There is obviously something ironic about the transformation of the turn-of-the-century Baptist Church Headquarters into a boutique hotel dripping in opulent finishes and downright sexy decor. And this tension was certainly not lost on the team behind London’s new L’oscar hotel, which made its dramatic debut this month in the buzzy Bloomsbury district, injecting fresh new energy into the historic neighborhood alongside Doyle Collection’s chicly updated Bloomsbury Hotel. But instead of masking its ecclesiastical roots, the property’s developers, led by famed architect and interior designer Jacques Garcia and hotelier Duncan Shakeshaft, have exploited them to an ultra-stylish end—mixing piety and pleasure with aplomb.
The 39 rooms and suites spread across L’oscar’s seven floors both lean into and dial up the property’s original architecture—a mix of neo-baroque and arts-and-crafts styles that by a major stroke of luck remained in salvageable condition after the property sat relatively ignored after its religious functions ceased in the early 1960s. Garcia and Shakeshaft worked closely with the English Heritage and Camden Council to carefully restore the building’s original ornately plastered ceilings, carved fireplaces, rich oak paneling, and carefully carved plaques. But for the French design visionary, who counts design hotel masterpieces like New York’s NoMad hotel and Morocco’s ever-photogenic La Mamounia in his portfolio, simply restoring the building to its former glory was definitely not enough.
Instead, Garcia complements original high ceilings and gleaming dark wood floors with richly layered textures and bespoke furniture—think plush black velvet couches and armchairs flanking palatial beds, headboards upholstered in rich golden silks or ornately patterned peacock-feather panels, and light fixtures made up of 495 individually designed Lalique crystal birds to softly illuminate the hotel’s grand (and intimate) spaces. Though each room features an individual design, all come complete with large Edwardian windows, marble-clad bathrooms, and a sexy color palette of rich reds, onyx, and gleaming golds.
Back downstairs, the Grade II–listed original chapel has been transformed into the Baptist Bar & Grill, serving a menu of classic British fare by Michelin-star chef Tony Fleming underneath the soaring restored octagonal dome. Here, guests can linger over meals of oyster and scallop tartare or Cornish beef rib served alongside snails, garlic, and bone marrow—or they can belly up to the glowing marble bar to mix and mingle with a craft cocktail in hand. More casual fare is served in an equally dramatic setting at Café L’oscar, where guests can settle into lush booths offset by gilded paneling to enjoy bistro-style meals all day.