Oxford’s Grande Dame: The Randolph by Graduate Hotels – Review

By Martha Davies

2 months ago

If walls could talk...

Planning a trip to Oxford? You’ll need somewhere to stay after traversing all those cobbled streets. Martha Davies checks into The Randolph. 

Review: The Randolph by Graduate Hotels, Oxford

Lobby at The Randolph Hotel, with a dark wooden staircase and desk and a tapestry of Oxford college crests.

Oxford may be small, but it’s a city with far more than just one beating heart. There’s the Radcliffe Camera, of course, and the Bodleian Library, and then the Sheldonian Theatre and the Ashmolean Museum. The Randolph stands just across from the latter, and even a fleeting glance through its towering windows is enough to sense that it’s a place with a heartbeat all of its own.

Dating back to 1864, The Randolph possesses an illustrious history rivalling that of the buildings surrounding it – though fast forward to the 21st century and it started a new chapter after being acquired by Graduate Hotels, a Chicago-based firm with outposts in university towns across America. The brand’s only UK locations are Oxford and Cambridge, and while The Randolph certainly leans into its tourist appeal, its new US connections haven’t dampened any quintessentially British charm; the hotel’s elegance remains, and it really does feel magical rather than kitschy or cliché.

Bar with vaulted ceilings, leather and velvet seats and large chandeliers.

Walk in and you’ll spot the opulent Morse Bar, so named as it was favoured by author Colin Dexter while he was working on the Inspector Morse novels. Wood-panelled and brimming with velvet seats, it gives a taste of the grandeur you can expect from the hotel lobby (in which you’ll spot a huge tapestry showcasing all of the Oxford college crests) as well as the nearby Drawing Room, which is lit by enormous chandeliers and filled with more velvet (plus a grand piano for good measure). It’s all rather breathtaking, but inviting, too – just take a look at the bedrooms, which feature clashing floral patterns and knitted throws in a kind of cosy Victorian style. The beds are palatial, the bathrooms are gorgeous, and the views are, of course, wonderful, especially if you choose a room with a city view.

Hotel bedroom with blue floral wallpaper, clashing blue carpets and white bed linen.

When you get peckish, there’s The Alice to explore – the hotel’s Lewis Carroll-inspired restaurant. Alice in Wonderland prints line the walls, but it’s more country manor elegant than mad hatter psychedelic, with rosy pink banquettes and a marble bar. (This is the magnificent room you’ll see when you look in from the street, but it’s even more gorgeous from the inside.) 

You can pop in to The Alice for a breakfast buffet, treat yourself to afternoon tea, or settle in for lunch and dinner; the restaurant serves up British classics with fine dining finesse. The smoked haddock and cheddar soufflé is particularly divine, along with the monkfish, which is served with spiced cavolo nero and mussels mariniere. There’s Oxfordshire venison loin if you’re not fond of fish, and harissa roasted butternut squash if you’re after a veggie option. Whatever you go for, however, don’t scrimp on dessert: you can enjoy banana, lychee and passion fruit sorbets, or an indulgent toffee date pudding, which is a take on sticky toffee but with a lime-roasted pineapple twist. Genius.

While The Alice may entice you with a trip to wonderland, you can, in fact, scurry down the rabbit hole to The Randolph’s new wellness centre, which is tucked away underneath the lobby. There’s a steam room, jacuzzi and sauna to enjoy, but the star of the show is certainly the extensive list of treatments, offering everything from manicures to body wraps and facials. The Hydraluronic Facial is a real treat – it even finishes with a head massage. You’ll come out glowing, and ready for more hours spent exploring the city (or simply lounging at the bar).


In a city like Oxford, everything is old and everything is grand and it’s all steeped in history. The Randolph may be just one thread in this honey-coloured tapestry, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t special – quite the contrary. This esteemed address has its own story to tell, and it’s a lovely one.