I have vague memories of Oxford, and the ones that I recall were rather traumatic to say the least; throwing it back to my naive teenage years when I first visited England, with memories of getting caught in a torrential downpour in the middle of winter, wearing a non-waterproof denim jacket, and left shivering the whole way back to London on a National Express bus. Clearly bad British weather and poor outfit choices are not a good combination, but I digress.
Fast-forward to the present day, my choice of attire now accustomed to the local climate (on most days at least), I can say that my most recent experience has certainly left a much more positive impression. Lucky enough to have just missed the National Rail strikes, we departed from London Paddington station on a beautiful sunny day and arrived at Oxford station in just under an hour, greeted by more sunshine as we took a leisurely stroll towards the hotel. Located in the heart of Oxford, just opposite the Ashmolean Museum, The Randolph Hotel by Graduate Hotels is named after Dr Francis Randolph, an eighteenth century university benefactor, and takes inspiration from the University of Oxford’s history. There is a sense of grandeur the moment you walk through the main entrance, the reception desk situated at the foot of the magnificent spiral staircase, beneath an eye-catching array of custom-made appliqué flags which hung suspended from above.
I checked into one of their beautiful rooms on the third floor, a Graduate Deluxe King, the walls covered in a whimsical blue and white wallpaper, illuminated by two large windows across from the bed, overlooking the Martyr’s Memorial. My room was outfitted with a comfy king-sized bed, the bedside table lamps on each side supported by miniature figurines of Alice and the White Rabbit, a playful nod to Oxford alumnus Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. The room also came with a 50″ HD TV and a solid wooden desk with matching chair clad in deep forest green leather, and on the desk laid a personal hand-written welcome note accompanied by a complimentary bespoke Graduate Hotels chocolate bar. Having missed my coffee fix in the morning, I was thankful for the Nespresso coffee machine and biscuits to curb my hunger pangs.
The bathroom was kitted out with MALIN+GOETZ dispensers which contained the essentials, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, as well as a bottle of body lotion. I very much appreciated the marble sink in the bathroom which had ample surface space around, allowing me to lay out my toiletries without the risk of knocking them into the sink (or the toilet!).
After freshening up in our rooms, we headed back downstairs for a Rum-tasting session, held in one of the hotel’s whimsical private dining rooms. Tucked behind The Alice, the walls were covered in pink floral wallpaper with a stunning floor-to-ceiling stained-glass Alice in Wonderland inspired wall at the back of the room, the space lit up by the glorious sunshine that shone through the vast pink-paneled windows. The tasting masterclass was hosted by Rum enthusiast and Rummelier® of the Royal Rum Society, Dwight Jones, who showed great enthusiasm and introduced the quality of a variety of Rums in a fun yet interactive way. We were offered about six different rums to sample, alongside a selection of chocolates, each of us provided with an accompanying scoring sheet to take notes, which I may have forgotten to fill out in the excitement of it all – I’m sure I still have some mental notes to rummage through at the back of my brain.
We then proceeded on to the Chef’s Table, tucked behind a velvet curtain, which featured a skylight where the natural light flooded through, bouncing off the dazzling chandeliers. Coinciding with English Wine Week, we were treated to a delicious dinner curated by Executive Chef Chris Emery, showcasing the best of seasonal British produce and English wine, in partnership with Balfour Winery. To whet our appetites was a trio of canapés; chorizo gougeres, Parmesan brûlée with white pepper, and a scrumptious steak tartare & caviar soured cream served on potato crisps, paired with Balfour Brut Rosé 2018. This was followed by a couple of smaller starter dishes which included a summery spring vegetable, artichoke & crab salad, and some vibrant grilled tomatoes with strawberries and chicory, paired with Skye’s Chardonnay 2020. Next was a sole agnolotti with sorrel butter, topped with Exmoor caviar, that went well with the Springfield Chardonnay 2018. Our main was a hearty and satisfying Romney Marsh lamb with melted onions, girolles & peas, perfectly paired with the aromatic Luke’s Pinot Noir 2020. We finished off on a sweet note with a classic English custard tart with marinated gooseberries, our elegant coupes filled with Leslie’s Reserve Gold NV, the golden liquid rich and fruity with a delicate hint of sweetness. I was glad that I didn’t have far to travel after, apart from the three flights of stairs, before collapsing into bed in a food coma.
The next morning, being the early riser that I am, I took the opportunity to explore more of The Alice before the breakfast service commenced; inspired by and aptly named after Lewis Carroll’s famous protagonist in the enchanting story of Alice in Wonderland. Its a charming space, and I was particularly partial towards the vintage pink leather sofas and colourful artwork that lined the walls. We enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast buffet in the main dining room of The Alice; there was a continental breakfast spread as well as a full English breakfast buffet for guests to indulge in – breakfast is after all the most important meal of the day.
We were then given a bitesized-tour through the city centre, hosted by Stuart who runs Oxford Walking Tours, where we passed by some famous sights and landmarks, amongst them the Martyrs’ Memorial, Sheldonian Theatre, The Radcliffe Camera, and the Bridge of Sighs. Oxford is of course known for its beautiful colleges, and we were given an inside tour of Balliol College, one of Oxford’s oldest colleges and the oldest academic institution in the English-speaking world still on its original site.
A word of thanks to The Randolph Hotel, Graduate Hotels, and everyone who hosted us during our whirlwind stay in Oxford – I look forward to returning soon to enjoy more of the hotel’s luxurious amenities and explore more of what this historic city has to offer.
- I was invited as a guest of The Randolph Hotel – views and photos are my own.