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Famous as the restaurant founded in 1867 by Auguste Kettner, the private chef of Emperor Napoleon III (Bonaparte’s nephew), and as the location of interval-time trysts between King Edward VII and Lillie Langtry, Kettner’s has been given the ‘Townhouse’ treatment by new owner Soho House. As at Dean Street Townhouse, there are now 30 or so bedrooms upstairs, while the downstairs restaurant and Champagne Bar have both been spruced up, and a fabulous Piano Bar added for good measure. The bars, in particular, look lovely, all low lighting and marble surfaces and conveying something of the metropolitan élan and exclusivity of the Soho House members’ clubs. The dining room, in contrast, feels rather provincial, an effect enhanced by the fussy plaster mouldings (original, and Grade II-listed) and a French-inspired menu that seems self-consciously special occasion but fails to rise to the occasion. Small plates and starters were the best bits: cheesy gougères, comforting French onion tart and bracingly wintry crab with celeriac remoulade and russet apple. Mains were far less assured: roast Banham chicken tasted only of truffle not chook and omelette Arnold Bennett was a very limp imitation of the Savoy classic. Breakfast (lobster royale) and pre/post-theatre (any three courses for £22) may be better bets, or eat small plates instead in the bars, with two dozen wines by the glass and beautifully served classic cocktails.
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