For some reason, visiting Oxford always intimidates me a little. Perhaps it’s the smell of world class academia that does it; history, knowledge and discovery purveying every pore of the city. Maybe I just sense that everyone here is a lot brighter than me. Thankfully, as I arrived at Macdonald Randolph Hotel I was greeted like a long lost friend; not hint of superiority anywhere. Now my imagination was running riot. Perhaps with my shabby chic look they thought I was a visiting college lecturer, perhaps a world expert in paleontology, with the Ashmolean Museum just opposite?
I was quickly brought back to reality as we passed the Morse Bar in the lobby, the watering hole of many an episode of Inspector Morse. Television drama, much more my level.
The Macdonald Randolph Hotel is something of an icon in Oxford, built in 1864, it holds prime position in a city where the only open spaces you’ll find are inside the college grounds. It did have an air of ancient elegance about it, the creaky floorboards, panelled walls and dimly lit corridors, but frankly I felt it all added to its charm. Something smooth, sleek and modern would simply look out of place in Oxford’s historic centre.
That said, our room was a delight. Yes the floor still creaked along with the period theme, but this was a room befitting any five star hotel. The bed was huge with crisp cotton sheets, the lounge area had wonderfully comfortable couches and the bathroom, though a little snug, was beautifully fitted out with rain forest shower, bath and Molton Brown toiletries. Two flat screen televisions, free wifi and plenty of tea and coffee was at hand together with some delicious chocolates inside a mortarboard box, a lovely touch that.
Back down the sweeping double sided staircase and the legendary Macdonald Randolph afternoon tea was in full swing in the Drawing Room, a scene so typically English it could have been a film set.
We stepped out for an evening stroll before dinner and within a few steps we were in the very heart of the city. Ancient colleges to the left and right, narrow alleys and twisty lanes and of course, rising above the skyline those famous gothic spires.
Dinner at Restaurant at the Randolph, a baronial-like hall adorned with University crests around the walls, was a total triumph and something of a pleasant surprise it has to be said. Perhaps the team were basking in the glory of just winning a third AA rosette but this was outstanding fare from a kitchen team proudly offering only fresh British produce. We took breakfast in the same room the next morning and it was gratifying to see such a splendid buffet with quality. So many times, the chef talent is on the dinner service and nowhere to be seen the next morning. Fresh breads, freshly made porridge, even sugar free jams for diabetics, something so often overlooked.
Macdonald Randolph Hotel is a marvelous place to stay in Oxford. It’s like being held in the arms of a wise old professor who has many stories to tell but still knows a thing or two about bringing out the best in hospitality. My only regret was the charge for using the Spa sauna and steam room, normally a complimentary service for hotel guests the world over.
As I reluctantly departed the Macdonald Randolph Hotel, I cast a glance at the concierge convinced he called me “prof” as he waved me goodbye. But imagination does that to you I suppose.
Mortar board image (c) Andy Mossack
I want to stay at Macdonald Randolph Hotel. How much does it cost?
Room prices start from £219 per night including breakfast.
Macdonald Randolph Hotel
Beaumont Street Oxford OX1 2LN
Tel: 01865 256400