Owo Building

The latest life of the Old War Office already feels faintly unreal. From this Friday, the historic government palace on Whitehall officially reopens as the OWO, marking the first time the public have been allowed inside the building — more than a century after Winston Churchill rumbled around the place as secretary of state. No longer the epicentre of Britain’s defence, it’s now partly a hotel, partly flats, and partly what’s likely the most luxurious dining hub in the world. The split is this: there are 85 residences (from £4 million for a one-bed), five independent restaurants, and then Raffles London, a 120-room hotel with seven of its own restaurants and bars, bringing the grand total of places to dine or drink to 12. Or, as the OWO’s director of food and drink Mark Hastings puts it: “It’s one restaurant per 10 rooms. There’s no ratio like it anywhere in the world.” Such imbalance between the room for residents and the space for a night out speaks to the OWO’s true intentions: it’s being spoken of as the London hotel launch of the century, but in truth it is more of an impossibly grand, glamorous and gilded food hall.