London & South East Premier Hospitality

Opening Pennethorne’s Café Bar

Pennethorne's Cafe, Somerset House
Written by Roma Publications

Pennethorne's Cafe, Somerset House

 Designed on a theme inspired by a 19th century English architect’s travels across Europe during his Grand Tour, the stylish new Pennethorne’s Cafe Bar has just opened in Somerset House.

Levy Restaurants UK’s Pennethorne’s Cafe Bar is named after Sir James Pennethorne, who designed the Somerset House New Wing in which the new cafe bar resides.

Main contractors for the project to create the new venue were Portview Fit-Out; interior designers were SSH with Rose McShane as Architectural Designer and Georgina Stevenson as Interior Designer, with the work being overseen by Neil Hogan.

The main restaurant and bar is located within two areas known as the South Salon and North Salon – basically one big room linked by two archways. Across the corridor is the Petite Salon which be mainly used for small parties. In addition to the dining area, the venue incorporates a preparation/larder area, a dishwashing/cutlery storage area, a coffee bar and a chef’s table for serving customers. In the evenings the bar will serve craft beer, wine and cocktails.

Aidan Cormack of Portview Fit-Out told Premier Hospitality that the space within the new restaurant is now located was originally an empty shell with plastered walls. The works included lifting existing floorboards to install new services and then re-laying reclaimed floorboards, with the remainder of the work involving fit out and re-decoration.

Portview Fit-Out manufactured bespoke units in stainless steel, blackened steel and marble for the preparation/larder area, which comprises a back counter preparation area and a front counter service area where food is served to customers. They also made the chef’s table which features a marble top with blackened steel front and legs, and the horseshoe-shaped coffee/evening drinks bar, which is designed with a marble top, blue leather frontage and blackened steel high level gallery area for glass storage. Portview also manufactured bespoke blue leather banquette seating which they fitted along the perimeter of the North and South Salon, and carried out the general decoration of the walls and ceilings.

Pennethorne's Cafe, Somerset House

Considerable time and effort was also spent on the installation of the lighting in order to create exactly the right ambience. Of particular significance was the installation of a steel lighting raft with suspended globe lights.

A particularly distinctive element which was specially commissioned by Portview is around 50 hand carved cameos which they mounted on the walls, together with other artwork and bronze mirrors.

The main challenge overcome by the project team was the tight timeframe within which they had to co-ordinate the working of different trades, as well as the logistics of shipping materials.

Throughout the project the contract team had to work within the constraints imposed by the listed building status of the venue.

“I would particularly like to commend the assistance of Somerset House staff, who helped make the contract much easier than it would otherwise have been,” said Aidan Cormack.

The project was handed over in November.

The 85-cover venue offers a deli-style menu which brings classic flavours from Pennethorne’s Grand Tour travels to France and Italy to life with a modern English twist. The menu, designed by head chef Richard Robinson, features all-day dining small plates. At the heart of the menu is the bakery, located on site at Somerset House and baking specialist breads and pastries throughout the day. To accompany the menu, a coffee brew bar serves artisan coffees, craft beers and the finest selection of English, French and Italian wines.

The menu will include breakfast comprising jambon gruyere croissants, smoked salmon, cream cheese bagels and soft boiled egg with buttermilk soldiers. Lunch continues with bread, salads and sweets from the chef’s deli table including: roast beef; blue cheese; grilled red onions; maple syrup on rye; smoked Cornish mackerel, pickled white cabbage, caraway seeds on soda bread; courgette and Montasio frittata.

Evening dishes include Limousine beef, celeriac, crispy shallots; pickled cornish mackerel, white cabbage and caraway seeds; watercress, soft egg and pancetta – all served on toast. Pots are crispy curly kale, ham hock salad and potted sardines, pork, beef and spicy aubergine. For desserts, there’s French apple tart; Cambridge burnt cream; baked pecorino with honey caramel and milk tart.

The opening of the new restaurant is part of a new deal struck by Levy Restaurants UK with Somerset House. The deal extends Levy Restaurants UK’s contract with Somerset House for a further 15 years.

Pennethorne's Cafe, Somerset House

Jonathan Davidson, business director for leisure at Levy Restaurants UK said:

“We’re passionate about delivering great experiences and have worked really hard to deliver an innovative service at Somerset House. I’m thrilled that we’ve been awarded a further 15 year contract. At Pennethorne’s Cafe Bar we’re focusing on quality, simplicity and freshness with a nod to Sir James Pennethorne himself.”

Mark Hislop, Commercial Director at Somerset House Trust said:

“Somerset House is an iconic cultural venue that is popular with visitors of all ages and is a truly unique London landmark receiving over 2.4 million visits per annum. We wanted to provide our visitors with a range of restaurant and cafes that meet the needs of all our visitors and reflect the ethos and atmosphere of Somerset House. Our partnership with Levy Restaurants UK is enabling us to deliver this vision; we are all very excited about the new Pennethorne’s Cafe Bar.”

Timbermark Manufacture Ltd

 Timbermark Manufacture Ltd manufactures specialist joinery for hotels, bars and retail units and has been in operation for three years. The firm have established an impressive portfolio since their inception and have worked for some well-known clients including Claridge’s.

We caught up with Paul Robinson from the firm to find out more about their involvement in Pennethorne’s Café Bar. Paul commented:

“We manufactured the coffee bar which is fronted with leather panels, has a marble top and is finished with black and steel shelves. We also constructed the chefs table and larder. It was important to be involved in this project as we have a good relationship with the client and so we like to work with them. We pride ourselves in our quality.”

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