Reminiscing Over Afternoon Tea at The Randolph, Oxford
At the start of the summer, my good friend Anastasia came to stay before heading back to the states. Main item on the agenda: show her how we Brits take our tea in all its creamy splendour. We took a trip to Oxford and – oh joy – it began to rain… Having made our best efforts to visit local landmarks (namely Christ Church College), we ducked into The Randolph five-star hotel and ordered afternoon tea for two. The verdict:
The drawing room is quite lovely, mostly brassy and autumnal tones, with a nice British feel to it. The atmosphere could be lifted slightly with a little classical music but I must admit that I like to hear the clinking of the china and silverware as everyone indulges in their afternoon tea at different paces.
Whilst there was a slight lack of warm smiles from the staff, there is of course a certain level of service – and, indeed, friendliness – required of them that adds to the grandeur of the occasion. It was all very fitting for the venue but didn’t stand out as exceptional.
Smoked salmon, ham, egg mayonnaise and a paste that was spread so sparsely that it was rather unidentifiable to our amateur palates… The selection of breads was fair and although I prefer my crusts on, I do appreciate a sandwich that holds together without them.
We were not presented with a choice of scones and sadly that meant fruit scones for us both. And here I must outline how I like my scones as it does define quite significantly my judgement. Personally, I much prefer plain scones and like to have the option of butter too – of which there was none at The Randolph, though I’m sure I could have requested some. So, plain, butter, I prefer raspberry to strawberry jam any day and I don’t like clotted cream so I will tend not to give feedback on that aspect of the tea.
Anyway, the scones were OK… They were quite crispy as you may be able to gather from the photos. I can’t say I like that in a scone but I have had a similar experience at other respectable tea rooms and hotels so am starting to think that’s how they intend them to be…
PASTRIES & CAKES 5/6
Having spent a fair amount of time in France, Anastasia and I relished the ‘course’ we had saved until last. I know that this is supposed to be a quintessentially British (possibly even English but I don’t like to alienate my lovely Scottish pals) but who can resist a beautiful selection of dainty French-inspired patisserie: from the chocolate kick to a sort of ‘pain d’épices’, to a couple of charming petit fours; here, there was something for every taste.
I tend to go for English Breakfast tea as I am not a huge fan of the more flowery varieties. As such, I shall only rate the tea out of two, one being satisfactory and two if it was the perfect temperature, strength or maybe I’ll award the extra point if the teapot wins me over!
Sometimes there is the challenge of eating everything before one’s tea gets cold but here, as with many places, there was a refill on request.
For the experience we were looking for I think that the British feel (perhaps with a little help from the French) gave it enough charm to leave us happy and satisfied.
At The Randolph, the overall experience all fits together under the roof of the five-star hotel in the way that would expect of it. The menu has changed slightly so just beware that what you see online may not be 100% accurate – many venues have tweaked their afternoon tea menus in line with the Royal Jubilee. A jolly lovely time was had but I suspect this was largely due to the company in which I took my afternoon tea.
**our scale may develop as we visit more locations but the description should give you a fuller idea of what to expect. The general gist is that 1/3 is OK and 3/3 is lovely, whilst 1/6 is OK and 6/6 is wonderful and encompasses quality, presentation and the perfect variety.