In spite of, or perhaps because of, recent efforts by developers to rebrand uncool Holborn as happening ‘Midtown’, it’s a district of London one still tends to pass through without stopping to look around.
But on one corner of the crossroads outside the Tube station is a boutique hotel worthy of attention. The charismatic L’oscar is set inside a renovated and Grade II listed Baptist church, and in one ornate and dome-topped chamber is The Baptist Grill, a restaurant whose modern design aesthetic merges the ecclesiastic with the extravagant. Aubergine upholstery and peacock-feather cushions encircle an octagonal balcony overlooking the moodily lit bar below. In the restroom, glass butterfly taps. In the dining room, stone reliefs of various species of tree. It’s a place of ungodly contrasts.
WHO? Heading up the kitchen is chef Tony Fleming, who trained under Marco Pierre White and earned a Michelin-star for his City-based seafood restaurant Angler before joining Baptist Grill. Here, he diverts from ocean-based cuisine to a sophisticated menu that encompasses British and mainland European dishes.
WHAT’S THE DEAL? You can enjoy two courses for £25 or three courses for £30, with a £10 surcharge for a couple of glasses of wine from the sommelier.
ORDER THIS… The broccoli agnolitti starter (small tortellini style parcels) came with roast almond and pickled kohlrabi, and was made suprisingly fruity and fresh by the inclusion of wafer-thin slivers of preserved lemon. The roast artichoke and truffle soup was accompanied by a pair of postage stamp sized comté toast croutons, which was like dipping a cheese toastie in soup, an incredibly good idea. The earthy butternut pithivier resembled an offshore oil rig, propped up on leek struts until I Deepwater Horizoned it with my fork. And the roast chicken has had a mushroom stuffing inserted under its skin, like an edible vest.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE? It’s a great meeting spot for a client lunch, though the monastic surroundings give the unshakeable sense that God might be listening, so ensure any conversations you have here are appropriately pious.
THE VERDICT… The strongest argument yet that Holborn is a Tube station worth getting off at.