We recently visited two iconic London venues and for once a Grade II listed building has been refurbished with disabled people in mind. That is Kettner’s, a well known landmark in Soho, founded in 1867 by Auguste Kettner, chef to Napoleon III and it was one of the first French restaurants in London. The building is Grade II listed and it was interesting to see if disabled facilities had been installed – a long held ‘grudge’ of BBS is the use of historic listing as an excuse NOT to add these and ignore the fact that it’s our history as well, (see our campaign here).
Kettner’s is most famous for its former clientele: King Edward VII and his mistress Lillie Langtry, Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie, Churchill, Bing Crosby and Robert de Niro, to name a few. It closed two years ago and was bought by The Soho Group, owners of Soho House (Shoreditch) & High Road Brasserie, (both very accessible). It’s now a 33 bedroom Townhouse , Restaurant and Champagne Bar.
If you want somewhere welcoming and accessible in Soho this is certainly the place to go. Unlike most of the Soho Group Townhouses this one is open to non-members. The front entrance on Romilly Street, has two steps but there is access next door on the same street with an assistance button.
You enter through the champagne bar to the restaurant and the disabled toilets are accessed via a lift to the lower floor. It was busy at lunchtime and we had some delicious sea bass and chips, accompanied by a lovely bottle of Macon. It’s reasonably priced for central London with main courses around £14-£26 and starters £6-£12. Their lunch time trade is growing according to the GM who greeted us so let’s hope the menu stays at a reasonable price. The owners want to promote ‘affordable glamour’ and that it does, however The Telegraph’s Ben McCormack says
‘Skip the restaurant and sit in the adjacent piano bar. You can graze on small plates, knock back a bracingly chilly martini in a gold-rimmed coupe glass, order a Grasshopper instead of pudding and soak up the spot-on Soho House vibe without having to fork out for membership’, (so even more affordable glamour!! Ed.)
The decor definitely adds to the ambiance and is full of tapestry style upholstery, murals and rugs. The main areas have smooth wooden flooring. The soft furnishings make the acoustics good even though the restaurant was nearly full and a pianist played in the lounge bar.
I’m going back to try the Champagne Bar! We asked if the bedrooms had wetrooms and grab rails in the shower and toilet. They replied,
‘Kettner’s Townhouse offers accommodation in accessible rooms which are Medium room types in this case. Everything mentioned in your email is accommodated in the accessible rooms’. We will go back and check as they can’t supply photos – They need a BBS Access Gallery.
The Medium rooms are not the cheapest starting at £360/night. Nevertheless, Kettner’s restaurant and Champagne Bar get a well deserved 3 BBS Ticks and the hotel gets an unaudited 3 BBS Ticks. Their toilets could be up for a BBS Award as Best Disabled Loo 2018??
Next we visited The Bar at The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences in Piccadilly. This is a 5 Star hotel that has been refurbished as a ’boutique’ hotel with apartments. Built in 1849, it was a gentlemen’s club in 1864 and in the Thirties, it was rebuilt in Art Deco style. In 1971 it was modernised by the Rank Organisation and had a star-studded couple of decades as a hotel filled with Hollywood greats, Elizabeth Taylor had an apartment here. So, as a nod to this, The Bar has a continuous loop of film clips where the ‘leading man’ sweeps the ‘leading lady’ off her feet – for the romantics rather than the feminists?! We spent most of the time trying to name the films and the actors, very entertaining. Watch the video and see who you can recognise…..sorry if we’ve breached any copyright??
But back to the hotel and bar, the access to the hotel is typically elegant with a retracting stair lift for wheelchair users………
The Telegraph says of the new Bar and Restaurant:
‘In a bold new move, the food throughout, including room service and breakfast, is courtesy of the Galvin Brothers’ restaurant and catering business. It’s slick, high quality, enjoyable and aimed at all budgets: you can have a burger for £12 or caviar for £170’.
We can testify to this as snacks such as Gentleman’s Relish on Toast and a Scotch Egg were very reasonable (under £10) and tasty. They also serve a good afternoon tea from £29.50 but we were there for the cocktails and the extensive range of whiskies. I had a Strawberry Julep (£14) and my companion insisted on Hibiki Harmony Japanese Whisky (£14) which was served over one piece of distilled water ice – says something when drinks are more expensive than the food! Less expensive tipples are available! Both went down far too easily so we had two more.
The Bar is in the basement so it is dark but I could still read the menu with glasses, the floor is smooth and flat and the acoustics are good. The disabled toilet is located at the entrance to the bar and they were very proud to show us the facilities – well lit, with space to manoeuvre and all the grab bars.
The best part however was the friendliness of the staff. From the doorman who operated the accessible lift, to the manager who showed us the disabled toilet and the extremely knowledgeable bar staff. Especially one barman who told us all about the history of Japanese Whisky. We’ll find out if any of the bedrooms are accessible and review the Galvin Restaurant at a later date.
The Athenaeum Bar gets 3 BBS Ticks and may get nominated as Best Bar at The BBS Awards. If you have a nomination or review to add or just want to highlight good stylish, disabled access get in contact.