Hidden in plain sight on a side street surrounded by red-brick residences, The Franklin is a heritage-listed hotel that prioritises tailored guest experience in a homely environment
The Franklin in London
The Franklin is a five-star boutique hotel in Knightsbridge, London. An area synonymous with the upper-class set, the V&A, and Harrods. Hidden in plain sight on a side street surrounded by red-brick residences, The Franklin is a heritage-listed building. The hotel, whose mission is to provide tailored guest experiences punctuated by Italian hospitality and a homely environment, opened in 2016, although its history predates this. English architect George Basevin designed the structure in the 1840s. The Franklin is among twenty-four of his early Victorian terraces on Egerton Crescent.
«The Franklin is a grade two listed building. It consists in the joining of four townhouses. The authenticity of the building gives it a warm and intimate feel. Especially because it is a residential area. That’s what it was originally built to be – a house. Therefore, this was kept in mind when it was transformed into a hotel. Externally, it has an authentic English style, yet inside is the warmth of an Italian home», explains Mishaal Eid, General Manager of The Franklin.
The destination is one of thirty Starhotels around the world, and one of twelve chosen to represent the Starhotels’ Collezione. An elevated sub-brand of the hotel group which represents its properties with unique locations. Starhotels is a family-run Florence-based hotel group. It was founded in 1980 and specializes in four- and five-star hotels across Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. Its vision is to bring a quintessential Italian atmosphere to its collection of hotels that encompasses four-thousand-and-two-hundred rooms.
«The Franklin is one of three destinations belonging to Starhotels’ Collezione portfolio in London. If you look at and compare the three hotels, they have individual styles and a varied clientele determined by the location. Although each of these hotels have a distinctive atmosphere, The Franklin has a considered feel», says Eid. «The two other hotels include The Gore, which is located beside Hyde Park, and The Pelham, which is next to South Kensington Station», adds Sophie Handley, Starhotels’ Marketing Manager. Customers can find additional Starhotels Collezione properties across cities, including Rome, Paris, New York, and Florence.
Anouska Hempel, the designer behind the hotel’s renovation
Starhotels Collezione acquired the hotel in 2014. After that, it underwent a revival that spanned two years. Comprising thirty-five guest rooms and suites, The Franklin revels in its unassuming facade. Externally, one could miss the building if not for a flag donning the letter F hung above the entrance. On entering the property, the atmosphere morphs into that of an Italian salon featuring moody greys, Carrara marble, floor-to-ceiling Venetian screens, mirrored surfaces and Art Deco aesthetics.
«Anouska Hempel is responsible for designing the interiors of the hotel», explains Eid. Born in New Zealand, the actress starred in films including James Bond, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, before turning her attention to interior design. Her agency – Anouska Hempel Design – works with restaurants, homes, and hotels in the United Kingdom and overseas. Hempel is a familiar name in London’s high-end hotel market. She is famous, in fact, for her work on the Blakes Hotel in South Kensington. One of the world’s original boutique hotels.
«Anouska Hempel sourced inspiration for the designs seen throughout the hotel from her travels around the world. Many of the design elements have to be made from scratch for The Franklin», says Eid. Even the marble tables that denote the foyer were specifically designed to mimic the pattern of the Italian tiled floor. The four hundred thread count Italian cotton bedding and Simmons beds were also sourced especially for the hotel. This custom approach characterizes the property, and merges into the guest experience. The Franklin is unique in its design process as guests can acquire certain pieces and decor that was exclusively made for the hotel on request via Anouska Hempel’s agency.
Lampoon review: The site where The Franklin now stands
With rooms across five floors in addition to the ground level and a basement featuring an authentic hammam, a fitness center, and a treatment room, The Franklin remains true to the residence’s former blueprints. It does not attempt to mimic a classic hotel environment. The layout, in fact, flows from one room to the next. It is small in scale, and with that, is intimate in ambience.
«Depending on the time of the day which you visit the bar, restaurant, or lobby, the spaces can feel transitional. When you are in your room it should feel like your private space. Then you could come to have some afternoon tea, and later if you visit the bar the atmosphere has transformed. Utilizing lighting and atmospheric elements, the spaces evolve based on the time of day», says Handley.
Another unique element to the designs of The Franklin hotel is the split-level executive suites which support separate living and sleeping space. The aim of this design scheme was to cater for guests who entertain friends during their stay. The rooms have the objective of enabling guests to feel at home. This core promise of a welcoming environment is mimicked yet again in the tailored guest service.
