The Old War Office (OWO) of Britain's World War II era prime minister Winston Churchill opened its doors as a brand-new luxury hotel in London with a glittering launch event, complete with surprise musical performances by musicians Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andrea Bocelli.
Princess Anne – the Princess Royal, the sister of King Charles III, officially unveiled the plaque for The OWO after a tour of the hotel with Hinduja Group co-chairman GP Hinduja on Tuesday evening.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also made a quick stopover, along with parliamentarians, entrepreneurs, hoteliers and stars of film and television.
The Indian-origin Hinduja Group conglomerate and the UK's richest family had acquired the landmark on Whitehall, opposite Downing Street, over eight years ago and tied up with Raffles Hotels to transform the building into an extravagant hub complete with luxury residences, restaurants and spas.
“We have always been working to see what best we can do between India and the UK because we believe our responsibility is to act as a bridge between the host country and the motherland,” said GP Hinduja.
“It took us eight years and in these eight years we had a lot to do, but finally this iconic building has been converted into peace and solace, not World Wars.
"It is the legacy not only of the Hinduja Group but London as a great destination.
"Everyone who lands in London will first come here to see what it is,” he said.
After the launch event, which also showcased the food of 3-Michelin-starred chef Mauro Colagreco as the chef partner for The OWO, the hotel will welcome its first guests starting this Friday.
Raffles London at The OWO, as it is officially known, has been developed in partnership between the Hinduja Group and French multinational hospitality group Accor.
“When we came to Whitehall, the team were blown away by the size and beauty of this majestic building.
"No expense has been spared in bringing it back to its former glory and paying homage to its heritage, whilst breathing new life into it.
"Along with Raffles London at The OWO, we hope to create a legacy that is both timeless and unsurpassed," said Sanjay Hinduja, who has overseen the project.
The OWO, originally completed in 1906 and designed by British architect William Young, was formerly the site of the original Palace of Whitehall.
The building has since witnessed world-shaping events while influential political and military leaders like Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George held office in the UK.
Its grand architecture has also made the building a backdrop for James Bond films and, more recently, ‘The Crown' Netflix series.
“Everyone at Accor feels honoured and privileged to be part of this historic project that has surpassed all expectations – truly a legend in the making and possibly the most awe-inspiring hotel on the planet,” said Sebastien Bazin, Accor chairman & CEO.
“Together with the Hinduja family, we proudly invite locals and travellers alike to experience this extraordinary hotel as well as the authenticity and graciousness of Raffles, one of our most prestigious brands in one of the world's greatest cities,” he said.
As part of the renovation with the help of hundreds of artisans, the historic interior elements have been restored, including delicate hand-laid mosaic floors, oak panelling, glittering chandeliers, and a magnificent marble staircase.
The most historically significant areas of the building include the Heritage Suites, former offices of the influential political and military leaders associated with its history.
A number of these will be available for exclusive reservations as “The Whitehall Wing”, a six-bedroom suite occupying the west wing of the building which can accommodate up to 12 guests – one of the largest luxury hotel wings available in London.
The transformed OWO also houses 85 Residences by Raffles as part of the building's reimagining as a new culinary district for London, complete with nine new restaurants and three bars, including a rooftop with panoramic views of Buckingham Palace.