My first discovery of the illustrious designer Anouska Hempel came from an unlikely source – Edina Monsoon, my childhood heroine. Eddie once told Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous she was opening a shop, with ‘gorgeous, tasteful, little stylish’ things – “present-y Anoushka Hempel-y sorts of things”. From that day on, I associated the name Hempel with a rarefied luxury – something sadly quite unattainable to a nine year old girl.
And if my first encounter conjured my imagination, my second Hempel experience arrived unwittingly in real life twenty years later, at my doorstep. Little did I realise when signing an 18 month lease on a gorgeous little Mews House on Craven Hill Gardens that the brand’s signature property, The Hempel Hotel, was just a few doors down on the same street. Minimalist and chic, on rare occasions I treated myself to a cocktail in its lavish bijoux bar. I gazed at the beautiful guests, with their discerning taste to book such understated opulence for their short stays in the capital. I savoured sharing our square’s hempel-designed garden with the guests too – often taking a book outside in the summer to sit as a privileged tenant with ‘resident rights’.
The hotel is located at 22-28 Egerton Gardens, Knightsbridge on the borders of Chelsea.
So fast forward six years, it was with joyous delight I accepted an invitation to experience the newest five-star outpost in Knightsbridge from the prestigious Italian hotel group Starhotels Collezione, The Franklin.
Anouska Hempel designed this charming hotel herself, awash with Italianate touches. The sometime couturier, in-demand interior designer and hotel magnate has transformed an elegant Victorian building into a cavern of good taste. Hempel draws on her own elegant lifestyle, taking inspiration from her travels and Venetian design, to create a boutique hotel that feels more like an inviting private townhouse.
A stone’s throw from the Victoria & Albert Museum and Harrods, The Franklin is situated perfectly for the distinguished traveller. Formed from three adjoining townhouses, it’s surrounded by the exclusive Egerton Gardens. The 35-room hotel recalls the romance of an English country house, embracing guests in beautiful interiors accented with contemporary comforts.
The hotel’s restaurant is under the culinary guidance of leading Italian chef Alfredo Russo.
From its dark limestone and Carrara marble flooring, to its striking grey-toned furniture and decorative ornaments including marble bowls, the hotel’s lobby is designed to contrast dramatically with the gardens outside, which are dotted with espaliered pear trees and Indian Jali water bowls.
Our suite was generously appointed with oak floors, tasteful artworks, mirrored furniture, 400 thread counts Italian linen, a pillow menu, Apple TV with Bluetooth, sumptuous sofa, hair styling products from GHD, Jensen telephones and a bathroom fit for a goddess, complete with dual showers and a deep bath.
Renowned Michelin-starred Chef Alfredo Russo oversees the hotel’s signature dining experience, The Franklin Restaurant by Alfredo Russo. We gorged on a Romanesque feast, starting with a delicate Tortino di Melanzane Aubergine, cherry tomato confit, mozzarella and parmigiana biscuit, plus worthy of note a dreamy polenta taragna, with sautéed wild mushrooms and Taleggio cheese.
The hotel’s stylish bar is the perfect setting for a pre-dinner drink.
Other dishes we adored were a refined Hen tortelli with parmesan fondue, a slow cooked beef served with green beans, peas and fresh broad beans, and the ‘Crema Caramellata’ – an exceptional caramelised soft cream with wild berries.
After dinner The Franklin Bar’s mirror-filled martini and Champagne called for a nightcap – in the name of all things Italian, we ordered robust negronis.
Having slept like babies, we rose for breakfast in the restaurant the next morning, where the menu also had a fine dining appeal. My cast iron baked eggs ‘Mediterranean style’ could have easily passed as a lunch main and made for an indulgent start.
The hotel also has a Hammam treatment room on the ground floor and fitness studio with Technogym equipment, for those who like us may have over indulged somewhat. Guests can even book celebrity personal trainer Matt Roberts, who is available for private sessions on request.
The hotel offers a luxury Knightsbridge escape overlooking Egerton Gardens.
When checking out of discerning, my companion was sad to find out we missed the bar’s dramatic nightly ‘Champagne sabering ritual’. Though I agreed that sounded marvellous, with the stay we just had I turned to say ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’
Rates start from £350 per night based on double occupancy. Find the best flights to London searching on award-winning travel site momondo.co.uk. momondo.co.uk. If flying into London from Stansted – book tickets to the airport from central London with the Stansted Express.
Address: 24 Egerton Gardens, Chelsea, London SW3 2DB
Phone: 020 7584 5533