Can there be a more quintessential Oxford experience than eating afternoon tea in The Randolph at a table overlooking The Ashmolean, we wondered as we sipped some more champagne?
I know, utterly decadent, but why not? It’s been a hard few years. We haven’t been out much and we deserve a little ‘pick me up’. And if there’s one box that Afternoon Tea at The Randolph resoundingly ticks its the ‘treat’ box.
So we dressed up, nothing too showy – it is The Randolph after all – flexed our pinkies and indulged in one of the Brits favourite rituals – tea.
It’s hard to keep a stiff upper lip when the wonderful waitress leads you through the beautifully decorated Drawing Room into the Lancaster Room, both given a makeover when Graduate Hotels took over, and asks if you’d like some champagne (English sparkling wine actually). Or when they give you a long tea list and ask you to choose.
Or when the three storey tiered cake stand is delivered to your table with the scones wrapped up to keep them warm, the sandwiches sliced into fingers just so, and the patisserie selection so colourful and delicate you want to squeal in delight.
What an afternoon it was – stretching out in front of us like a glorious sunny day. The only problem is that having been saving yourself, the temptation to dive in and scoff was almost overwhelming.
Instead, we followed the protocol and nibbled our way through some mighty fine sandwiches – and the quirky addition of a sausage roll made of pork and black pudding originating from M Feller, Son & Daughter in the Covered Market – a lovely bit of local sourcing there.
The cheese and tomato curry chutney was our favourite sandwich, and the cucumber with creme fraiche was absolutely spot on; thin, crunchy, delicate, heavenly – I ordered more. The salmon with cream cheese was generous, and a hummus and caponata on sourdough for the vegetarians, tasted much better than it sounded – warm and mediterranean.
Unfurling the napkin revealed two irrestible looking scones – one fruit, one plain, a pot of yellowish, crusty cream, plus some homemade lemon curd and strawberry jam. My friend dipped her spoon in for a taste – eyes closed, we were onto a winner.
Cream or butter, jam or curd, raisin or plain? So many dilemmas – I solved the problem by trying all of the above happily.
How we were then able to drag our attention to the top tier is beyond me, but persevere we did. Who could resist the tiny pink and green mocha macaroon, which was too sweet for my liking, or the tiny slither of chocolate pave ? My favourite was the passion fruit tart, piquant enough to bring tears to my eyes, offset by the sweet creamy custard underneath and the crunch of the delicate pastry. So clever.
By now it was 5pm, and we’d been tea-ing (made up word I know) for hours. I now understood why the latest booking was 3pm.
The service itself overseen by the lovely Jorge was brilliant, although the meet and greet system when you arrive needs improving so that you’re not left loitering in the doorway for ages, and they need more staff to clear tables. But there are staff shortages everywhere, so it’s forgivable.
So go ahead, spoil yourself and make an afternoon of it. Enjoy that wonderful old English tradition of afternoon tea in style, And there’s nowhere better to do it than The Randolph.
Afternoon Tea at The Randolph costs £35pp or £45pp with champagne https://www.graduatehotels.com/oxford-uk/restaurant/afternoon-tea/