BACKGROUND The hotel is one of 24 properties acquired from Macdonald Hotels by Moorfield Real Estate Fund in January last year. In April 2007, a long-term management contract was signed by Accor resulting in the rebranding of the property as a Mercure, the company’s non-standardised mid-market chain. The Eastgate Hotel has a four-star status but, due to the number of single rooms, can only technically be labelled as a three-star hotel. The hotel is one of 29 Mercure properties in the UK, with the Mercure Point Hotel Edinburgh and the Mercure London Gatwick Airport having opened this spring.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? This “townhouse” property has a warm homely feel to it as you walk in, with low ceilings, a sit-down check-in area in the lobby and a personal welcome from the staff, who will take your bags to your room. The public areas recently underwent a complete refurbishment by interior design company Blacksheep, which also saw the addition of a 80-seat brasserie, a big change from the student hangout that existed previously. The ground floor lounge/bar between the entrance area and the restaurant has been fitted with classic armchairs, timber floors and an unusual style of wallpaper sporting a life-size black-and-white print of book spines, creating a fitting “academic” flavour to the place.
WHERE IS IT? On a small, peaceful road just off the main High Street and opposite the Oxford University Examination Schools, it is within walking distance of the shops and colleges and a short cab ride from the station.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 63 en suite rooms (three of which are smoking) in two categories, Classic and Superior. There are 11 Classic single rooms, 20 Classic double rooms, ten Classic twin rooms, 16 Superior double rooms and six Superior twin rooms.
ROOM FACILITIES The moderately sized rooms, off narrow corridors, all have air-conditioning, a limited minibar stocked with essentials like beer, water and Coke, pay-per-view TV (the older sets are due to be replaced with flatscreen ones in the next couple of months), a telephone, a small workdesk, an iron and ironing board, a trouser press and a couple of armchairs. The simple white bathrooms come with a combined bath/shower, own-brand toiletries (shower gel and shampoo), heated towel rail and a hairdryer. My west-facing Superior double room, decorated in soft creams with dark wood furniture, overlooked the lawns in front of the Examination Schools and was filled with sunlight in the evening. It also had windows which could be opened to let in fresh air. Wired internet access is available throughout bedrooms and the boardroom, while wifi is available in the public areas at a cost of £5 per hour or £10 for 24 hours.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The newly renovated bar and restaurant, The High Table Brasserie and Bar, is popular with local residents as well as guests, thanks to its good-value menu and wine list and High Street location. The interior is fitted with white glass-topped tables, wooden floors, white chairs and dark padded banquette seating, giving it a contemporary yet cosy atmosphere. The restaurant, which was just awarded its first AA Rosette at the beginning of June, serves several daily specials as well as a seasonal menu created by head chef Christopher Bentham, offering modern English cuisine with a French slant. A breakfast buffet is served here from 7am while coffee, pastries and lunch are served from 12pm-7pm. Last orders for dinner are taken at 10.45pm. The High Table also features Mercure’s own specially selected wine list – Les Grands Vins – offering high-quality wines with a minimum mark-up price. For private fine-dining, there is a glass-walled room in the corner with a capacity for parties of up to eight people, but for those who just want a drink and some snacks, there is the bar next door.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There is currently one boardroom – the Ruskin Suite –with a capacity for 16 people but there are plans to convert this room back into its original use as a bedroom suite within six months. The venue has plenty of natural daylight, wifi internet access, and traditional furniture such as brown leather armchairs and a long dark wood table.
LEISURE FACILITIES None.
VERDICT A comfortable mid-range option which manages to imbibe the atmosphere of Oxford as a historical, academic city. The staff are professional and friendly, and the new restaurant is a convenient dining venue for the business traveller to entertain clients or grab a bite to eat without leaving the premises.
PRICES Room rates start from £139 including breakfast and tax.
CONTACT Mercure Eastgate Hotel Oxford, 73 High Street, Oxfordshire; tel +44 (0)1865 248 332; mercure.com.