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The spirit of Oscar Wilde adds a dash of decadence to event spaces

Anyone know how many venues there are in London? It’s hard to say as new locations are popping up almost every day.

One of the best things about my job is having a sneak peek at the latest openings. Recently, I was shown around L’oscar, a Baroque-style, grade II listed former church in Southampton Row, Holborn, and is one of the newest event spaces in London.

The name Oscar was vilified for many years. In the less enlightened Victorian era, Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years’ hard labour for gross indecency with two men. It was decades before any boy was named after the celebrated Irish playwright.

Fortunately today, the name is very much in mode, linked with delicious decadency and artistic creativity.

According to the website: “In an irony Oscar Wilde would have appreciated, a place of piety has been transformed into a place of decadence.”

I’m not usually one to gush over wood panelling, crystal butterfly wing taps and seven-storey chandeliers, but L’oscar left me seriously impressed.

Built at the fin de siècle, this was the heyday of the arts and crafts movement. Architect Arthur Keen was eager to keep to Baptist ethics and sentiment.

The committee room, now an events space, has a fireplace with the original 1903 Royal Doulton terracotta plaque carving of a scene from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Carved in the stone is “Freedom from slavery”, a nod to the well-known Baptist philosophy of finding slavery abhorrent and working towards its abolition.

Interior designer Jacques Garcia has combined the ecclesiastical with the eccentric, where peacocks strut around the walls which were once populated by the pious. It’s admittedly a small space – for 26 attendees or for a cocktail reception of 50 attendees.

The library is the hotel’s largest events space, and has beautifully restored oak panelled shelves, once stocked with literature of the Baptist church. It’s capacious enough for dinners of 72 attendees and cocktail receptions of 100 attendees.

The Baptist Bar & Grill is naughtily set in the chapel, which would probably have the Baptists spinning in their graves at the thought of being offered one of the New Testament cocktails, named after the seven deadly sins. However, it is nice to know that the bar is closed on Sundays.

For delegates who live out of London, there are 39 bedrooms in total. One of the most fascinating titbits of information I was told about concerned the Icelandic goose-down duvets. The bedding is filled with eiderdown from duck nests in Iceland – and allowed to shed naturally from the birds – rather than plucked. So animal lovers needn’t lose any sleep over cruelty to the geese.

Of course, all this doesn’t come cheap. I was sworn to secrecy over how much these duvets cost. But a quick Google search will cause shock and awe amongst those of you who are intrigued enough to put a price tag their beauty sleep.

Perhaps the last word should go to Oscar Wilde on whether we can indeed monetise sleep. “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”