite a few options on this menu to choose from. I have quite a few friends who don’t eat meat and we normally struggle finding a restaurant that actually does a decent vegetarian menu so Kettner’s is a great choice if this is the case.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was the Roasted Winter Vegetable, Cashew & Cheese Wellington with Wild Mushroom Cream. I have never tried a vegetarian Wellington before so I had no idea what to expect but it really was brilliant. The pastry was crisp and perfectly formed and the wild mushroom cream was spot on too. I definitely didn’t miss the meat with this vegetarian alternative.
We also tried the Pan Fried Fillet of Sea Bass served on a Chickpea Ragout which was slightly hit and miss for me. The sea bass was cooked to perfection but was let down by the chickpea ragout – too much chickpeas which didn’t really do much for the dish.
If you know me or are a regular reader of this blog, you know I need something sweet after a meal. I couldn’t resist the pudding menu at Kettner’s. Highlights included the Nutella Cheesecake and the selection of ‘homemade’ Sorbets. The cheesecake was absolutely brilliant – rich, creamy and oozing with Nutella goodness. If you like your chocolate desserts, I guarantee you are going to love the Nutella Cheesecake at Kettner’s. They also have a great selection of sorbets if you prefer something lighter and fresher.
So what did I think of Kettner’s? I absolutely loved it as usual. The food is befitting of this grand institution without being overbearing or pretentious. If you are looking for a brasserie that gets it’s dishes right every single time without any nasty surprises, then look no further; Kettner’s is your best bet. Service is charming and comes with a certain personality that only a few restaurants ever get right. Kettner’s is a Soho institution that’s woven into the cultural fabric of London and it’s great to see it going strong even today.