What is Kettner’s Townhouse’s USP?
Kettner’s first opened on Romilly Street, in Piccadilly, in 1867. It was one of London’s first French brasseries, and has survived a lot of history over the years, staying open during both world wars and welcoming the likes of Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie. In its latest incarnation the design-focused Soho House Group has bought and spruced up this Georgian building, playing on its 1920s heyday in opening an all-day French brasserie, Champagne bar and 33 glamorous hotel rooms.
And the general vibe?
The décor pays homage to the building’s decadent history, with Soho House’s design team, Soho Home, restoring original listed features such as gilt-framed mirrors, mosaic tiles, intricate plasterwork and an original 18th century staircase.
Floral and botanical nuances (patterned curtains, vintage carpets and pretty 1920s-style lamps) soften the elegant interiors. In the Champagne bar, luxurious suede wallpaper is adorned with a risqué collection of garters and undergarments, a nod to rumours that tunnels were once built for royal guests to visit their mistresses in the neighbouring theatres.
The hotel and dining spaces are now filled with current Soho House members, plus a smattering of regulars from Kettner’s more recent past, back in to reminisce about the good old days.
Which room should I book at Kettner’s Townhouse?
The 33 bedrooms vary dramatically in size. Compact ‘tiny’ rooms are fitted with Tudor-style beds and slick en-suites, while ‘cosy’ rooms are a bit larger with pretty green velvet scalloped headboards and mahogany dressers. If you want to wallow in a freestanding bath tub, book one of the ‘medium’ or ‘big’ rooms. These also boast super king-size beds and huge bathrooms with double sinks and walk-in rainforest showers.
Each room is unique with individual touches such as Art Nouveau chandeliers, original fireplaces and floorboards, old-school newspaper racks, marble-topped mahogany counters and vintage bookshelves; re-read Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven or get stuck into an Agatha Christie on a squishy leather armchair, or burnt orange velvet chaise longue.
All rooms, no matter the size, cater to every whim, making for an extremely luxurious stay – jazz flutters from Roberts’ radios, copper towel rails warm fluffy white towels, and an almost overwhelming array of Cowshed bath and shower products await in the rainforest showers (cleansing toner, deodrant and lip balm as well as the usual staples). Hot water bottles and eye masks, phone chargers and hairdryers are all supplied, too, hidden away in cotton bags in dressers.
What’s good to drink?
Kettner’s Townhouse celebrates its past as a champagne bar – glide into the late-night lounge and sit at the marble-topped walnut bar under red lampshades to enjoy flutes, coupes and cocktails of R de Ruinart, Krug, Bollinger and more (read our expert guide to Champagne here).
Try the bar’s take on a French 75, The Romilly, with exotic Star of Bombay gin mixed with mango cordial and topped up with sparkling Ruinart. Or sip on a Kettner’s Fizz – refreshing clementine and grapefruit juices laced with Grand Marnier and Runiart rosé.
And to eat?
Waiters in off-white jackets and black ties glide elegantly through the succession of dining areas on the ground floor. Clusters of pouffe chairs and low tables are dotted around the cosy piano bar area, and red velvet banquettes cling to speckled mirrors and walls adorned with gilt-framed sketches and paintings. A live pianist plays in the corner while staff shake up cocktails behind a marble-topped bar that also serves as a breakfast bar before noon.
The beautiful French brasserie continues the elegant 1920s style with listed mirrors, low-lit wall lamps and custom-designed French glass chandeliers. Windows are dressed with delicate lace, and there’s plenty of greenery to add a dash of colour to the white linen table cloths.
The all-day menu here sticks to classic French comfort food (think steak tartare, roast chicken and Toulouse sausage). You won’t find anything ground-breaking on the menu – we felt the food was slightly playing second fiddle to the design here – but the dishes we tried were perfectly good.
Raw halibut was covered in a petal-like blanket of pink rimmed, wafer-thin radish slices, and rabbit rillettes to spread on crunchy sourdough toast with little radishes.
Perfectly pink fillet of Lake District beef came with crisp, fluffy chips and a creamy pepper sauce. Wild pan-fried sea bass sat on salty monk’s beard with a light and punchy sauce vierge.
Save room for the chocolate mousse slice, with a light, crisp feuilletine base, rich chocolate mousse centre and dark chocolate flakes on top, served with fragrant pistachio ice cream.
What’s the breakfast like?
Whether you’re after a light bite or a leisurely brunch, you can enjoy your breakfast in any of the ground floor areas of Kettner’s. If you’re having breakfast in the Champagne bar, make it sparkling with a glass of fizz and a decadent Lobster Royale with hollandaise and Exmoor caviar.
Otherwise sit in the bar or brasserie area and choose from the selection of pastries. Start with a blueberry muffin, lemon and poppy seed bread or citrusy pink grapefruit served with thick sheep’s milk yogurt and a sprinkling of bee pollen and micro mint. Eggs are served any style (Benedict, Florentine, Royale), or go for Kettner’s hay-smoked Hampshire trout cured in-house with mustard seeds and coriander seeds with scrambled eggs and rye toast.
Soho House has breakfast drinks sorted, with its own pre-bottled “house press” juices for zingy pick-me-ups (the “citrus” bottle packed with orange, grapefruit, lemon, turmeric and cayenne pepper will blast away any sign of a cold) and dairy-free shakes (try the matcha tea, pistachio, cashew and vanilla shake with coconut oil, dates and a touch of Himalayan salt).
Is Kettner’s Townhouse family-friendly?
The grown-up, urban vibe and bar-focused nature of the hotel doesn’t make it an obvious choice for families, but children are welcome. Some of the ‘medium’ rooms have connecting doors, and can be made into twin rooms for families and travel cots and high chairs can be supplied.
What can I do in the local area?
Kettner’s Townhouse is in prime position for exploring Soho and Chinatown (here are our favourite local foodie spots to try in Soho). If you’re after a pre-dinner aperitif, grab a pre-bottled negroni at dinky fifties-style Bar Termini, or head across the road to slick Swift for a refreshing lemon sorbet, prosecco and Italicus sgroppino.
For a dinner with a difference, try Taiwanese XU, where stylish interiors hint at 1930s Taipei. Tuck in to XO carabinero prawns, crisp chicken wings and silky mapo tofu topped with spring onions in an umami Szechuan peppercorn and chilli oil sauce (we liked it so much we got the recipe here).
The champagne bar stays open until late, so huddle up and gossip about secrets from the hotel’s history. Otherwise, housekeeping provides fresh ice in decanters every evening for you to make up a stiff drink on your own cocktail trolley (small bottles of spirits cost £30 each); there’s even a little marble slab to cut your lemon, lime and orange to garnish your spirit of choice (or make one of our favourite cocktails here).
Make sure you explore the cupboards in your room for the complimentary tea and coffee making facilities, as well as a jar of homemade chocolate and oatmeal cookies for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Double rooms at Kettner’s Townhouse, five minutes’ walk from Leicester Square tube station, cost from £255, room only (kettnerstownhouse.com).