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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Kettners, Soho, during its Harringay stewardship, 1889

I was surprised to learn recently of a connection between Harringay and Kettner's one of London's oldest and most renowned restaurants, once favoured by Oscar Wilde and patronised (secretly) by Edward VII.

Kettner's was opened by French chef Auguste Kettner and his wife Barbe Maria Theresa in !867. Kettner is rumoured to have been chef to Napolen III, but apparently the Napoleonic Institute have said that Kettner was not on Napoleon III's payroll.

Initially the restaurant operated out of one house in a mid-Georgian terrace on Church Street, Soho*. But, not long after it opened, the restaurant was discovered and publicised by a correspondent of The Times and it became successful enough for Kettner to expand by leasing the three neighbouring properties, and knocking down walls to create a large public dining area and converting the upstairs into private dining rooms. The private rooms were apparently favourite dining places of couples looking for a little privacy.

In 1877 Kettner died and left the business to his widow Barbe. By 1880 she had married Giovanni Sangiorgi, who also became her partner in the business. And here's the Harringay connection. Sangiorgi lived in The Hermitage a large house in Harringay on the eponymous Hermitage Road. By 1881, the occupants of the house were listed as Sangiorgi, his wife, his parents, his unmarried sister and eight servants.

The Hermitage on the Ordnance Survey map of 1863

Kettner's success continued and It became the first restaurant, other than the hotels of Leicester Square, to draw English gourmets to Soho. It was also a favoured spot of the good and great, patronised by both Oscar Widle and the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), amongst many others.  Apparently, a secret passage led from the nearby Palace Theatre to the basement of Kettners. The passage was accessed through a secret door in the theatre that opened by pulling on one side of a large wooden wine rack**. The Prince of Wales used to access one of the private dining rooms along the passage for secret trysts with his lover Lillie Langtry.

By 1890, the Sangiorgis were on the move when the Hermitage was sold off for development as The Hermitage Estate by its owner. I do not currently have any record of where they moved to.

Barbe Marie died in 1893, leaving over £10,000 to her husband. Giovanni soldiered on alone for a few years, but soon became ill enough that he left the running of the business to Frenchman Eugene Rouard. By 1897 Sangiorgi's health had deteriorated to the point that he sold the restaurant in an imaginatively framed share offering***.

In 1909  Sangiorgi died. Although he was buried in Lugano, in ltalian-speaking Switzerland, his sister had his details added to his wile's very ornate Grade II listed tomb in Brompton Cemetery.

                                                                   Barbe's tomb in Brompton Cemetery                                           Photo: ©Enrico Webers

Kettner's sort of survives to this day. It became a Pizza Express for some years and more recently was converted by Soho House & Co into Kettner's Townhouse, a restaurant and 33-room hotel with tiny rooms from £255 a night.

Many thanks to the archivist team at Bruce Castle who tipped me the wink on this one after being alerted to the local connection by another visitor to the archives. Most of the above however, with the exception of the 1881 census records, is based on my own research and any inaccuracies introduced are mine and not the Archive team's!

*The street was renamed Romilly Street in 1937  in reference to the birth of law reformer Sir Samuel Romilly at nearby 18 Frith Street.
**The Stories Behind London's Streets, Peter Thurgood 2011
***Sporting Life, 24th July 1897

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Really interesting - Loved the stories about Kettners and its owners.

Hermitage House with 8 servants - I wonder what they all did.

I also like the photos and the ordinance survey map showing several grand houses at that time.

very interesting. In the '80's kettners was a major hangout at lunchtime for the media types in Soho. Always a few famous faces.You could have a pizza in posh surroundings, or a glass of bubbly in the champagne bar [still going, I think]

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