Franco’s attracts a highlly diverse clientele: an un-trashy Euro crowd including businessmen, well-groomed young women who like the convenience of all-day dining, the odd film director, and even – ordinary Londoners who find themselves in deepest St James's and needing sustenance. Inviting pavement tables, which bring a classy continental feel to traditionally English Jermyn Street, are most popular; there is also a relaxing café-bar and a more formal Italian restaurant next door.
In the café-bar, where a long maroon banquette provides seating at a series of round dark wood tables, is a huge silver Taittinger champagne bucket, a glass dome protecting morning pastries, a little nude art, and copies of the International Herald Tribune and Financial Times. Staff hit the right balance of friendliness and correctness – happy to chat about this or that, concerned how we wanted the house salad dressed, and whether the coffee should come before, with or after dessert.
People don't generally come here expecting the greatest food in London, but neither are they likely to leave here feeling hard done by. The place is open from breakfast through dinner, and at all stages it has been delivering the goods with solid quality through decades of doing business. Their £18 'complete breakfast' – full English plus a pastry, juice, toast and tea or coffee – will set you up for the day. Outside breakfast it's mostly classic Italian (pasta a strong point, lasagna a best seller) with a few dishes from the grill as well. Prices are not cheap, but neither are they at all expensive for this part of town. And the wine list enables you to drink very well for under £30 – something of a rarity for Italian places in the area. It’s no accident that in an area that’s packed with restaurants, Franco’s is still going strong.