Going to school in Oxford, I had often walked past the five-star Randolph Hotel – stopping in awe at the city’s grand dame, favoured by rich tourists and made famous by Colin Dexter’s beloved Morse novels.
So when an invitation to dine in its new Acanthus restaurant arrived however, I jumped at the chance to witness its extensive £6.5million refurbishment first-hand, following a fire almost a year ago.
As a group of four friends, we were seated at one end of the impressive dining chamber, with its grand collegiate wall plaques – reminding us of the great university town we were in.
The name Acanthus denotes a herbaceous plant or shrub with bold flower spikes and spiny decorative leaves, found in warm regions of the Old World. But there was nothing spiky to be found in the dining space – it is perfect for a leisurely luncheon.
We weren’t rushed by the impeccable staff, who on the contrary, allowed us more time than expected as we caught up over each course, helped along by a little Moet.
The new 90-seat bistro’s head chef, Sean Ducie, under the watchful eye of Macdonald Group executive chef Keith Shearer, has created a robust selection of the seasonal delights, including delicious Cornish hand-shucked oysters, Crottin goat’s cheese with beetroot, pomegranate and caramelised walnut salad; deep-fried crisp cod cheeks, The Randolph fish pie, and steak au poivre.
Delicious desserts on offer included a pink rhubarb jelly with gin and tonic sorbet; crème caramels; and deliciously sticky fig tarts.
Feeling sated not stuffed, we retired to the hotel’s new Cartoon Bar for a coffee, so named for the collection of cartoons hanging on the wall by a range of artists from when the hotel first opened in 1866.
This we learned is Oxford’s newest home to collection of world class champagnes and gins, boasting more than a dozen champagnes and 35 types of gin. Guests can even create their own bespoke champagne cocktail, by adding from a range of liqueurs.
I recommended visiting Acanthus now, before the crowds descend.
Address: Macdonald Randolph Hotel, Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2LN / 0344 879 9132