No decorative detail is too lavish for L'oscar, the new London hotel that cites Oscar Wilde as its theatrical muse. Katherine Price pays a visit
Need to know
"Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future," wrote Irish playwright Oscar Wilde in A Woman of No Importance. It's an epigram that has subsequently gone on to be adopted by a hotel housed in a former church.
L'oscar was originally built in 1903 as the headquarters and congress centre for the Baptist church. The property fell into disuse in the early 1990s and was on English Heritage's ‘at risk' register for 20 years before being acquired by Triangle Hotels & Resorts in 2012.
The Grade II-listed property in London's Holborn reopened last month after a £40m development. French designer Jacques Garcia's opulent interiors target the top end of the luxury market, and the building's restored Edwardian Baroque and Arts and Crafts features have been allowed to shine again.
Garcia, whose previous projects include Paris hotels the Royal Monceau Raffles Paris, Hôtel Odéon Saint-Germain and Hôtel Costes, has a style that goes hand-in-hand with interiors inspired by one of the largest personalities of 19th-century literature.
The hotel is full of Art Nouveau-style touches: Lalique butterfly-wing taps, bird-adorned chandeliers, door handles in the shape of peacocks, and floral prints paired with rich fabrics and bold colours.
"If you don't like aubergine, you're in the wrong place," laughs general manager Michael Voigt, who left the Arch London in 2015 to join L'oscar, which was originally due to open in 2016.
The Regency-style moulded plaster ceilings, marble fireplaces and terracotta narrative panels have also been given a new lease of life. However, as is often the case, the building's history has been both its biggest selling point and its biggest hindrance, and the main reason its opening has been delayed for two years.
"Nobody realised how difficult this building was. I don't think any builder could have expected it to be such a challenge," says Voigt.
The 39 bedrooms are all different due to the nature of the building, and are split across eight room types. All are united by rich colours and ornate printed upholstery, and every room up to the fifth floor has its original Arts and Crafts tiles and fireplaces intact.
The superior bedrooms feature bespoke Lalique chandeliers; deluxe rooms offers floor-to-ceiling Edwardian windows and private lounge areas. The junior and deluxe junior suites have a more residential feel, while the suites offer a separate lounge and bedroom.
Some feature steam or shower-steam rooms and others have freestanding baths. The ground-floor bathrooms had to be installed within the bedrooms as prefabricated pods, with their walls extending only halfway up to the high, carved ceilings, which couldn't be touched due to their listed status.
Restaurants and bars
L'oscar has two main food and beverage outlets: the 44-cover Baptist Grill, located in the building's double-height octagonal chapel, and the Parisian café-style, 55-cover Café L'oscar, with its illuminated onyx bar, mirror-lined walls and ceilings, and gilded panels inspired by Venice's Caffè Florian.
e chairs in both the café and the hotel's 70-cover bar are adorned with hand-embroidered silk peacock feathers, and the café also has a terrace that spills out onto the hotel's Southampton Row frontage.
Both these and the hotel's overall F&B offer are overseen by executive chef Tony Fleming, who joined from D&D's South Place hotel and now heads a 35-strong brigade.
The hotel has two main meeting and event spaces: the Committee Room and the Library. The Committee Room seats 25 and features an original Royal Doulton terracotta fireplace, above which sits a carving of a scene from Baptist preacher John Bunyan's allegorical work The Pilgrim's Progress. The plaster ceilings feature carvings of bunches of grapes, offset by walls painted a petrol blue. "It's stunning," says Voigt. "Nothing here is understated."
e Library is a larger space than the Committee Room; it can hold 80 guests seated and 120 for cocktail receptions. The bookshelves lining the walls are originals, filled with literature of the Arts and Crafts era, while hand-painted peacocks adorn the walls.
The group aims to open 10 more L'oscars over the next 10 years, and has already shortlisted properties in Scotland and Berlin. L'oscar London will be the flagship site.
Contact and details
L'oscar London2-6 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4AA020 7405 5555www.loscar.com
Opened 23 May
Owner Triangle Hotels & Resorts
General manager Michael Voigt
Executive chef Tony Fleming
Design Jacques Garcia
Room rate £395
FabricOsborne & Little www.osborneandlittle.com
Pierre Frey www.pierrefrey.com
Southern Drapes www.southerndrapes.co.uk
Watts of Westminster www.watts1874.co.uk
Butterfly taps and bird lampsLalique www.lalique.com
FurnitureInterdecor Design www.interdecordesign.com
Artwork consultantPeter Millard & Partners www.petermillardandpartners.com
LightingZonca International www.zoncainternational.it
CarpetsHouse of Tai Ping www.houseoftaiping.com
Bathroom accessoriesCP Hart www.cphart.co.uk
DecorationAtelier Mériguet-Carrère www.ateliermeriguet.fr
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