I first heard about Franco’s about ten years ago on a London Cuban Cigar Walk with Nic Wing, where he took us around the many different cigar stores in the city. We were in Davidoff’s, and he pointed to Franco’s, telling us to enjoy a cigar there at some point.
A couple of years later, I went back to relax with a cigar whilst people-watching in a seat outside the restaurant at the St James’s end of Jermyn Street.
Since doing this blog, I’ve wanted to visit as many different cigar venues across London and now enjoy writing up reviews of my experience in them. Recently I made a return visit to the restaurant, and here’s how I got on.
Before we carry on, what is Franco’s?
Franco’s is an upscale and enduring Italian restaurant for all-day dining amid elegant old-world interiors.
Their website mentions that ‘Franco’s sprung to life on Jermyn Street in 1945 and has continued to serve the residents, community, and visitors to Jermyn Street and St James’s for over 75 years. It is believed that Franco’s was one of the first Italian restaurants in London. Located at the St James’s end of Jermyn Street, Franco’s is surrounded by the area’s lifestyle boutiques, private clubs, art galleries, and hotels.’ Alongside the many cigar stores.
‘Open all day, the personality of the restaurant evolves from bustling ‘English’ breakfast to a sharp and charged lunch, leading on to an elegant dinner setting. Regardless of the time of day relaxed and friendly service ensures there is always somebody to greet you with a smile.’
Franco’s also includes a cigar menu, but I recently learnt that you could pop over to Davidoff, London, which is opposite, pick up a cigar from there and take it back to Franco’s to smoke, as long as you purchase some food or drink of course from the venue.
I made a reservation before my visit because I recall that there were only a select few seats outside, and it was due to be a nice day. However, it was tricky to select the outdoor chair/tables specifically. You can book via the website or at https://www.opentable.co.uk/francos. I left a message stating my preference but didn’t hear back from the restaurant. It was the night before, and it was a weekend; hence they probably don’t check their emails during this time.
I arrived slightly earlier than my booking, and they kindly showed me to my table – which was outside. Phew! I was one of the first there for lunch. It was slightly different from what I remembered. On my first visit, there were only four tables and seats, and now it looks like the venue has expanded the seating area to approx eight tables, which I believe has been since COVID-19 when people were only allowed to dine outside for a short period.
I asked for the cigar menu, and I was told that if a pregnant person were to arrive, I’d have to put my cigar out. This surprised me a little. I have absolutely no problem with that, I understand, but it felt odd as I wasn’t aware of a policy like that before attending the venue. I assumed this was a cigar venue simply because of the Nic Wing recommendation from years back and because they have a cigar menu. To be honest, it made me feel a bit self-conscious, as I had to keep checking whether there were any pregnant folk about.
Update: I have since been in contact with Franco’s regarding their policy on cigar smoking at their premises and they mentioned the following –
“Franco’s has an internal policy with regards the outside table which prioritises our cigar smokers. I would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused on that matter. I have spoken and reminded our staff of our policy, but I would also like to say that no smokers are welcome to use the facility if they wish to”
Food-wise, the menu was quite pricey. I went for the £24 lasagne (which tasted absolutely bloody fantastic) and a £4.50 coke. I immediately spotted the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 from the cigar menu. I’ve smoked that many times before, and a cigar I always enjoy, so I went for that. At £25, that cigar seemed quite reasonable for London cigar venue prices.
Once the food had arrived and the seating/table area started to fill up, I was craving my cigar. I admit I did have to google ‘cigar etiquette, to find out whether it’s best to have your cigar before or after your meal. The answer was after, so I waited. I was also wary that I had a 1 hour 30 minute time limit at the table, which is quite common for restaurants across town. So once I ate my lunch, and the coast was clear, no pregnant ladies etc., the cigar cutter and matches came out, and I cut the cap and lit my cigar.
After a few puffs on my cigar, I relaxed a bit. It was nice to watch passers-by in the street, especially those walking into the Davidoff store and coming out with a cigar or two. But I did feel like a pain in the arse, because no one else was smoking.
The cigar was perfect. I have reviewed that cigar previously and still agree with its rating, an 8.5 out of 10. I paired this with an Irish coffee, and once I was done, I paid up and was ready to head home.
Overall it was a pleasant experience, the waiter I had wasn’t my favourite. But the food was good, the cigar was excellent, and I enjoyed the views of the street, especially as the weather was lovely. If I were to visit again, I’d go earlier in the day for the breakfast menu and pick up a cigar from Davidoff to smoke at the table.
If you would like to visit, the details are here: