Two weeks ago Tom and I visited the Acanthus Restaurant at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford. This was my first visit to the hotel since the fire it suffered in 2015, which ripped through its kitchens.
The Acanthus is the hotel’s fine dining option – refurbished, renamed and reopened after the fire. With its deep-seated chesterfields and the university college coats of arms adorning the ceiling, the setting would not be too out of place in a gentleman’s club of yesteryear.
The Randolph is an Oxford icon. Its topiary top hats guard the front door, and the doorman nods a ‘good evening’ towards guests as they enter – it’s the place to go to relive all your Downton fantasies. The hotel was originally constructed in 1864 by William Wilkinson an architect who designed many houses in the city and it was named after the Randolph Gallery based in the Ashmolean Museum opposite.
But, despite its 150 year history, don’t be thinking that this is some stuffy bolt hole. Its staff are friendly and happy to stop to pass the time of day if you’re so inclined. It has a relaxed atmosphere where you can easily unwind on a Friday night before taking a cocktail in the neighbouring Cartoon Bar. Most importantly, it’s fairly priced with a range of dishes for all tastes on the menu and with a speciality on the fish front.
Tom and I had a super dinner, a real Friday night treat. I felt extraordinarily adventurous for ordering the crab-filled arancini to start (I’m not a huge fish eater), followed by a luxurious Eggs Benedict for my dinner with serrano ham. Tom enjoyed French onion soup, mainly because you don’t see it that often on restaurant menus, followed by a Barnsley lamb chop, another rare find. What’s a Barnsley chop I hear you ask? It’s a cut straight from the saddle left on the bone; it includes both tenderloin and fillet resulting in a mighty but tender and tasty chop.
And did we have room left for dessert? Of course! I had the baked cheesecake, which will always remind me of my German exchange trip when I was 13. Our host mum would serve us a slab of baked cheesecake as an after school snack! Tom had a delicate piece of lemon tart.
If I did star ratings I’d be giving the Acanthus a glowing 5/5 for its lovingly prepared dishes and its reasonably priced menu. Thanks to the team for our dinner, but taste buds completely our own.