Review: The Randolph Hotel Oxford, booked for £36 in the Graduate Hotels flash sale
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This is our review of The Randolph Hotel in Oxford.
We couldn’t resist checking out the hotel after writing about the Graduate Hotels flash sale last week, where £300+ hotel nights were on sale for £30+VAT. Rob managed to find a Monday night stay that priced at £36 so off I went to see what HfP readers who got this deal can expect.
(If you are an email subscriber, you never saw this offer. We only found out about it on Wednesday morning, when we quickly wrote an extra article, and the sale launched at 5pm. All £30 rooms disappeared within an hour or so. The two UK hotels covered were Graduate Oxford, reviewed here, and Graduate Cambridge, the ex-DoubleTree.)
Previously part of Macdonald Hotels, The Randolph re-opened as a Graduate Hotel in Autumn 2021 after a nine-month renovation, transforming the staid interiors and bringing a bit of life into the 1866 Victorian Gothic building.
Where is The Randolph Hotel in Oxford?
On the corner between the Ashmolean and Balliol College, as it turns out:
It is a short, half-mile, 11 minute walk from the train station, whilst the high street and the majority of historic colleges are just a stroll away.
Inside The Randolph Hotel
The public spaces inside the hotel are fabulous. Immediately on your left as you enter is a small, cosy vaulted lobby bar called the Morse Bar (Colin Dexter was a regular, apparently, and several episodes were filmed here in the 80s.)
The heart of the hotel is the grand staircase, with reception at the foot:
College crests are suspended from the third floor right down the middle of the staircase which made it feel very Harry Pottery. Here is the view from the top:
There is also two lovely light drawing rooms to the right of the staircase with plenty of seating to work or relax from. I ended up spending a couple of hours writing here:
Check in was quick and easy and I was given ‘student ID’ themed keycards:
My room was on the third floor. You can either walk up the grand staircase or take one of the two lifts, but these are quite slow and one is very small.
Rooms at The Randolph Hotel
I was given a ‘graduate double executive’ room which I believe is the entry-level double room. Some cheaper ‘classic single’ rooms are also available for the solo traveller – oddly these are marked as 27 sq m which would make them easily big enough for a double bed.
As I was staying on a £36 rate I think I was probably given one of the worst rooms in the hotel – you’ll see why in a moment – although it was still very good. If you are staying on a normal rate, I would hope that you will get a better room than this.
Here it is:
I’ve pumped up the brightness in the photo but, as you can see, it is fairly dark. This is because there is only a small window facing a wall just one metre away. Here was the view:
This meant that, no matter the time of day, it always felt like a winter evening. Apart from sleeping and watching TV I wouldn’t necessarily want to spend much time during the day here, which is why I decamped to the drawing room on the ground floor with my laptop.
Other than that, the room is great, if a little small. The design aesthetic is ‘more is more’ based on the huge variety of chintz!
Immediately to the right of the door is a small desk complete with old-fashioned telephone and Vertuo Nespresso coffee machine:
This is the first time I’ve stayed at a hotel with the newer Vertuo machines. They work by spinning the coffee pod very quickly – it’s meant to be better or something – so both the pods and the machine are larger than your average hotel Nespresso machine.
Bizarrely, I had to hunt for a coffee cup, spoon etc which were all in the wardrobe, rather than near or next to the coffee machine.
Next to the desk is the double bed:
There are big, wooden bedside tables on both sides, as well as room light controls. On the right hand side you have a two gang socket with USB plugs:
Plus an Alice in Wonderland inspired bedside lamp:
Opposite the bed is the TV and some storage:
In the corner, by the window, you have another small round table and armchair:
Whilst, on the other side, is a small wardrobe with safe, ironing board, kettle etc.
The bathroom is in a small nook behind the TV. It is, admittedly, small – just big enough for one person, with a shower but no bath:
Toiletries are by Malin+Goetz, which I like, in wall-mounted dispensers:
So, all in all, a small room but the designers have managed to cram a lot in. Too much, perhaps? I would have removed the round table and armchair in the corner and shifted the desk into that space, opening up the room slightly.
I also found it quite warm, and whilst there are air conditioning controls, I’m not sure this was switched on properly because it was set to 16 degrees, which it definitely wasn’t. I run quite warm at night and ended up opening my sash window as far as it went and still could have done with a lighter duvet.
Breakfast at The Randolph Hotel Oxford
Breakfast is served in the main hotel restaurant, called The Alice (I’ll give you three guesses why ….)
It is a really nice space, with huge windows on two sides flooding the space with light:
It took a moment to get seated – the staff kept us waiting longer than I think was really necessary, although I understand they’re busy.
You have several options for breakfast. You can either go for a continental buffet, a cooked & continental buffet or order from a small number of a la carte options (including eggs benedict etc).
I went for the buffet, which was laid out very nicely across two rooms. Here is the continental section:
With pastries, cold cuts of ham, cheese, yoghurt and fruit:
The cooked buffet was in the next door room, and featured scrambled and fried eggs, sausages, streaky bacon, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, waffles and pancakes.
There were no baked beans but I did get some after I asked. Here is what I had:
It was a good breakfast although I thought the set up was a bit confusing. For example, my first choice would have been to have eggs royale and a croissant, but the only way to do that was to pay for the whole continental buffet – even though I only wanted one item.
There’s a lot of history in Oxford, and The Randolph is a big part of it, so it’s no surprise that American-owned Graduate Hotels has hammed it up. It does occasionally feel like you’re walking into Hogwarts – or at least, a theme park version of Hogwarts – a sort of pastiche Oxford that only exists in American tourist’s imagination.
Not that I’m complaining. I think it’s quite fun, and it reminded me a lot of Hyatt’s Great Scotland Yard hotel (review here), which also goes all-in on with its Sherlock Holmes theme.
The challenge is to convert a heritage building, with all the foibles of a 156-year old building including weirdly shaped rooms, sloping corridors and the rest, and turn it into a five star hotel. Clearly, that’s not always possible: whilst I was perfectly happy with the room I had given that we paid £36, you would probably be miffed with the lack of natural light if you paid £200+.
Overall, the hotel is impressive – Graduate Hotels has done an excellent job with the design, which feels extremely modern but without forgetting the hotel’s history.
You can find out more, and book, on the hotel website here. If you missed out on the flash sale you can still get 30% off by using the promo code ‘MORESUMMER’.
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