For the uninitiated, a group which I belonged to until very recently, L’Oscar is a boutique hotel overlooking Holborn’s Southampton Row like a stately castle. Its facade exudes that mannered form of sophisticated luxury both seductive and somewhat intimidating for the more budget conscious. If you let yourself be enticed through its doors, visitors in the mood for a little more tangible than a good night’s sleep are advised to head to the Baptist Grill; a butterfly cocooned by the hotel like a sleek dark pearl in an oyster. The Baptist occupies a Grade II listed domed chamber entirely hidden from street level. The site came to be by the meticulous restoration of the former London headquarters of the Baptist church built between 1901 and 1903 by the architect Arthur Keen. After being damaged by a bomb in World War II, it was closed to churchgoers for decades before finally undergoing an extensive restoration programme that began in 2012. You enter the reborn chapel by way of a notably decadent bar which hymns its former religious virtues [with an admittedly infernal twist] with a series of cocktails based on the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven [presumably less deadly] Virtues. Splitting the difference we elected to embrace a binary, trying both Pride [Jasmine Infused Ketel One Vodka, Lime & Sage Sherbet, Champagne, Anise Star] and Humility [Monkey 47, Triple Sec Gagliardo, Vermouth Bianco Di Prato, Grenadine, Lime] with the cooly sweet Pride taking first prize, containing enough of a kick that a few of them could definitely go before a fall. Both are definitely a little pricey at 16.00 a glass, but the delicate balance of flavours really speaks to the care and attention that have been put into these Miltonic delights. Running one floor above the bar is a circular gantry which hosts the Baptist Grill itself. The tables are clustered beneath the dome allowing guests to scope out the underworld of the Bar to their heart’s content. Dark wood and deep purple predominate, but instead of leaving the mezzanine shadowy, the tenebrous colour scheme is gloriously offset by the light shining through the dome.
Still you can’t eat aesthetics; though presumably scientists are working on that, so we arrive at the food. Chef Tony Fleming [who previously earned a Michelin Star for his work at the Angler] has outdone himself with a canny reimagining of the charcoal grill as the last word in decadence. I started with the Seared Scallops, served on a bed of guanciale, fennel, basil and strawberry vinaigrette [16.00] Scallops were juicy with a hint of smoke, smoothed down whilst the smooth flavour of the guanciale coming through strong and clear overlaid the hidden sweetness of the strawberry. As flavourful as it was, the real treat was the Saddleback Pork Cutlet covered in apple jam, lardo, red apple [£24]. The meat was tender as a summer romance (with the red apple sharp enough to evoke the recriminatory end of said romance), it was a real triumph and one that really showed off Fleming’s flamboyant approach. Whilst you will be sinking some funds into an evening at The Baptist, considering its ambitious menu, prime location and striking interiors, any theatreland visitor should consider being born again at their hands.