Go Wilde At L’Oscar, The Unholy Holborn Restaurant (That Used To Be A Church)

By Phoebe Rudd | 14th June 2021

L’Oscar has been a must-visit on the London hotel scene since it first opened its doors in the spring of 2018, quickly establishing itself as a bohemian, bizarre and beautiful boutique hotel with a brilliant restaurant to boot. So we couldn’t’ve been more excited to head down for dinner.

Built between 1901 and 1903, the sumptuous  building was originally the London headquarters of the Baptist Church. After passing to TFL and finally to hotel developers, L’Oscar (named after Oscar Wilde) has retained its Baroque opulence and gone one step further, elevating it with a sprinkling of modern day disco. Original biblical Doulton terracotta panels still line the walls, whilst scents by Roja Dove waft through the airy rooms and over the leather and velvet-draped walls. 

Creator Duncan Shakeshaft’s distinctive theatrical influence can be found on each floor of the space. Stylised peacock motifs can be found in doors, walls and upcycled cabinets, while the mirrored counter at the centre of the hotel’s Baptist Bar lights up the dining space. It would have been easy to get lost exploring the myriad of staircases, libraries and terraces, we reined ourselves in to visit L’Oscar’s restaurant. 

This is the beating heart of the hotel, with its illuminated onyx bar and decor inspired by the world’s oldest café in Venice...

Found on the ground floor, this is the beating heart of the hotel, with its illuminated onyx bar and decor inspired by the world’s oldest café in Venice, with walls and ceilings lined with mirrors and gilded panels reflecting pieces of original art.

When we visited, L’Oscar was running a slightly reduced menu. Whilst this is economically wise, it is also a brave decision, as each dish needs to live up to the last, with just one vegetarian and one pescatarian option. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t disappoint.

Nothing ever felt stuffy and the team naturally put us at ease...

A starter of gin-infused salmon with avocado and gin gel was a true highlight. The bitter botanicals of the gin combined with creamy avocado and seriously good quality salmon was truly memorable. The steak tartare was cut from beef of equally good quality, garnished with a quail egg yolk. Service was faultless throughout; attentive but not stuffy. The perfect way to ease back into post-pandemic dining.

The three mains consisted of a spring vegetable linguine, hake on a curried veloute (if you’re brave, attempt to recreate this at home, it was excellent), and, to our mild surprise, a burger. We initially wondered whether the burger was out of place in such Gilded Age settings, but this is testament to the cleverness of the team behind L’Oscar.

A homemade relish more than made up for it...

The uber-glamorous settings were complemented by calmer music and open, friendly staff – nothing ever felt stuffy and the team naturally put us at ease. There was a definite bistro or ‘Parisian cafe’ vibe. Portion sizes were generous but not overly so, all ingredients were again of the best quality, and whilst the burger could have come with a choice of how well done it was to be served, a homemade relish more than made up for it. 

All cocktails are served to order – the bar team at L’Oscar blew me away with a specific Margarita recipe – and the wine list is small but clever, a recommended Malbec perfectly complementing the board of British cheeses we sampled for dessert. 

With dinner done, we were lucky enough to be invited by general manager Elvin Pun on a tour of the hotel. With only 39 bedrooms, it’s a classic boutique. The original church features delight in almost every room, with stunning places, inscriptions carved into the stone of the walls, and the domed ceiling of The Baptist Bar surrounded by murals of each of the Old Testament trees. 

Whilst The Baptist Bar presently remains closed, you’ll find us there as soon as it opens. L’Oscar is truly a hidden gem in the heart of the city – an opulent, sparkling building filled with surprises and some genuinely lovely team members. We’re counting the days until we can return.

Visit L’Oscar London at 2-6 Southampton Row, Holborn, WC1B 4AA or book a meal (or a stay) here…

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