Friday, 28 September 2012

Kettner's

Much like the idols of the luvvies inside, the magic of Kettner’s is the ability to continually itself reinvent itself and stay current, while maintaining an aloof, ever-present air of Soho grandeur. The current style is as an upmarket bistro or perhaps as a toned down Ivy. Service is smart and relatively formal, with a little extra sense of occasion quite unique for the price bracket.


There is a buzzy bar and three open dining areas, the first of which also has a pianist tinkling away. When I visited, the piano room was empty and diners were being seated in the other spaces, which seemed a bit of a waste. The d├ęcor is clean and uncluttered – archetypal wedding place setting meets The White Company. A less verdant Quo Vadis if you will.

Food is fine. Essentially they serve simple ‘bar & grill’ staples with some French bistro touches, such as the beef bourguignon in a dinky copper pan. 

My caprese salad was quite tragic, I have to admit. A couple of cherry tomatoes, excessively cold mozzarella (cow not buffalo I would wager) and some basil pesto rather than leaves. Unless the appearance of rocket is supposed to be the green...? The dish was gone in about five seconds, and with it, my hopes for Kettner’s. Uh-oh. Could this truly be the Emperor’s new clothes; sub-gastropub food or worse, a trussed up Garfunkel’s?


Smoked salmon with blini (which profligate group of diners might they be targeting?) was much better received and my fears abated slightly. 


Our mains (only one pic of three) were all a success as well. The rib-eye steak was a nice piece of meat and well rested. The aforementioned bourguignon had very high praise indeed, and my duck breast was juicy, with crispy skin and perfectly cooked. One snag was that the sauce was a bit watery and didn’t do the job of cutting through nearly as good as a cherry or redcurrant jus might have, and left everything a tad soggy.


We skipped desserts for a pint with Ian Hislop across the road. I liked Kettner’s on balance. The food wasn’t perfect or particularly original, but it was a fairly enjoyable experience given the attentive service and fantastic people watching. If Kettner’s was a stock character, she’d be a reformed prostitute or perhaps a drag queen, with a heart of gold and lipsticked teeth, doling out world-weary advice and strong gin & tonics.

I’d probably return for a big dinner with friends where food is secondary, or a post-theatre sozzle. Much like her clientele, the dignified comebacks, relevance and survival of this boozy old queen will only ever be a boon in an ever-changing Soho. 

Food – 6/10
Drink – 8/10
Service - 9/10
Value – 7/10
Tap water tales – 7/10
Staff Hotness – 8/10
 Kettners on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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