Tried & Tested

Hotel review: The Randolph Hotel, Oxford

2 Jul 2022 by Tom Otley
Randolph-Hotel-thumbnail1

Background

The Grade II listed Randolph Hotel was built in 1864 by William Wilkinson and has a Victorian Gothic façade and internal arched windows as though it has been converted from a chapel. It is named for the Rev Dr Francis Randolph who was the chief benefactor of the Ashmolean museum which it faces across Beaumont Street. The Randolph reopened in 2021 after an extensive, renovation with public area interiors by SSH and Upperworth Studios for the rooms and is now a Graduate Hotel, a brand which has 30 US locations as well as the former Doubletree Hilton in Cambridge which is now the Graduate Cambridge. The brand is owned by AJ Capital Partners which also owns and operates Marine & Lawn, a collection of hotels in golfing locations, including the rebranded Rusacks Hotel in St Andrews, the Marine North Berwick and the Marine Troon, all in Scotland.

Where is it?

In the centre of Oxford, on the corner of Beaumont Street opposite the Ashmolean Museum and Magdalen Street opposite the Oxford Martyr’s Memorial by Gilbert Scott. Car parking is available with prices beginning at £45/day for overnight parking. Rates include parking from 2 p.m. on day of arrival until 12 p.m. the following day. Each additional hour is charged at £5 per hour, subject to availability.

Sitting-room at the Randolph Hotel Oxford, a Graduate Hotel

What’s it like?

The hotel’s entrance on Beaumont Street has a concierge desk to one side and the Morse Bar on the other, with deep leather armchairs clustered in twos and threes. Light spills down from the stately central staircase, the centre of which is filled with the coats of arms of the Oxford Colleges hanging as flags in Instagram-friendly fashion. Check-in was quickly achieved and we went up to our room on the second floor.

Rooms

The hotel has an extension built in the 1950s, so the floor arrangement is unusual, with lots of twists and turns and stairs. There are four floors in both buildings. The oldest part is on floors one to three with an attic floor above, while in the newer building, there are three main floors and a mezzanine floor above the ground floor. In total there are 151 rooms, accessed in the old building by either two small but slow lifts or by the wide staircase. The rooms are decorated with a mix of traditional and modern elements, typified by the power sockets, which as well as the usual three-point ones also have an older format (also three-point) which the UK stopped using in the 1950s. Apparently the hotel’s maintenance department convert some of the floor lamps and desk lamps so these sockets can be used.

There is no attempt to conform to the ubiquitous neutral design of today – bedrooms have bold floral wallpaper, striped curtains, patterned carpets and woodwork painted in dark heritage tones, and some furniture is free standing in dark wood rather than built in. Homeliness is balanced by stylish details such as bedside lamps made from figurines on marble bases and a coffee table made from a large brass tray. Large arched windows allow for lots of natural light and people watching in the streets below.

There are several room categories, and, depending on which building you are in, a variety of views and arrangements (some have baths, some just showers). All have air conditioning, tea and coffee making facilities, fridges, good work desk and lots of art including paintings of Oxford alumni. The only convenience we lacked was a full length mirror next to a plug point for hair drying – the only mirror in the room was in the bathroom. Toiletries are by New York brand Malin and Goetz.

Tea-room-Randolph

Food and drink

The hotel has the historic Morse Bar which is to the left as you enter, with pictures of the actor John Thaw on the wall, and then further to the left is the Alice restaurant and bar is named after the lead character in Oxford alumnus Lewis Carroll’s famous books. It is in the corner of the building with tall windows looking onto the surrounding streets and has a beautiful design, with faded plaster walls to give the room an aged look, dramatic chandeliers, bubble gum pink leather banquette seating and a metalwork double height bar at one end which then leads through to a snug bar and further rooms including a brasserie.

The Alice serves British dishes under Executive Chef Chris Emery who has worked at Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social, and The Clocktower in New York. It’s a short menu with few vegetarian options, though if you let them know at the time of the booking they do have a few off-menu alternatives, which you would certainly need if you had a vegan in the party. The Drawing Room and The Lancaster Room both open for afternoon tea and are beautiful historic rooms with high ceilings, high windows, lots of art on the wall and comfortable chairs and sofas with low tables. It’s a peaceful space when compared with the busy surrounding streets.

Meetings

The hotel’s ballroom has been refurbished and can seat 220 for a banquet and has a Garden Bar. There are also two private dining rooms off the main brasserie, and meetings rooms on the first floor (The Library, the Ashmolean and the St John rooms).

Leisure

There is no fitness centre, but downstairs there is a spa featuring treatment rooms, a sauna, steam room and jacuzzi, all of which have to be booked and have an extra charge.

Verdict

A lovely refurbishment of this classic hotel with a young and enthusiastic staff make this one to try for a special treat when staying in Oxford.

graduatehotels.com

Fact box

Best for:  Luxury right in the centre of Oxford

Don’t miss:  A drink in the Morse bar followed by dinner at The Alice.

Price:  Internet rates for a midweek stay in a Graduate Classic room in September started from £239.

Contact:  Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2LN; +44 (0)344 879 9132; graduatehotels.com

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