Afternoon Tea at Kettner’s
I’m having a bit of a love affair with Kettner’s in Soho at the moment ever since I went for dinner a few weeks ago. The whole ambience of the place completely lured me in, with its sumptuous private dining rooms, velvet soaked nooks and crannies to snuggle into and the strains of big band jazz tickling my ears. The excellent Happy Hour menu probably has something to do with it too. I was invited to have afternoon tea with Sarah who is currently painstakingly researching the twisting, windy history of Kettner’s and BY JOVE there’s a lot of it.
Nestling into the main dining room and eyes widening as a gorgeous tier of delicious goods and a glass of champagne was placed in front of me, we got to chatting about ghosts, royal affairs and showbiz glitz. Kettner’s originally opened it’s doors as a hotel and restaurant in 1867 and was hailed as one of the first French restaurants in London, quickly becoming a COOL PLACE to be seen about town.
Sarah also showed me some original menus from the 1930s and ’40s, which were all written in French. Given that my French is pretty much limited to saying ‘I’ve lost my bag’ and ‘I’d like a ham sandwich’ (which, if I lose my bag and have a penchant for a pork butty in Paris I will be deeply grateful for) I could only pick out a few words here and there but even so, I could sense the luxury on offer.
There’s rumours of secret tunnels leading from the Palace Theatre over the road into Kettner’s, said to be used by Edward VII to conduct his affair with actress Lillie Langtry in the 1870s. SCANDALOUS. The suffragettes often met at Kettner’s, and obviously in my imagination they are sat getting lairy on champagne belting out ‘Sister Suffragette’ Mary Poppins. Oscar Wilde, Bing Crosby, Glen Miller, Bette Davies, Lauren Bacall, Spencer Tracey all dined and supped at Kettner’s- in the golden age it must have been like the Met Bar in the 1990s, or Chiltern Firehouse these days. CAN’T MOVE FOR CELEBS MATE.
As Sarah gave me all the gossip from days gone by, I quaffed my fizz, sipped my little teacup of steaming Earl Grey (which is obvvvvvviously the lad of all teas) and went to TOWN on the spread.
Starting with finger sandwiches (I just can’t help but blush when I say finger sandwiches. IT JUST FEELS RUDEY!) of creamy egg mayonnaise, fiery ham and mustard and of COURSE cucumber and cream cheese. After that there was a gloriously flaky mini sausage roll, a smoked salmon mousse tart and BEST OF ALL a beautifully buttery mini leek and Gruyere quiche. That was so good I actually stole Sarah’s and ate it. YOU CAN’T TAKE ME ANYWHERE.
As I then loaded up my scones with the obligatory jam and clotted cream (cream THEN jam because I’m not some sort of uncivilised animal) Sarah explained how some of the staff are convinced they’ve experienced ghosts within the walls of Kettner’s, either sightings or strange occurances that just can’t be explained. Whilst this gave me a bit of a shiver (and I admit to glancing in trepidaton in all the mirrors half expecting to see the Bloody Baron just gazing back at me), Sarah insisted that the ghosts are friendly rather than malicious- perhaps the original proprietors Mr and Mrs Kettner approving that their legacy is being carried on.
AND THEN THERE WAS CAKE. OH MATE. Mini spiced carrot cake, a spectacularly indulgent millionaire’s shortbread, tiny sharp rubarb tarts, zesty lemon cupcakes, a gooseberry encased in fondant and best of all, a salted caramel lollipop. YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES.
Once all the crumbs had been pressed from the plates and I was strolling (rolling) to the exit, I spied the gleaming grand piano in a place of pride in the dining room. Apparently, in the 1920s, Kettner’s had their own house band, Geoffrey Gelder and the Kettner Five. They even recorded and released singles and broadcast live to the BBC from the restaurant. HOW COOL’S THAT?!
The Kettner’s afternoon tea is perfect for a treat in the heart of Soho, costing £24.95 per person. They can also adjust the menu to cater for vegan and gluten-free dietary requirements so that’s SUPER! Thank you Kettner’s for such a wonderful afternoon of history and cake!
I was a guest of Kettner’s but as always, if I hadn’t had a wonderful time I wouldn’t have written about it!