The West End dining landmark Kettner’s — famed as a venue for the future King Edward VII’s trysts with lover Lillie Langtry in the 1870s — is to be restored to its former glory after being taken over by members club Soho House.
The restaurant and champagne bar, founded in 1867 by Auguste Kettner, a former chef to Napoleon III, will be relaunched as Kettner’s Townhouse in 2018 following a huge expansion and overhaul of Nick Jones’s neighbouring flagship location on Greek Street.
Kettner’s, said to be the first restaurant in Soho to serve French food, was at the peak of its high-society fame in the early decades of the 20th century, attracting figures such as Agatha
Christie and Bing Crosby.
Plans submitted by Soho House and Soho Estates, the property empire founded by Paul Raymond and now run by his 28-year-old granddaughter Fawn James, detail how the restaurant’s upper floors will be taken over by the club and turned into 28 bedroom suites.
The space is currently used by Kettner’s as private dining rooms, known as “cabinet particuliers” and once favoured by diners seeking a more “intimate” setting for their meetings. The two-year project will involve upgrading an entire block of Georgian townhouses, 11 of which are listed, bounded by Greek Street, Romilly Street and Old Compton Street. A yard at the centre of the block will be redeveloped to add more space to Soho House.
If Westminster council approves the project, work will start on the site in January. In its planning application Soho House said it will “look to pay homage to its history and reinstate some of its former grandeur”.
A joint statement from Soho Estates and Soho House promised the project would be a “sensitive restoration” of the historic site that will “reinvigorate” Kettner’s, restore the building’s original interiors, and create a “pavilion” in the courtyard with a bar and outside courtyard for members to enjoy.
Cafe Boheme, which is also based on the site and is also owned by Soho House, will be refurbished.
Soho House’s interest in the Kettner’s site has been rumoured for a decade, and it has been in talks with its owner Gondola Holdings, which also owns Pizza Express, for the last three years about acquiring the lease to the building. Kettner’s was run as the flagship for Pizza Express from the Eighties until 2008, when the restaurant became a French brasserie.