I first went to Kettner’s in Soho more than 20 years ago! It was a bit run down but in the pre-gastro-revival London none of us cared about the fact that it served a glitzed up Pizza Express menu and was differentiated by decent quality table linen, a champagne bar and a piano player. At the time I think what we liked best was that the bill wasn’t heavily marked up over the normal Pizza Express prices. And of course the Champagne Bar.
It was taken over and refurbished a few years ago and a few of us decided to go and check what it was like now.
To be honest, the changes seem cosmetic and not necessarily for the best. The Champagne Bar has a slightly more informal feel to it, but the result is rather cluttered and chaotic in terms of service. The restaurant area has been redecorated and is a little less comfortable than I remember in the Pizza Express days (that could be my age!). Gone are the poshed up table cloths, there are some trendy flower arrangements and a smart green colour scheme.
I think the night we went might have suffered by being at the start of the Christmas Party Season. There are a suite of private dining rooms upstairs which have always been popular and which were fully booked. And, although it was a mid-week evening, the main restaurant was buzzing with largish groups. But, nevertheless, service was really not up to scratch. Our waiter struggled to tell us what the daily specials were and had to return to the table three times with variations on the Kettner’s tart of the day. And our side orders failed to appear until we reminded the waiter.
The food arrived.
My Dover sole was very pleasant. Perhaps a little small. And, although the waiter had told us it didn’t come with any vegetables, there was a small portion of new potatoes and green beans.
The fishcakes looked fine and my friend’s report was favourable – and the pork belly was apparently delicious.
Of the four dishes, the Pollack looked the least appetising but there were no complaints from my friend.
We ordered two desserts between the four of us which were perhaps the most outstanding part of the meal. The bakewell tart was light and almondy. The chocolate torte rich and perfectly flavoured. But of course these were dishes that wouldn’t have suffered from a rushed service since they would have been prepared earlier in the day.
Our bill including 2 bottles of moderately priced wine, four main courses, two desserts and four coffees was around £165. The sides were discounted without question.
To summarise, it was a pleasant but not exceptional evening. And for the standard of food and service it was rather expensive.
Kettner’s Restaurant & Champagne Bar
29 Romilly St. Soho, London W1D 5HP