The hotel manager explains that their mission is to offer each guest a customized experience, catered to their specific needs and preferences. With this in mind, one of the starting blocks for a stay at The Franklin is the management team speaking with a guest to understand their penchants. It is based on this collected information that the hotel is able to build a profile of them in advance of their arrival. This, says Eid, allows the hotel’s team to best cater for their guests who span nearby-residing London locals to brides on their wedding day.
Facilities at The Franklin
As for facilities, The Franklin offers some unexpected additions. The aforementioned hammam is a surprising feature inspired by Hempel’s Moroccan travels. Hidden from sight in the building’s basement, guests staying at The Franklin can book it with thirty minutes notice. Groups of one household can also book together. Although the best experience is for those seeking serenity through solitude.
On the basement level, there is a fitness centre. Small and simple, the space is at its best for two at a time. But, Eid explains that given the intimate nature of the hotel there is rarely demand for the gym that exceeds what is on offer. A treatment room is located on this lower floor, too. Here, guests can avail of a catalogue of beauty and wellness treatments brought in by Viva Therapies. A mobile salon that is also available to guests within thirty minutes of booking. Deep tissue massages, reflexology, facial treatments, yoga classes, personal trainer sessions, hairdressing and make-up artistry are possible any time of the day or night. And, for those who prefer to be in the privacy of their room, treatments can take place there on request.
On the ground flood, neighbour to the lobby, a library with no books, but instead a handful of coffee table editions, is open throughout the day. It is here that guests can steal a while or watch the flatscreen television. «Aside from our on-site facilities, we have a Les Clefs d’Or Concierges. A concierge team that is associated with this premium concierge organization, who is on hand to facilitate any guests requests. For example, a personal shopper at Harrods», adds Eid.
In partnership with Beyond Curated, an elevated experience group for discerning travellers, guests at The Franklin can avail of fine dining, exclusive night tours and day trips, private viewings, and masterclasses. Virtual and seasonal events in partnership with Beyond Curated similarly cater to those who want no cost spared.
The Franklin Restaurant and The Franklin Bar
«On the ground floor, we have The Franklin Restaurant and separately, The Franklin Bar. Our restaurant is led by the Italian Michelin-star chef, Alfredo Russo. At present, we have an all-day dining menu. We offer afternoon tea and room service twenty-four-hours». The chef, who began his career in the culinary arts at the tender age of thirteen, is responsible for Dolce Stil Novo in Turin, Italy. The sole restaurant inside a royal abode, Venaria Palace.
«The menu is seasonally changing. Yet there are three or four dishes that generally remain throughout the year. One of these includes Alfredo Russo signature vegetable soup which includes eighteen vegetables», explains Handley. «As we reopened in May [after lockdown restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic], the restaurant is not operating at full capacity as of yet. We would usually offer an à la carte and dinner menu with our signature dishes. When that is the case, we focus on Alfredo Russo’s culinary heritage, which is Piemontese cuisine. The food has a focus on locally sourced produce. The menu has an emphasis on Piemont classics revisioned in a modern way», Handley goes on to say. Examples of this include pasta with dyed cheeses, humming hues of gold, silver and bronze.
The hotel’s partnership with the V&A Museum
«Afternoon tea is another one of our defining culinary offerings. As we have a long-standing partnership with the V&A [the Victoria & Albert Museum], we design our afternoon tea offering to complement their major touring exhibitions», says Handley. At the moment, the exhibition in question is Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser. The show, which runs until December 2021, celebrates the children’s classic Alice in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll and first published in 1865. Before this, it was Tim Walker: Wonderful Things, presented to the public between September 2019 and March 2020.
Although The Franklin does welcome children, its facilities and amenities to cater to them have limits. Essentially, says Handley, it is an adult hotel. While younger guests are not the main target of the afternoon tea, it is an opportunity to make the experience broadly suited to all ages. As The Franklin is a Corporate Member of the V&A, a tour of the exhibition itself prefaces or follows a seating at one of its themed afternoon teas.
Last-minute tickets are available from The Franklin’s concierge. This, explains Handley, is a premium service. Particularly given that tickets for these coveted exhibitions can sell out months in advance. Still, she reiterates, this is a core value for The Franklin from a customer service perspective. «Ask, and you shall receive».
24 Egerton Gardens, SW3 2DB, London
Set in an elegant Victorian building nestling in the lush beauty of the private Egerton Gardens, The Franklin combines the warmth of a private home with the impeccable service of a luxury hotel. Celebrity designer Anouska Hempel refurbished the hotel. Her work has helped create a temple to hospitality.