Another London Landmark Becomes A Chain
Kettner’s restaurant in Soho was opened by Auguste Kettner, the chef to Napoleon III, and became one of the first French restaurants in London. It boasted among its regulars Lillie Langtry, Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie and Bing Crosby.
Everyone in Soho has a favourite memory of the place. For my business partner’s 40th birthday I hired the upstairs suite and threw a party in which I presented him with his favourite movie – ‘Harold & Maude’, handed over to him by the star of the film, Bud Cort, whom I had secretly invited.
Kettner’s turned into an admirably low-cost pizza bar with singing waiters, but kept its excellent champagne bar and survived with an independent spirit thanks to its low prices. It had continued for nearly 150 years, but this year it closes that chapter of its life.
It’s been bought out by Soho House, the once-fashionable and formerly exclusive club chain that has become the All Bar One of membership clubs. I had long ago resigned in disgust because I’d had enough of nights surrounded by shrieking PRs and coked-up print reps on the pull. To be fair it’s not the club’s fault that they attracted the kind of people you’d pay to be kept away from, but somehow the clubhouses gained a reputation for always being filled with toxic media twats.
So Kettner’s is to become another part of Soho house, and I’m sure they’ll do a sympathetic job on the redesign, but of course the prices will now soar. Soho House is currently in the process of colonising one of the quietest and most overlooked squares in Barcelona, where I often have dinner at its sole cafe. The locals give a resigned shrug that means The English. After all, one of the biggest and most successful tapas chains in the city, Taller de Tapas, is an English creation.
Still, there’s something depressing about chains at any level, the uniformity of food and drink, ambience and clientele that means another demographic has been serviced in a way that’s not good or bad – merely unmemorable. And Kettner’s loses its unique character to become another pricey part of that bland process.