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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.)

Randolph Hotel Oxford

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.

The hotel website is here.

Where is The Randolph Hotel in Oxford?

On the corner between the Ashmolean and Balliol College, as it turns out:

Randolph Oxford location

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.)

Randolph Hotel Oxford Morse Bar

The heart of the hotel is the grand staircase, with reception at the foot:

Randolph Hotel Oxford reception

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:

Randolph Hotel Oxford grand staircase

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:

Randolph Hotel Oxford drawing room

and

Randolph Hotel Oxford drawing room (2)

Check in was quick and easy and I was given ‘student ID’ themed keycards:

Randolph Hotel Oxford keycard

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:

Randolph Hotel Oxford room

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:

Randolph Hotel Oxford 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:

Randolph Hotel Oxford desk

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:

Randolph Hotel Oxford 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:

Randolph Hotel Oxford bedside

Plus an Alice in Wonderland inspired bedside lamp:

Randolph Hotel Oxford white rabbit light

Opposite the bed is the TV and some storage:

In the corner, by the window, you have another small round table and armchair:

Randolph Hotel Oxford armchair

Whilst, on the other side, is a small wardrobe with safe, ironing board, kettle etc.

Randolph Hotel Oxford wardrobe

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:

Randolph Hotel Oxford bathroom (2)

and

Randolph Hotel Oxford bathroom

Toiletries are by Malin+Goetz, which I like, in wall-mounted dispensers:

Randolph Hotel Oxford toiletries

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 ….)

Randolph Hotel Oxford the alice

It is a really nice space, with huge windows on two sides flooding the space with light:

Randolph Hotel Oxford alice bar

and

Randolph Hotel Oxford the alice (2)

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:

Randolph Hotel Oxford continental buffet

With pastries, cold cuts of ham, cheese, yoghurt and fruit:

Randolph Hotel Oxford continental breakfast

The cooked buffet was in the next door room, and featured scrambled and fried eggs, sausages, streaky bacon, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, waffles and pancakes.

Randolph Hotel Oxford hot buffet

There were no baked beans but I did get some after I asked. Here is what I had:

Randolph Hotel Oxford full English

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.

Conclusion

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’.


Hotel offers update – June 2022:

Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Want to buy hotel points? There is:

  • a 80% to 100% bonus when you buy Hilton Honors points by 19th July 2022 (buy here)
  • a mystery 40% to 55% bonus when you buy Marriott Bonvoy points by 15th July (buy here)
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Comments (60)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Ian says:

    I’m only “an email subscriber” so I never saw the extra article that appeared later – drat!

    So how do I get access to future last-minute articles of this nature?

    • Rob says:

      Pop onto the site daily. We also ran extra articles when the Virgin cruises deal came back and are now running 4 articles a day more often – with one not emailed – when it’s busy.

  • Save East Coast Rewards says:

    I’m more interested in what they’ve done with the old DoubleTree, it used to be a Hilton before that. It was located in a good location but was nothing special. I don’t think there was any history in the building to capitalise on

  • oxforddoc says:

    Have to say that it’s much improved compared to the very tired Macdonald pre-refurb furnishings. Even if the decor is somewhat quirky! Unfortunately can’t change the fact that a number of the smaller rooms have really awful views from the windows! Worrying to hear that it doesn’t sound like they’ve fixed the fact it gets warm in summer though!

    Unfortunate to see that the breakfast buffet appears to still be quite sad – it amazed me how the buffet of a hotel that regularly sells rooms for £400+ can produce such a dull breakfast! If you’re going to pay £20 for breakfast, I would certainly go somewhere else in Oxford – there are plenty of very good and very nearby options.

    Have to admit that I would always opt for the Old Bank Hotel in Oxford over this if the prices were similar (which they often are). The Old Bank is certainly more refined with an excellent breakfast offering – though the cheaper rooms are all on the similar smaller side.

    • elguiri says:

      Or for quirkiness factor, the Malmaison…

    • JDB says:

      The restaurant (Quod) at the Old Bank Hotel has good food in a good setting. Their original Oxford hotel/restaurant, The Old Parsonage, is also good.

  • vol says:

    OT: just seen get £250 off £500 spend at United Airlines pop up on my Amex card – I don’t know if different offers are available

  • Elguiri says:

    Forgot to add – the hangars at the Randolph are of the stealable variety…

  • ginlover says:

    We stayed at Oxford Monday and Tuesday and agree in the main with the review by Rhys. Our air conditioning worked a treat and in general we were happy with the room but if we’d paid £250+ a night would have been relatively disappointed with the size of the room and lack of natural light. It was also baffling to have no step free access which was a faff with the pram. Staff were very friendly and dinner was good. There are many fabulous places nearby for breakfast. Overall enjoyed the stay but wouldn’t stay again at full price!

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