REVIEW: The Franklin Hotel, London
Would you like adventure now or shall we have tea first? At this stunning hotel in Knightsbridge, you can have the best of both worlds
"SW3" has a magical ring to it. It conjures up images of joyful times spent admiring the Christmas windows at Harrods, ice skating in front of the Natural History Museum or taking a romantic stroll through St Luke's Gardens.
Every aspect of the neighbourhood is meticulously groomed; neat hedges enveloping townhouses with blue plaques sit hushed while cars with tinted windows and gloved, capped drivers wait patiently for passengers. It is difficult to deny that the streets here are paved with promise.
The area brings back many happy memories, and thus although I am officially a Brightonian now, I was excited to be back to spend the afternoon scoffing High Tea, visiting the nearby V&A showcase of Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser and - most importantly - checking into The Franklin for a night's stay.
Strolling through the tree lined streets from the station on a beautiful autumn day, The Franklin was easy to locate, tucked off a main road but close enough to the bustling city - and I was made at home immediately.
Curiously, the hotel doesn’t have a reception. Instead, guests are welcomed straight into the parlour and offered a drink while someone from guest services brings their laptop over to check you in. This kind of personal touch didn’t go amiss and provided me the opportunity to find out more about the hotel and its facilities, which include a basement fitness centre and beautiful hammam, as well as generous afternoon teas, one of which I was soon to indulge in.
I was escorted to my suite and the only word that came to me was "wow". It was gorgeous, decorated in a subtle Art Deco style with antique mirror detailing, a velvet sofa, footstool and a gargantuan bed, all designed by Bond-girl-turned-interior-design-star Anouska Hempel.
We were hosted on the fourth floor of the property and our window overlooked the lively neighbourhood of terraced houses below, but considering this was central London the noise was minimal. My companion having arrived by this time, we then descended back down to the dining room in anticipation of the Alice in Wonderland Afternoon Tea.
First came a glass of champagne, before we were then guided through the combination of savoury and sweet treats that were brimming from the triple tier cake stand. But it didn’t end there - we were then told to make our choice from the tea menu, which was gigantic.
Teas poured and pictures taken, it was time to dig in, and we got through pretty much everything from the crab buns to beetroot pitta and the smoked salmon to the aubergine hummus. I had less of a sweet tooth than my friend, but nibbles of the impeccably and imaginatively designed cakes and treats went down superbly, including a brownie hat with soft pecan cream, a red velvet heart cake, a carrot caramel cupcake with meringue and a fennel cheesecake. Furthermore, we were also treated to a supmtuous combination of scones with jam and cream.
Next stop was a short walk a couple of blocks to the V&A, where our hotel afternoon tea included a booking for the Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser exhibition, which takes a trip through incarnations of Alice and how she has influenced some surprising names including Salvador Dalí, Tim Burton, Vivienne Westwood and Little Simz. As per usual, the museum has pulled out all the stops to create an immersive masterpiece for the whole family, with curator Kate Bailey having brought the iconic story to life via films, VR, international memorabilia, interviews and diaries from the original Alice, whom the story is based on.
Back at the hotel - and planning ahead for breakfast - we pre-ordered room service and were rewarded with two attendants arriving with trays consisting of cast iron baked eggs with truffle mushrooms, smoked salmon and a selection of croissants, cheeses and ham.
Ladened with full stomachs and happy memories, my adventure back in London proved that it pays to still be curious - even at my age.
The Franklin Hotel, 24 Egerton Gardens, Knightsbridge, London, SW3 2DB is part of Starhotels Collezione, which includes boutique hotels in Paris and Italy.