A delightfully unusual combination of tea, tequila, sweet treats and art.
It seems like London has gone Frida Kahlo-crazy at the moment. Everywhere you look her iconic and oh so recognisable features stare out at us, whether on an advertisement for her exhibition at the V&A or in fashion features inspired by her striking look. Not to say this isn’t a good thing, as a host of fabulous related events are unfolding all around us this summer.
The Franklin London – Starhotels Collezione, just a hop, skip and a jump away from the V&A in South Kensington, has come up with the genius idea of combining an afternoon tea with free entry to the exhibition. On a recent visit we hadn’t been able to book tickets the usual way as the popularity of the exhibition meant that a Saturday afternoon slot was never going to happen. Or so we thought. On booking the tea we simply had to pop to the hotel to collect our tickets and in we went!
Titled “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up”, the exhibition gives Londoners a first look at a treasure trove of clothes, make-up, medicines and photographs that were, until 2004, sealed up in a room in the artist’s Mexico City house. It’s as intimate as it sounds, especially as the V&A has mixed these highly personal possessions with letters, paintings and drawings. Together, these paint a portrait of a singularly brave woman who, thanks to childhood polio and an horrific bus crash at 18, spent her 47 years in constant pain and had a leg amputated below the knee at 46.
The exhibition doesn’t shy away from these grim realities; in fact, it celebrates the way that Kahlo mined her suffering for her art and defied it in her dress. Alongside her beloved Tehuana dresses sits a pair of glamorous red leather boots, one still attached to Kahlo’s prosthetic leg. The corsets that held her back straight are decorated with hammers and sickles. And most poignantly of all, the last exhibit is the exquisite dress Kahlo was wearing when she died – showing that she was creating self-portraits until the last. Whether or not you’re one of the artist’s many devotees, this exhibition inspires admiration and awe.
The Franklin is a 5 Star hotel that in all honesty has passed under our radar until now; not surprisingly as it’s tucked away down a quiet South Kensington side street. It has recently been given a new look by celebrity interior designer Anouska Hempel and the resulting look is a stylish mix of English house and opulent Italian design. It’s the epitome of a boutique and individual London hotel, with its peaceful and beautiful outlook onto lush green gardens belying its central London location.
In the restaurant there is seating for just 30 diners in an intimate space with a view of the garden. The grey velvet decor, with silk ikat-patterned furnishings and enormous Venetian mirrors, is refined and yet comfortable at the same time.
Time for tea
The Frida Kahlo-inspired afternoon tea is why we are here today and any self-respecting fan will feel transported to Mexico as they indulge in a colourful array of delicious treats. We start with a delicious tequila cocktail called El Diablo (designed by multi-award winning mixologist Salvatore Maggio) and ooh and aahh as our visually stunning ‘tea’ is presented to us. The staff are evidently very proud of how it looks, and rightly so as it’s arranged on beautiful Mexican tiles and coasters.
All the food follows the theme, with chicken and avocado, black bean and egg and octopus sandwiches (crusts neatly removed!). For sweet treats there are delicious churros dipped in chocolate, bowls of finely chopped exotic fruit, flan de cajeta (a light milk pudding) and scones. In my mind scones are pretty much the perfect bake (once covered in jam and cream of course (in that order!), but strike me down with a rolling pin – adding chocolate chips and banana sends scones up a level!
We happily dip between savoury and sweet and back again (a top tip to prevent sugar overload!), washing it all down with Franklin’s very own afternoon tea, a blend of Earl Grey and Oolong tea finished with rose petals. The piece de resistance is two slabs of chilli praline chocolate presented on their own mini easels with an impression of Frida’s face imprinted onto them. Almost… almost too good to eat!
The Frida Kahlo experience is sold at £50 per person including a ticket to “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up” exhibition at the V&A. Click here to book.