In The Franklin, Anouska Hempel has styled another hotel as refined and ravishing as herself. Taking a cue from its sister Blakes, the Franklin looks abroad (in this case, to Italy). Even Gina Lollobrigida couldn’t fault the Franklin’s taffeta-and-velvet-bedecked restaurant, gin-toting bar, hammam, mini gym, ravishing rooms and fancy sandstone bathrooms. One thing is as British as bridge, though, and that’s the setting: a prime cut of cultured Kensington, with some of the city’s best bits on your doorstep.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from $321.76 (£262), excluding tax at 20 per cent.
Rates usually exclude breakfast (£35 a person, for a Continental spread plus à la carte options).
At the hotel
Hammam, mini gym, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, desk, minibar, GHD hair straighteners and hairdryers, Penhaligon’s bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Is it weird to book a room for its minibar alone? We think not, especially when the minibars in question – attached to the Franklin’s Junior Suites and higher categories – are stuffed with champagne, spirits, wine, soft drinks and artisan snacks. Primp your tresses using the suite’s GHDs or loll about in the palatial bathroom, making the most of the fragrant Penhaligon’s bath products.
Instead of a spa, the Franklin has a hammam – your passport to the glowing complexion compulsory for nights at the hotel’s ravishing restaurant.
Saucy smalls; something dashing for the restaurant.
The Franklin shares Egerton Gardens with a gaggle of charming neighbours; sit in its leafy splendour with a cup of tea/G&T and the papers. Perhaps you’ll befriend a lord or lady…
Little Smiths are welcome, but the hotel is better suited to teens – picture crystal vases, glittering marble and plush velvets that won’t be improved by pens, crayons or other ‘embellishments’.
Sit at a table by the windows, so you can play ‘I spy…’ (squirrels) over breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Go for Sloane Ranger redux: unleash your pearls, silks and velvets. Gents with a penchant for finery will be delighted: cummerbunds can come too.
The Franklin Restaurant by Alfredo Russo – what a mouthful (literally and metaphorically). It’s refreshing to be served up a departure from exposed brick, exposed bulbs and shared plates on wooden chopping boards – here, you can expect Italian fine dining, presented with unapologetic old-school pizzazz. Dishes are as decadent as the velvet-and-taffeta-bedecked dining room: oyster sorbet, lamb with casserole and licorice and the ilk.
Gin fans, rejoice: the bar has 22 varieties of London’s eternally fashionable tipple to canter through. Order the Franklin – a giddy blend of Botanist gin, rosemary, lemongrass and champagne – and enjoy it in the bar’s mirrored splendour, all Italian silks and velvets, plus ikat textiles from Istanbul.
Dinner is served until 10.30pm; breakfast until 11am, lunch between noon and 2.30pm.
Order from a selection of hot and cold starters, soups, pasta, burgers, sandwiches, desserts and fresh fruit. Breakfast can also be enjoyed in bed.
The Franklin has an enviable location close to both Knightsbridge and Kensington (London's most lah-di-dah districts), a stroll from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Harrods and other Big Smoke heavyweights.
London Heathrow is 22 kilometres away, a 45-minute drive. The hotel offers transfers: £150 each way in a chauffeured limousine, with room for up to three people. Alternatively, London City airport is 19 kilometres away.
Victoria Station, served by National Rail, is just two kilometres from the Franklin – a half-hour drive or Tube ride.
If you’re bringing wheels, the closest car park is Chelsea Cloisters, a five-minute drive or 15-minute stroll from the hotel (drop your bags off first). The car park is open 24/7, with rates varying from around £8 an hour to £50 a day (that might sound eye-wateringly expensive, but it’s actually a special rate for the hotel).
If you fly into Heathrow, you can hop onto the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, then take the Bakerloo and the Piccadilly line to Knightsbridge Tube station, a short walk from your boutique base camp.
Worth getting out of bed for
Start with the hotel’s highlights: a session in the hammam, a stroll in Egerton Gardens, a gin sesh in the bar... Set off on two feet to explore the ’hood’s considerable lures, including Knightsbridge’s boutiques and behemoths – hello, Harrods and Harvey Nics – and South Kensington’s cultural collective, including the V&A and the Natural History Museum. If you like arty cinemas, don’t miss a flick at the Ciné Lumière, an art deco cinema that screens fringe French films (and more). Once you’ve cantered around Kensington and hob-nobbed with the well-heeled in Knightsbridge, hop on a Tube to central London for retail, food and nocturnal thrills.
Apero is an all-day Med-inspired brasserie tucked away in the basement of the Smith-approved Ampersand Hotel (worth lingering at for afternoon tea, too). Canter through small plates and cocktails – flash-fried chipirones (squid) with saffron aioli; stonebass ceviche with grapefruit and samphire; duck with lime jam and beetroot… you get the gist. London has a string of Lebanese Le Comptoir cafés, and there’s one close to the Franklin on Exhibition Road. There are plenty of dishes to choose from – tagines, salads, wraps and the ilk – and part of this café/deli/canteen is set aside for covetable cookery ingredients, displayed with panache – expect to leave with some exotic tea or hot sauce. Service is brisk but friendly.
