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Restaurant Review

food 2Venetia van Kuffeler experiences a brand new chapter at Franco’s, a longstanding St James’s institution

Opening as an Italian café on Jermyn Street in 1946, some believe that Franco’s was the first Italian restaurant in London. Franco’s has been serving the community and visitors to St James’s from early morning to late at night for almost 70 years. From a quick break and espresso to a three-course meal in the evening, Franco’s has always had something for everyone. And no more than now, given that Franco’s has acquired a brand new sleek interior, echoing the charm and sophistication of a private members’ club.

An all-day operation, Franco’s bar and café area is a firm favourite with local residents who escape the  city for an hour or so while enjoying a cappuccino or glass of wine as they read the selection of daily newspapers and magazines. WiFi now ensures that some regulars find it increasingly difficult to leave at all…

In the restaurant next door (also open all day,) the mood evolves from a quietly efficient breakfast venue to a sharp and charged lunch atmosphere, to elegance and romance in the evening. The lunch and dinner menus have evolved over the years and now offer sumptuous modern Italian dishes with imaginative combinations of the flavours, textures and aromas of Italy.

We couldn’t help but choose our firm favourites: Beef carpaccio with rocket and parmesan, and the hand-picked crab and avocado salad. Elegant in appearance, each dish was delightfully fresh and as delicious as they should be. From the grill, the fillet steak (for me) and rib eye (for him) were the perfect combination of chargrilled on the outside, and pink and tender on the inside, and were accompanied by piles of crunchy zucchini fritti, which alone were worth going back for.  Our charming waiter insisted we should try pudding, and thank goodness we did – light and fluffy, Franco’s Classic Tiramisu was the ideal finish to this Italian feast. The only regret was that we didn’t try Franco’s infamous pasta. Favourites freshly made in-house include linguine with lobster and pappardelle with braised ox cheek and calves’ sweetbreads. Some dishes are also available as a low-gluten, spelt alternative (although the thought seems rather sacrilegious.)

Bursting with atmosphere, Franco’s is genuine Italian cooking at its best. And now summer is nearly here, make your booking now. With an excellent terrace for people-watching and one of the largest rosé wine lists of any restaurant in London, Franco’s will continue to be a hit.


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