A superb position. The Randolph’s immediate neighbours are the “Ashmo”, the colleges of Balliol and St. John, the Oxford Playhouse and the Martyr’s Memorial, which is where tour groups tend to congregate. The good shops are in walking distance too and the majestic sweep of St Giles yours to stroll around night and day.
There are 151 en suite bedrooms off the grandest staircase in Oxford. All have been recently refurbished but the hotel’s Victorian origins can show when it comes to room size. Expectations were lower in those days. Upgrade to a four poster room if you're looking for luxury. Décor is subdued but tasteful: browns and creams enlivened by the odd electric blue or red cushion. The rooms with a view of St Giles or the Ashmolean offer space worth paying the extra for.
WiFi access is not free, something that has got to change.
The lobby is an event. With its winding staircase this is one of the quasi-medieval high points of William Wilkinson’s Gothic design. The Morse Bar, just off the lobby, is overpriced but has great cachet. The Lancaster Room is where Afternoon Tea is taken and is decorated with paintings by Sir Osbert Lancaster, the author of the classic Oxford comic novel, Zuleika Dobson. (Sir Osbert paid his hotel bill with these pictures.) The restaurant is decorated with oil paintings and college coats of arms and deliberately echoes an Oxford senior common room of Victorian times.
Eating and drinking
The Randolph Restaurant has two AA rosettes, both the work of head chef, Tom Birks. All the ingredients – beef, oysters, scallops, salmon – are sourced from the best UK suppliers, which accounts for the price. The cheese trolley tries to be entirely English. This is not a cheap restaurant but one with a great sense of occasion. Birks has reintroduced the idea of flambéing and carving at the table. This is one of the places that proud parents and grandparents take their student offspring.
If you’re a resident there is a good half board meal plan which allows you to dine from a more reasonably-priced fixed menu. A brandy or whisky in the panelled Morse Bar is a great way to end off the evening.
There’s a new mini gym and a spa in the basement. The spa is found down lantern-lit corridors, decorated with Buddhist iconography. The low ceilings may feel claustrophobic to some but if you find Oxford at all stressful, this is the place to escape it. Facilities include steam rooms, saunas, Jacuzzi, ice fountain and sensation shower. A huge range of treatments are available as well as day and half day packages. The gym has all the equipment you’d expect but is, of course, sadly underused.
The Randolph dresses its staff in traditional English hotel livery. The doormen are welcoming, the bar staff friendly and the waiters strike a good balance between informality and discretion. The front desk is undermanned at busy times and this can lead to delays if a lot of people are checking in or out.
Who stays there
A lot of international coach parties. The Randolph is very popular with Americans and Germans. Morse fans come here remembering how a party of cultural tourists ran into trouble while staying at the Randolph in The Wolvercote Tongue. You'll also spot well-off parents visiting their student offspring.
Basic double rooms are usually half the price of the more splendid four poster rooms and junior suites. Breakfast from £17.50 per person extra. Ask about the dinner, bed and breakfast packages which can be very good value if you’re keen to eat in.
- Business Centre
- Fitness Centre
- High-Speed Internet
- Pets Allowed
- Room Service
- Business travellers
- Culture vultures
- Mature travellers
- People watching
- Design and architecture
Pros & Cons
- Sense of occasion
- Great location
- Good food
- Always busy
- Avoid the barman’s signature Morse Martini which redefines this classic cocktail – and not in a good way! Martinis should not include Midori
- Reassuringly expensive