London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - Dinners and Diners, by
Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis, 1899 - Chapter 41 - Kettner's (Church Street)
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for this book-]
KETTNER’S (CHURCH STREET)
“I HAVE NO amusement at all now,” said little Mrs. Tota—we always
called her Mrs. Tota up at Simla, for she was as bright and perky as her little
namesake, the Indian parrot. CC George says that the night air brings on his
fever, and refuses to go out after dinner.” George looked up from behind his paper and
grunted; but there was a quiver of his left eyelid which looked very like a
“I never go to a dance now, and you know I
love dancing. I never have any fun like we used to have at the Black Hearts’
masked balls at Simla; the only kala jugga I ever go into is the
coalhole. I never eat a nice little dinner like you used to give us at the
Chalet. I never do anything, or see anything, and all because George thinks he
might suffer from imaginary fever.”
George from behind the paper moaned a
mocking moan. “If George wouldn’t mind,” I said, “I should be delighted
to take you out some evening, give you a little dinner, take you [-292-]
to a box at some theatre, and to a Covent Garden masked ball afterwards.”
“Mind!” said George, reappearing from
his paper with great suddenness. “Mind! Why, my dear fellow, if you will only
be so kind as to do that I shall not be abused for a week. Take her out, and
give her dinner and supper, a box at a theatre and a dance, and my blessing
shall be with you all the days of my life.”
Mrs. Tota clapped her hands. “George, for
once in your life, you’re nice,” she said.
“We’ll have a regular Simla evening,”
I suggested. “The nearest thing I can think of to the dining-room in the
little U.S. Club chalet would be a private room at one of the restaurants.”
Mrs. Tota looked to George for approval, and
then nodded in acquiescence.
“The Savoy private rooms would be too big
for our little party of two. Romano’s has some charming Japanese private
dining-rooms. There is the turret-room at Scott’s, which looks down on to
Piccadilly and the Haymarket. There are two sweet little corner rooms at the
Trocadero, the bow windows of which command Shaftesbury Avenue. There are—”
“You seem to know a good deal about the
private rooms of all the restaurants,” said Mrs. Tota.
“I have an elderly relative who dislikes
noise, so when I take him out to dine—”
“Oh, him!” interrupted Mrs. Tota. “Go
on with your list.”
“There are some very handsome little rooms
at the Café Royal, and Kettner’s, and a lot more.”
“What’s Kettner’s, anyway? “‘ queried Mrs. Tota; and I told her
of the snug little restaurant buried away in Church Street, which was first
discovered by two well-known journalists, a restaurant of comfortable nooks and
corners, a restaurant of such individuality that when it was necessary to
rebuild it a few years ago it was rebuilt as nearly as possible on the old
lines, with its three or four public dining-rooms below, and its network of
passages and warren of little rooms above. I told her of Louis, now in supreme
charge, who has been part of Kettner’s since Kettner’s first became known to
London; and of Henri, who has charge of the upstairs dining-rooms, and who, with
his peaked beard and clean-shaven upper lip, is the type of maitre d’hotel that
all the French artists who record the life of the boulevards love to draw.
M rs. Tota said that it sounded nice. She liked the name ;
Kettner’s sounded a little unusual, and she liked the description of the
old- fashioned place.
Then I summed up: “You will very kindly
pick me up at the club; we will dine at Kettner’s, then go across the way to
the Palace Theatre, where I will have a box ; after that back to Kettner’s to
put on your domino, which we will leave there; and then on to the Covent Garden
ball, where we will sup in our box and stay until after the procession.
Mrs. Tota declared that I was a dear, and
George grunted a few words of genuine thankfulness.
I went down to Kettner’s and interviewed [-294-]
Henri. The nicest possible little dining-room and a very simple little
dinner were what I wanted.
Henri put his head on one side, like a wise
magpie, and suggested oysters as hors-d’oeuvre. I said that the idea
was novel, but that I preferred caviar. Then Henri relapsed into deep thought. Petite
marmite was his next suggestion, and on this I turned on him and rent him,
figuratively, for every maitre d’hotel in the world seems to think that
petite marmite or croûte au pot is the only possible beginning to
a small plain dinner. Friendly relations were re—established, and this was our
final effort so far as the menu was concerned—
Consommé à la Colbert.
Filets de sole à la Joinville.
Langue de boeuf aux champignons.
Epinards. Pommes Anna.
Poulet a la Parmentier.
Asperges. Sauce mousseline.
and a bottle of Moet ‘89, just chilled, to drink with it.
Room A was the dining-room that Henri
thought would suit us. So A was the room selected.
Mrs. Tota, in a very charming black dress
with a pattern of tiny steel sequins on it, with a gorgeous ermine cloak and a
mysterious bundle that I knew must contain the domino, picked [-295-]
me up at the club and drove me down to Church Street. She was delighted
at the appearance of the cosy little houses and the narrow entrance. Before we
went to our dining-room above I asked Louis to take us through the kitchen,
which, with its walls of white tiles and perfect cleanliness, is well worth
seeing, and we peeped into all the public dining-rooms on the ground- floor.
“Isn’t this quite wrong ? “ said
little Mrs. Tota, who was evidently enjoying herself. “Oughtn’t we to have
slipped up the stairs like a couple of guilty things? Do you take your elderly
relative round the kitchen?”
At that moment Henri appeared and said that
our dinner was ready, and we went up the narrow stairs.
A little room, with a paper in which old
gold and soft browns and green mingled, three windows with warm-coloured
curtains to match the paper, bronze ornaments on the mantelpiece, oil paintings
of Italian scenery on the walls, a tiny sideboard, a square table lighted by
gilt candelabra holding electric lights—Room A is a very snug place to dine
“H’m, yes,” said Mrs. Tota. “Not
quite like the room in the dear old Chalet; but quite near enough.”
Henri had taken us under his special
protection, and had added half a dozen hors-d’oeuvre to the menu
besides the caviar, and when the time came for our slices of tongue he appeared
bearing a whole tongue lavishly garnished.
It was a capital dinner, well cooked
through-[-296-] out, and as Mrs. Tota praised each
dish Henri beamed more and more upon us. And Mrs. Tota chattered like her
namesake. We talked about the famous masked ball at Simla, at which
Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, disguised in mask and domino, went up to a humorous
Irish lady, and, in a feigned voice, asked her for a dance, receiving a reply
that she “hadn’t time to be dancing with boys to-night.” We talked of
gymkhanas at Annandale,and picnics at Mashobra, of A.D.C. theatricals and
town-hall balls, and we effectually brought the scent of the deodars into Soho.
Mrs. Tota finished her coffee and Curaçoa
Marnier, and sighed as she drew on her gloves. “Those were good days,” she
said, and I nodded assent.
I told Henri to bring me the bill. Two
dinners, £1:1s.; one Moet, 15s.; two cafés, 1s.; two liqueurs, 2s.; total,
“Henri,” I said, “you have let me off too lightly. It
should be more than this”; whereat Henri went through an expressive pantomime
which meant that to undercharge me was the last thing the management would think
We left the domino in Henri’s charge, and
Mrs. Tota thought she would walk the few yards to the Palace. “If all dinners
in private rooms are as pleasant as that, I rather think that I envy your
elderly male relative,” said Mrs. Tota as we emerged into Church Street.