Is there a hotel with a more outlandishly sumptuous interior than L'Oscar, a lush spot a short stroll from Covent Garden? If there is, we've yet to see it as Lucy Ford found out.
At the centre of London’s hustling, bustling metropolis, commuters squirt determinedly past the tourists strolling along and taking it all in, all part of a busy throng who dance to the symphony of traffic, car horns and bus engines while wafted in the perfume of diesel and fast food fumes. For many, this is exhilarating; for others painful. Whichever camp you’re in, the minute you step over the threshold of L’Oscar — Southampton Row, opposite Holborn tube — the chaos of the city melts away.
What awaits within is plush, lavish, with décor that’s is dark, decadent and extreme. There are deep purple walls, swathes of curtains, dark red velvet sofas and gold peacock motifs everywhere. It ventures far beyond cosy; so rich in atmosphere that it almost ventures into naughty.
Eyebrows would be raised at such a description among some of the building’s former tenants: this was once the London headquarters of the Baptist Church, originally built between 1901 and 1903 by architect Arthur Keen. Keen was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, and many of the best craftsmen of the day were employed to make this an ornate masterpiece, both inside and out.
The building survived in its original purpose — and even recovered from a Luftwaffe bomb — until 1961, when just twelve regular worshippers were left at chapel on a Sunday. The building was taken over by London Transport for half a century or so until 2012 when the creator of L’Oscar Hotels, Duncan Shakeshaft, stepped in. Inspired by the history of the Bloomsbury set and the theatrical traditions of the area he bought in a Parisian interior designer called Jacques Garcia — who has described himself as ‘before everything, a creator of atmosphere’ — to create this seductive interior.
Many central London hotels have fine public spaces but disappointing bedrooms; not so here, where our bedroom was as gloriously decadent as the rest of the hotel. There were dark tones and velvet seats, a marble and onyx bathroom with tailor made Roja Dove bath products and a duvet filled with hand-picked down imported from Iceland.
Even if you’re not staying, the stunning Baptist Bar and Grill is worth a visit just to admire the setting. Set in the octagonal double-height chapel, it is the perfect location to enjoy one of chef Tony Fleming’s divine creations, or just to have a drink while sitting on one of the couches. All draped in velvet, of course.
Café L’Oscar — where we had breakfast of viennoiseries followed by a full English — is just as exotic with its onyx bar, the bustling heart of the hotel; those wishing for a calmer atmosphere can always repair to the library, or one of the other public areas.
Mr Shakeshaft has described his idea of the perfect hotel as ‘essentially a theatre, with staff and guests playing their parts’. I, for one, can’t wait for my encore.
Rates at L’oscar, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, start from £263 per room per night. For further information or to book, visit www.preferredhotels.com or www.loscarlondon.com