Simon Wittenberg attends an exclusive media preview of the newly-refurbished private dining room and event space at the legendary Italian restaurant Franco’s on London’s Jermyn Street.
Franco’s history harks back to 1945 and is heralded as one of the oldest Italian eateries in London. It was originally called Franks for the English restaurant and café that once stood on the same site from about 1942, before being given an Italian twist on the name when Italian gastronomy and culture were brought to this famous establishment by a gentleman called Luigi.
Franco’s is now in the hands of the Hambro family, whilst Director Jason Phillips has been in charge of the day-to-day operations for the last 18 years.
The restaurant, a favourite of regulars and visitors alike, received a makeover in 2005 following the arrival of the new owners, who also have nearby Wiltons in their portfolio.
More than a decade later, Franco’s underwent another extensive refurbishment at street level under the direction of Belfast’s Cheah Rothe Design Studio in 2019, in the lead-up to the eatery’s 75th anniversary the following year. The intention was to reconfigure the lower ground floor shortly after, but the arrival of the pandemic in 2020 soon put a stop to this.
However, after Covid-19 subsided, the refurbishment of the private dining room and event space swung back into action. On this occasion, Franco’s turned to a different design studio, with the brief handed to Conrad Alexander Design – a business renowned for its luxury finishes and interior styling.
Fast forward to February 2023, and the newly refurbished area, which is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Jermyn Street, and diners upstairs, is now open for business for both corporate clients, and for those who wish to enjoy a celebration amongst family and friends at the weekend.
It’s an elegant, versatile and tastefully furnished space which can accommodate up to 50 people on the plush light green and red seats (a nod to the Italian flag) depending on the configuration, and is an area that is also used by the restaurant when it has not been booked for private hire.
With elegant pull-back oak-framed dividing doors complete with Art Deco glass panels at the lower end of the room, the area can be confined to one single board room-type table facing the sizeable 65-inch TV, or can be opened up to accommodate one long central table or a few separate oval ones. The lower ground floor area in its entirety costs £3,500 to hire, or £1,500 and £2,000 when divided between the small and large rooms if the partition is in place.
As part of the updated features, the main area boasts an upgraded oak waiter station, multiple storage solutions, and a new walk-in wine storage room. This is particularly pertinent, as Franco’s has its own branded wine and champagne, plus, in the summer, this establishment has one of the largest collection of rosé varieties in Europe.
Furthermore, the bespoke scenic wall coverings throughout the dining room are 17th-century etchings of the Italian countryside printed on canvas. Mirrored antique panelling and Art Deco brass light fixtures have also been added to brighten and deepen the elegant look and feel of the space.
We were sat in the smaller area with the partition doors closed, and red is clearly a dominant theme in the redesign, complementing the black and white artwork lining the walls in a subtle kind of way.
The only area where, in my mind, Franco’s may have missed a trick with the refurbishment, especially when targeting a business and conferencing audience, is to have readily-available and accessible plug sockets and USB charging points like you would find in a hotel meeting room, for example.
These are attributes which are pretty crucial in this day and age when so much of business is powered by smartphones and laptops.
Franco’s is famed for its popular and lively ‘English’ breakfast, whilst the lunch and evening menus offer classical Italian dishes, including fresh pasta, as well as delicious homemade desserts and ice creams.
During our visit for dinner, we were treated to some of the exquisite dishes offered by Franco’s from both their vegetarian/vegan à la carte, and its ‘standard menu’ for those who are carnivorous or prefer something from the ocean.
After perusing the menu alongside a bread basket comprising of focaccia, ciabatta, grissini, multi-seed bread, and pan carasau, I started with the buffalo mozzarella with aubergine purée and baked tomato, whilst I also tried the deliciously-creamy burrata with butternut squash, almonds and rocket salad. This was followed by a small portion of charred sea bream with leak purée and fennel, and was joined by sides of mashed potato and zucchini fritti.
Having seen the result of the re-designed private dining room first-hand, it is clear that a lot of thought and an expert eye has gone into the new area, and it certainly has all the right ingredients to make it a successful venture.
Furthermore, with an excellent location, a reputation that is second to none, coupled with personal service and a drive for high standards, Franco’s should be at the forefront of anybody’s mind who is looking to impress and deliver a memorable experience.
Franco’s in London – Where and How?
Franco’s is situated at 61 Jermyn Street, St James’s, London SW1Y 6LX, United Kingdom. For more information on the private dining area and event space, visit www.francoslondon.com, or call 020 7499 2211.
See pictures from our visit on the Luxurious Magazine Instagram page.
Read more dining reviews, industry news and guides here.
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