20th Nov, 2017

Oxford's Randolph Hotel offers hospitality in best British tradition

Ian Hughes 28th Feb, 2017

OXFORD has its share of great institutions and the Randolph Hotel is certainly one of them.

The grand Macdonald-run five star hotel has been at the centre of town and gown life for 150 years, welcoming famous faces real and fictional – from former US President Bill Clinton to Inspector Morse – alongside families of undergraduates and tourists from across the world. One thing all guests are guaranteed is that during their stay they can expect nothing but the exacting high standards the Randolph has built its reputation on.

That starts from the moment they are greeted by the concierge team who immediately ensure guests have all they help they need. A font of knowledge, there’s nothing they don’t know about the hotel, and little they don’t know about the city.

A flambéed beef stroganoff was responsible for a fire back in 2015 which ripped through three floors of the hotel. It triggered a £6.5million refurbishment of the grade II-listed Victorian Gothic building which sits proudly opposite the Ashmolean Museum.

The 151 en-suite rooms range from Classic to Presidential Suite, with Four Poster rooms and suites with separate lounge areas and bathrooms with televisions. Whatever room type though, expect nothing but supreme comfort – from big comfy beds to Molton Brown toiletries.

A drink in the Morse Bar – named of course after Endeavour himself – or the Cartoon Bar with its specialist selection of Champagnes, whiskies and gins, offers the perfect aperitif to dining in the recently opened Acanthus Restaurant, which specializes in classic British cuisine with a contemporary twist.

The Acanthus is a grand high-ceilinged ballroom-like space adorned with portraits of bewigged gentlemen from yesteryear, and college coats of arms providing a reminder of where you are eating.

We started with a first rate Crab arancini – balls of Cornish crab and Italian rice tossed in seaweed breadcrumbs served with a hearty crab mayonnaise, and staying at sea, a refreshing Shrimp cocktail with Americana sauce.

That we followed with a Scottish sirloin steak bursting with flavour, and while the large hand cut chips could have been crispier, they were well-cooked inside. We also chose the Poached free-range chicken supreme, paired with black pudding bon bon. The chicken, while moist and tasty, was however outshone by the magnificent black pudding, again served in ball form. Black puddig supreme with chicken would be a better name.

We finished with an excellent boozy Tiramisu and an equally impressive Lemon tart. Both intense and indulgent and sensibly portioned.

Looking round at the clean plates of fellow diners cleaned it is clear the Acanthus has found a winning menu.

TripAdvisor complaints seem to highlight a problem with slack service. That was certainly not something we experienced. The service was prompt, friendly, but without being intrusive.

No where is perfect of course and there are small points where improvements could easily be made.

Diners asking for tap water are presented with a glass of something that smells like a swimming pool, and tastes no better. The fault really of Thames Water, but it is just unpleasant, and should not be served.

And the piped music! At one point we had house beats – not at all in keeping with the surroundings. Uninterruptive light classical or smooth jazz, or do not bother.

But the fact remains the Randolph is a special place. Staying or just dining, it offers great British hospitality at its best.

Visit www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk to book and for further details.

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