The 35-room boutique Franklin London – Starhotels Collezione, whose sister hotels include the The Gore near The Albert Hall, Helvetia & Bristol in Florence and The Hotel d’Inghilterra in Rome, is for luxury travellers in the know. The Franklin is situated in the heart of Knightsbridge, just a stone’s throw from Hyde Park and the South Kensington museum quarter including the V&A, but with the tremendous benefit of being located within a row of red-brick Victorian townhouses on the quiet, residential Edgerton Gardens – a veritable world away from the bustling Brompton Road.
The Franklin has been designed throughout by the onetime Bond Girl, now renowned interior designer Anouska Hempel, something you can hardly fail to admire on entering the sultry, monochrome lobby with its striking Carrara marble black and white floor. The open-plan reception, where unusually the staff hot-desk to enhance the feeling of on-hand informality, leads to the elegant garden-facing restaurant and small, glamorous 1920s/Great-Gatsby inspired mirrored bar, a secret meeting place regulars insist on keeping that way. There is also an exquisitely-designed ‘Emerald Parlour’ and cosy Library, perfect for private business meetings or close encounters. But whilst the interiors are chic and cool, the warm, hospitable welcome on checking in is wonderfully Italian. It’s always possible to find a member of the professional front of house team (equipped with earphones and pagers) to help with any query, and due to the fact that the team babble away in Italian and appear to have a strong rapport you are quickly enveloped in the cocoon-like atmosphere of The Franklin.
Our 62 m2 Presidential Suite, in a seductive charcoal grey palette with velvet furnishings and yet more mirrors (I haven’t seen this many since visiting Versailles), offered spacious and opulent garden-view accommodation including its own entrance hall leading to a large living area with designer coffee table books and enough seating to throw a party. It seems to have been thought out with just this in mind, boasting a separate wardrobe, guest wc and sliding doors that can be closed on the bedroom and bathroom for privacy. There are six floor to ceiling windows in total, each hung with sumptuous grey velvet drapes, while the tactile, velvet four-poster bespoke Simmons super king bed with its mirrored backdrop oozes decadence, a sensation enhanced with 400 thread count Italian linen by Frette, a pillow menu and a television at the foot of the bed – in addition to the enormous state-of-the-art Samsung Smart TV located in the living room.
Besides the tempting in-room dining menus, you’ll find tea and coffee making facilities and a well-stocked mini bar, while the decadent ensuite is entered via a generous walk-in wardrobe where your slippers and fluffy bathrobes are thoughtfully ready and waiting – precisely what you want to see after an exhausting morning at ‘there is only one’ Harrods. When you’re not entertaining friends in your Presidential Suite, I guarantee you will be floating about in said bathrobe and unwinding in the mirror and marble bathroom with Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet toiletries which you can enjoy in the roll-top bathtub or rain shower. The Franklin also offers a range of in-room beauty and massage therapies, along with a private hammam located in the basement which guests can reserve, or drop into the adjoining 24-hour fitness centre where a personal trainer is available on request. In fact, there’s no service it seems The Franklin doesn’t provide, from shoe shining to packing.
Come the evening, you’d be wise not to dine out if you appreciate fine Italian cuisine. The Franklin Restaurant by Alfredo Russo offers sophisticated dining inspired by Piedmont, with a la carte and seasonal menus highlighting the flavours and ingredients that Michelin-starred Russo has championed throughout his career. With seating for just 30 (which used to be for hotel residents only) the intimate grey velvet dining room overlooking leafy Edgerton Gardens is lined with botanical prints and romantic Venetian eglomisée mirrors reflecting the alluring candlelight – a refined experience that makes this a destination restaurant. Everything from the breadsticks and warm loaf (accompanied by the best olive oil) to the gloriously fine pasta is homemade, while the service is faultlessly attentive thanks to a knowledgeable front of house proud to recommend their favourite dishes.
The format of the menu is classically Italian with antipasti, primi, secondi, and desserts, but diners are also encouraged to share. We started with the extraordinarily delicious ‘Polpo e Patate’ – slow-cooked, melt-in-the-mouth South Coast octopus served with a light potato foam, capers and Cerignola olives, while the starter/primi of ‘Risotto Scampi e Burrata’; a bisque and white wine reduction Carnaroli rice served with burrata and Mediterranean langoustine, took me right back to vacations on the Italian coast, so too the ‘Sogliola di Dover’ – a vanilla-butter Dover Sole with grilled onion and rainbow chard. Russo’s signature ‘Tiramisu’ captures Italian generosity and love of tradition, being made to an original recipe with homemade savoiardi biscuits, mascarpone cream and coffee, with the hallmarks of a beloved family recipe and all the emotion that food can convey.
The Franklin’s breakfasts are equally memorable and utterly worthy of forgoing the diet – from the best homemade pastries to the signature free range St Ewe poached eggs with bacon and tarragon or cast iron baked eggs with Chanterelle mushroom and black truffle. Those with a sweet tooth like myself can’t go wrong with the incredible freshly made pancakes with either wild berries, dark chocolate ganache, or nuts with whipped cream and maple syrup. Of course I should have ordered the Wellness Breakfast with the green smoothie but ‘frankly’ life’s too short to go around with regrets as big as the one I’d have had for not going all out. It didn’t surprise me in the least that people were coming in off the street to ask for a table. It seems the secret is out. There is only one Franklin London, but one night is not enough.
The Franklin London – Starhotels Collezione, 22-28 Egerton Gardens, London SW3 2DB. Rooms from £330 per night including breakfast. For more information and reservations please visit the website.