Restaurant Review: Oscar
When my date suggested we go to the restaurant in the Charlotte Street Hotel, my first vision was of a packed, over-modern, swanky hotel bar full of diners competing for inches of space with as many other couples as could fit without coming to blows. However, I was pleasantly surprised when we strolled up to Oscar, and things only got better from there.
Oscar is set in the upscale Charlotte Street Hotel in the heart of Fitzrovia, with an airy and well-appointed bar blending seamlessly into a spacious dining room which on a weeknight leaves plenty of space for elbow room or private conversation. For one who religiously eschews any bar or restaurant popular and cramped enough to necessitate shouting in your date’s ear, this is a welcome respite – comfortable and refined without being pretentious or overbearing.
On this particular weeknight the clientele was equal parts hotel guests and a well-heeled after-work crowd who, given the neighbourhood, we guessed were in advertising. As the evening went on, most parties relaxed into a quiet, convivial buzz as the ever-attentive wait staff plied us with well-crafted cocktails and a wine list to satisfy the fussier oenophiles. The terrace seating certainly appeals to many, but this evening the comfort and vantage point of a corner table inside couldn’t be passed up.
The cocktail menu contains several intriguing creations for the adventurous (like the Tiger’s Eye with Stolichnaya vodka, cinnamon, lemon juice, pear purée, Champagne and star anise) alongside amped-up classics like the Smoked Apricot Rum Old Fashioned, which left me wishing I could put off the next day’s work and have another. Between my date and I we took a sampling from across the menu and found every offering satisfying and intriguing.
The à la carte menu runs the gamut of British fusion and doesn’t disappoint in the diversity of offerings – there’s no risk that your vegetarian or pescatarian or any other -arian date will be left hungry. Both my steak and my date’s red mullet with artichoke escabeche and samphire were perfectly cooked and plated. After satiating ourselves we spent the next hour inventing back-stories for the guests sitting at tables further afield, and it speaks to the spaciousness of the room that we could safely (if quietly) share our theories without interrupting their natural habitats and spoiling the fun.
Given the popularity on this less than summery weeknight, I have no doubt that on a Friday night Oscar would be full of media and advertising types blowing off a bit of steam or preparing for a night out, but for me the mid-week vibe was just what I was looking for: laid-back, buzzing without being loud, and comfortably upscale without airs. Combine that with the knowledgeable bar staff, deep wine list and excellent food and you’ve got a sure-fire win.