Maître Choux at 15 Harrington Road serves confections so light and airy, we’re surprised they didn’t float up into the heavens before we could eat them. The maestro responsible for them – Joakim Prat – has three Michelin stars up his chef’s whites.
Continue the Franklin’s longing-for-Italy theme at Vini Italiani, a smashing Italian wine bar on Old Brompton Road that serves cheese and charcuterie worthy of a Roman emperor.
Arriving late in the afternoon of what’s been a hectic day dashing around the city, I’m immediately enchanted by the Franklin’s low-key, neighbourhood feel. The discreet ‘F’ which marks the entrance is easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, and I already have that thrilling feeling of stumbling on a secret, unassuming London hotspot. The friendly staff address me by name as I walk in, and within moments of my somewhat flustered arrival I am at ease.
If you’re staying in Knightsbridge, this is the place to perch. The Franklin is a perfect capsule of the kind of classic elegance typical of this part of London, with a touch of Italian influence. The 35-room hotel at Egerton Gardens takes impressive ownership of four Victorian redbrick townhouses. Inside, the hotel’s decor is restrained, grown-up and decadent. While that may sound contradictory, it works. Interior designer Anouska Hempel has stamped her mark with gilded furniture, framed botanical prints and Asian stylings. I make mental notes on her moody, muted colour palette: inky blues alongside monochrome accents, oak and marble floors, smoky etched mirrors, and graphic wallpaper. It feels smart, modern and fashionable, but there’s a hint of art deco which amps up the glamour.
After a smooth check-in, I’m treated to a tour of my 25 square-metre Deluxe room. Travelling frequently for work, I appreciate the concept of the home-away-from-home, but if I’m staying at a luxury hotel, I want to know it. The huge, wrought-iron, four-poster bed leaves little room for doubt on that score, and I feel far from home in the best possible sense. Every convenience is at my fingertips – in the most luxurious iterations. Case in point: crisp, Frette bedlinen, the fluffiest of bathrobes and quality minibar snacks, ripe for splurging on. Should I forget my good fortune while brushing my teeth, the bathroom is stocked with Penhaligon’s products as a helpful reminder.
Outside my window is a private haven of manicured lawns and trees. Few hotels take advantage of London’s abundant green spaces, so the Egerton Gardens are a rare, and rarified, pleasure. The view of this beautiful verdant expanse is wonderfully therapeutic, whisking me that much further away from the hustle and bustle of city life. To cement this special ‘me time’, I order a jasmine tea, and a tray is soon delivered to my room. Between becoming smitten with a darling silver sugar box and drinking in the garden view, I sit, reading my book, allowing the peace and quiet to settle in.
When I eventually head downstairs to have a look around the property, I find that my jasmine-induced serenity is not going anywhere; in fact, it’s quite in keeping with the general atmosphere. Checking out the restaurant and bar, I observe other patrons are similarly unruffled – just drinking, chatting and enjoying the surroundings. Nowhere is this contentment more apparent than in the restaurant. With outside customers providing a big slice of the revenue in many hotels, it can sometimes feel as though there isn’t room for you as a paying resident. The Franklin, on the other hand, is exclusively dedicated to its guests. There isn’t a moment when I don’t feel relaxed, or when the service isn’t impeccable. The menu is guided by Michelin-starred chef Alfredo Russo; and, while I’m always biased in favour of modern-Italian cuisine, I would be confident recommending the food to someone differently inclined. I sit for a while, admiring the dining space’s proportions and acoustics, without feeling the rush to leave. Post-dinner, the champagne and martini bar is as conducive to sitting alone as it is to sinking back into a booth chatting to a friend.
The Franklin’s gym and hammam spa facilities are bijou, but offer plenty incentive to invest in a little pampering, whether you’re on a much needed getaway or on the road. I regret not having time to experience the spa during my stay and vow to rectify this on my next visit. I do spend some time in the small library, a lovely, cream-hued spot. It’s ideal for a morning spent catching up on emails, but I relish the invitation to indulge in reading for its own sake.
On my final morning, I begin to resume normal life with a coffee and newspaper in my room. Downstairs at breakfast, my baked eggs are a revelation, and I savour a few more moments of this civilised start to the day, wishing the weather would permit me to sit on the outdoor terrace. The only thing left is a seamless check-out, and the eager anticipation of returning to this side of town, which – for me – will now be synonymous with the secluded luxury of the Franklin.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in The Franklin’s Guestbook below.
The staff and the room was really lovely.
Stayed on 19 Jan 2019
The service here is five-star perfect – discreet and attentive. The rather glamourous bar is well stocked, and includes a collection of great non-alcoholic cocktails. The rooms are not very big; in fact, the hotel is a lovely warren of petite, interesting spaces. Large windows overlooking the Egerton Gardens add extra dimension. Comfortable bed, lots of pillows, Penhaligon's bath products – serene and cozy.
Colourful rooms, huge corridors, etc. It is a small boutique hotel decorated in neutral grays.
Stayed on 6 Jan 2019
The communal areas, great decor and cosy hotel.
Such small bedrooms, especially because we had one of the larger rooms. Disappointing.