Berlin’s late 1920s cabaret scene saw women dressed as men mingling with aristocrats and political radicals. It’s now being recreated for one’s indulgence at the historic Kettner’s Restaurant and Champagne Bar in Soho. Once a watering hole for the likes of Oscar Wilde and Agatha Christie, the restaurant has teamed up with Clayton Hartley, founder of The Candlelight Club, to host ‘Herr Kettner’s Kabaret.’
The exciting and decadent event takes its heed from Berlin in 1929 when partygoers may have dusted off their challenges through the mysterious and erotic world of late night cabaret entertainment. Film fans got a glimpse of this spectacle thanks to a waist-coated Liza Minnelli in Cabaret and the androgynous Marlene Dietrich “Falling in Love Again” in The Blue Angel.
Hartley explains: “In times of financial challenges people need a kick-back to forget the woes of real life just as they did in the environment of Weimar Germany. There is a tendency to retreat into the security of the past, even if one is knowingly cherry-picking parts of history.”
The ’20s themed party may be a concept hugely overplayed in London as of late, however Herr Kettner’s has an altogether different tone. This is far from about fancy dress, feather boas and tacky pinstripe gangster suits. This is grown-up and sophisticated sleaze.
Thanks to the end of censorship under the Weimar Republic, Berlin revelled in permissive cabaret evenings during the ‘20s, where semi-naked women performed eyebrow-raising routines, and transvestites and homosexuals mingled freely.
“Kettner’s decor suggested cabaret and it occurred to me to give the night a ‘20s Weimar theme and dress code, which I knew people were keen to embrace from my experience with The Candlelight Club,” explains Hartley. “I felt that the wonderful physical space, with its period character and history, along with all the colourful and famous characters associated with it would surely make a good backdrop.”
Billed as an evening of hedonistic plenty, debauchery and unrivalled period glamour, the entertainments take place over two floors of the elegant Baroque building which guests are invited to explore. The scene is alive with the thrilling sounds of live jazz and vintage DJs. Once inside, flappers and dandies might stumble across a vintage photo studio, ukulele players and magicians. They can take advantage of the complimentary swing dance tutorials in the ballroom and the delights of the Green Fairy at the intoxicating Absinthe Fountain. People wander from room to room, showcasing the best aspects of Kettner’s and recreating the lost age of ‘society’ parties.
“There’s a sense that guests have stepped out of the grim world outside, only yards away physically, however a huge leap,” observes Hartley.
A dining ticket (£65) includes a three-course dinner, a complimentary cocktail on arrival and exclusive performances throughout the meal, plus all the main entertainment. A bar food menu is available for those purchasing non-dining tickets (£20), also a specially designed cocktail list in true speakeasy style.
The dress code consists of mustachioed dandies and monocled counts. Tickets booked in advance mean everyone has already committed to the fantasy, and realise that the more of an effort they make with their outfits, the more they add to the overall atmosphere and authenticity. This event taps into the resurgence of cabaret and the growing appeal of ‘20s fashion, inspired by films such as The Artist and the forthcoming The Great Gatsby.
Herr Kettner’s Kabaret
Kettner’s Restaurant and Champagne Bar
29 Romilly Street, Soho, London W1D 5HP
23 November, doors: 7 p.m., dinner: 7.30pm, carriages: 2 a.m.
Telephone bookings: 0207 292 0512
Online bookings: herrkettnerskabaret.com