Creating a hotel out of an old church was never going to be an easy task but to create something extra special and unique takes time, patience and the determination to succeed. And so, a year after it was due to open, L’oscar, named after the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, finally opened its doors to its first guests in May 2018, more than five years after the project began in 2012, with many of the building’s features beautifully restored by master craftsman from around the world and costing around £40 million by the hotel’s owners Triangle Hotels and Resorts.
Built between 1901 and 1903, in a style coined “Edwardian Free Baroque”, the building was originally the London headquarters of the Baptist Church.
I have been fortunate enough to have followed the project since 2015, almost from its start to completion, and have been on a few hard hat tours of the hotel during its long and sometimes painful transformation, through to the magnificent boutique hotel that now stands in Holborn today.
The interior of the hotel has been designed by Jacques Garcia, the renowned French interior designer, who once said: “I am, before everything, a creator of atmosphere.” And what a terrific atmosphere he has created here at L’oscar. It has got to be one of the most unique boutique hotels in London.
The hotel has a sophisticated and theatrical style about it, with subdued lighting and images of butterflies, birds and peacock feathers, a Garcia trademark. The fabrics are unashamedly luxurious with red velvet tones and vibrant colours that remind me of boutique hotels I have stayed at in Paris. Even the public bathrooms are fitted with expensive crystal butterfly wing taps and you must have a look at the seven-storey chandelier, it is quite magnificent.
Having visited L’oscar on many occasions during its transformation, I was eager to actually stay and immerse myself in the ambience of the hotel. And so, I checked in on a typically dull Friday afternoon in March last year, looking forward to a long weekend in London and dinner at the hotel’s fabulous Baptist Grill, which was at the time, headed up by Executive Chef Tony Fleming, who sadly stepped down in December 2019 to return to D&D London. I got to know Tony and so I am sorry that he has left.
Tony has now been replaced by new Head Chef Stuart Conibear in March 2020, who previously worked at The Ned and was also personal chef to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at Clarence House in London, so his pedigree is par excellence. And as for the Baptist Grill, well that is no longer used as a restaurant, but is now available to hire for private functions, and with its immensely high ceiling and view down to The Baptist Bar, is ideal for hosting a special event.
All the rooms in the hotel are large, luxurious and individually decorated, and I have seen probably a quarter of them. No expense has been spared on the heavenly comfortable mattresses and top of the range duvets covered with high thread count linen. My room, 303, was the size of a suite, decorated with leather and velvet-draped walls and a king size bed, large interactive flat screen television, good lighting, international sockets and effective heating system. A corridor with plenty of wardrobe space and Nespresso machine, leads to a beautifully appointed heated marble floored bathroom which has a large powerful shower that doubles as a steam room and L’oscar branded toiletries made by Roja Dove. Despite my room overlooking the front of the hotel, there was very little in the way of street noise, thanks to the efficient double-glazing.
A pre-dinner cocktail in The Baptist Bar which is located on the ground floor is a must and offers a cosy and chic bolt-hole in London in which to meet friends or enjoy an intimate date. Jacques Garcia has given the bar a lavish ambience in keeping with the rest of the hotel, as only he knows best.
Breakfast is a relaxed affair in the ground floor L’oscar Restaurant with its illuminated onyx bar, gilded panels and mirrors, inspired by the world’s oldest café in Venice. For me, it was the perfect place in which to enjoy a long breakfast reading the Saturday papers and enjoying homemade muesli, some Eggs Royale and sipping a cup of excellent espresso.
L’oscar is one of those hidden gems that you could easily walk by and not notice it was a hotel, it’s that subtle and understated from the front. There was nothing I could fault. Every staff member I interacted with was professional and courteous and seemed genuinely enthusiastic and passionate about the hotel. All the hard work that has gone into creating this unique hotel in the centre of Holborn has most definitely paid off and it has been well worth the wait.
However, you don’t have to stay at L’oscar to enjoy it. The Baptist Bar is well worth a visit after work, even if it’s just to sample some of the bar team’s Old and New Testament cocktails. The Blue Tree Yard, next to the Baptist Bar, is a small secret garden with a copper tree in full blue blossom, hung with birdcages and beautiful foliage and is the perfect setting to sip on a cocktail and explore the hotel’s extensive cigar menu.
If you like the whole afternoon tea experience, then you can enjoy the recently introduced Saint & Sinner Afternoon Tea which is served daily between 3:00pm and 5:00pm and offers traditional sweet and savoury bites with a contemporary twist. The suitably themed sweet treats include Adam and Eves pudding, Devil’s food cake, and of course those delicious traditional scones served with Devonshire cream and jam.
L’oscar London, 2-6 Southampton Row, London, WC1B 4AA, England.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7405 5555
The hotel is tucked away in Holborn, less than a minute’s walk from Holborn Tube station on the Piccadilly and Central lines.
Type of Hotel: 5-Star Boutique Hotel (part of the Preferred Hotels Collection)
Number of rooms: 39 rooms and suites, including complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.
Price Band: High
Insider Tip: Do try one of their excellent cocktails in the Baptist Bar and check out the beautifully designed bespoke glasses and crockery.
Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs courtesy of L’oscar London
(Review first published in March 2019 and revised and updated in April 2020)