A hundred-and-fifty one years old this year and after a major refurbishment, Oxford’s best-known hotel has resurrected itself from the ashes. Literally.
Oxford is one of the great small cities in Europe, and so one would expect it to have a hotel worthy of its reputation. Yet for years its flagship, The Randolph, has seemed slightly staid and old-fashioned. After a major fire in 2015 necessitated an overhaul and renovation, does this famous university city have the hotel that it deserves? The answer, at last, is ‘yes’. Impeccable service, a superb location and a peerless sense of atmosphere add up to an experience that’s as close as you can come to studying there – minus the hard work. A hat tip also to the superbly welcoming front of house manager Georg, who offers a warm and friendly greeting that immediately sets the tone.
The set-piece suites here overlook both the world-class Ashmolean museum and one of the main thoroughfares, St Giles; the views are every bit as special as you’d expect. But the standards of comfort and luxury are extremely high as well; the sitting room actually feels like somewhere that you’d be happy to while away an afternoon with a good book (Brideshead Revisited?) and a pot of tea. The bedroom and bathroom, meanwhile, combine contemporary comfort with the old-fashioned air of grace and comfort that has lasted a century and a half. The unflappable and hugely friendly head concierge, William, recommends a room service breakfast the next day; it would be rude to refuse.
Food and drink
After many unsuccessful attempts at launching a fine dining restaurant in the enormous dining room, the hotel has instead taken another tack and has become a good deal more informal; the result, Acanthus, is an accessible bistro with a great-value set lunch menu (£12 for two courses) and the reliable staples that you’d expect, such as moules to begin, steak frites for a main course and a well-chosen and diverse selection of wine by the glass. The sumptuous bottle-green, high-ceilinged room is well worth a visit in itself, offering a faintly Scottish theme and all of the college crests, along with an impressive selection of portraits. As throughout the hotel, service is not just impeccable, but also genuinely warm.
Virtually everything that you’d want to see in Oxford is a ten minute walk away; Broad Street with its bookshops and libraries, the quirky shops of the Covered Market, the artisans and pubs of Jericho and the colleges, many of which the ever-helpful William will be glad to help arrange a tour of.
Great Western Railway travels from London Paddington to Oxford every half an hour. First class carriages are the most civilised way to travel imaginable, thanks to the leather armchairs and refreshments.
In a nutshell
A splendid hotel in a wonderful city that, like the very best of grande dames, shows no signs of age.