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April 2019

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A theatrical turn

1 April 2019

A former Baptist Church in Bloomsbury’s historic Holborn gets a flamboyant facelift

With no visible signage, the low-key entrance to London’s newest 5-star hotel, L’oscar, lets its neo-baroque interior do the talking. Derelict for over a decade, the

Grade II-listed building has been reimagined by pre-eminent French interior designer Jacques Garcia, of Paris’ Hôtel Costes and La Mamounia fame. Garcia has brought bohemian excess to every corner of L’oscar’s central London address, from its velvet-clad lobby to the 39 boudoir-esque bedrooms.

Thankfully, its turn-of-the-century feel isn’t lost under all those drapes of damask. Original heritage features like the grand staircase (now illuminated by a cascading chandelier of glass birds), Royal Doulton-tiled fireplaces and stained glass windows have been painstakingly restored by scores of master craftsmen. Overseen by national charity English Heritage, the building underwent a six-year, US$50m refurbishment, which involved the addition of two more storeys to its original five.

The influence of Irish-born playwright Oscar Wilde, the hotel’s muse, comes to the fore in its guestrooms. Adorned with chaise lounges, antique gilt mirrors and more tassels than a Victorian drapery store, peacock-feather panels complete the decadent look.

Every Garcia hotel has an animal motif, and L’oscar is no different. Birds and butterflies take whimsical flight in the form of hand-painted peacock plates and Lalique crystal butterfly taps in the bathrooms. Bespoke his and her toiletries are courtesy of master perfumer Roja Dove, who was tasked with creating two new scents for the hotel. Everything from umbrellas to champagne coupes (and toilets!) has been custom-made.

A sultry space in the evening is beneath the mirrored ceiling of the ground floor’s Café L’oscar, inspired by the décor of Venice’s iconic Caffè Florian. A French-inflected menu of rabbit and potato gratin or buttermilk fried baby chicken makes for comfort food par excellence. I’m quite sure Wilde would have approved.

Take a pew
For seasonal British fare in more ecclesiastical surroundings, make a reservation at the Baptist Grill. Michelin-starred Tony Fleming whips up dishes in the former chapel that include coal-roasted beetroot salad and rose veal neck with rosemary, anchovy and lemon.

In the neighbourhood
In a city the size of London, location is everything. As well as a coveted address on fashionable Southampton Row, L’oscar is just a whisper from lively Covent Garden’s pedestrianised piazza, the British Museum and Russell Square – a welcome oasis of greenery in central. Fittingly, the theatre district is also on the doorstep, as well as high culture hub, the Royal Opera House and (for lit-lovers) the Charles Dickens Museum.

Words: Sarah Freeman

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