Food and drink at Macdonald Randolph Hotel

The Macdonald guide to the quintessential high tea

Macdonald Randolph Hotel in Oxford has been serving that most essential British mealtime - Afternoon Tea - for more than 150 years.

Since opening its doors in 1866, the stunning five-star hotel takes Afternoon Tea very seriously. Its dedicated Drawing Room is always busy with international tourists and locals, all enjoying the charm of this very British ritual in the stunning surroundings of the beautiful  drawing room, served by the white gloved Salon Manager Tony Sun and his Team.

Tony said: "I have been serving Afternoon Tea here at Macdonald Randolph Hotel for more than a decade. Generations of families have told me about how they came to the hotel when they were younger - it's become an institution. I have served many famous faces over the years, including President Clinton and his family."

Afternoon Tea has been attributed to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, circa 1840 when tea consumption was on the rise. It is reported she felt rather peckish between the traditional two meals of the day (breakfast and dinner at 8pm) and took to enjoying a pot a tea and a light snack. At the time this was taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon, however later that year the trend to invite lady friends to join the host in the drawing room became respectable.

Today's Afternoon Tea at Macdonald Randolph Hotel features a selection of homemade delicacies crafted by highly skilled chefs and served on a traditional tiered cake stands. Guests indulge in a selection of savoury finger sandwiches, home baked fruit and plain scones with jam and Devonshire clotted cream, and a selection of perfectly bite sized cakes.

Tony added: "I am often asked what the right way is to take Afternoon Tea - sweet or savoury first? Personally, I would recommend starting with a crisp class of champagne, then satisfy your hunger with sandwiches, whilst the tea brews to perfection. Then indulge in the scones - I personally eat my scones the Cornish way - smother the scone half with jam first then follow with a generous dollop of clotted cream. Finally, finish off with sweet mouthfuls of cake. What a great way to spend the afternoon."

The Macdonald Randolph Hotel offers 12 different types of tea - catering for every taste bud. Tony comments: "Many traditionalists take English Breakfast tea, whilst others like the floral notes of Earl Grey (always without milk). Increasingly, we are finding that our guests want to enjoy the taste of tea without the caffeine and we offer them a delicious Rooibos Tea. We also offer Camomile, Peppermint and variations of green tea for those who wish to break from tradition."

Different types of Afternoon Teas

Over the years the traditional afternoon tea has gone through a number of changes and now there are a number of 'teas' available in the market. Here is a brief guide;

  • Afternoon Tea traditionally consists of sandwiches, scones and a selection of cakes, served with tea.
  • Cream Tea is scones and cream with preserves served with tea.
  • High Tea features more savoury foods and was traditionally only taken by the lower classes.
  • Royal Tea is the addition of a glass of champagne to the Afternoon Tea.

Top five cakes essential for Afternoon Tea:

  • Scones
  • Mini Victoria sponge
  • Mini carrot cake
  • Strawberry tart
  • Slice of fruit cake

For more information on Afternoon Teas or to book one visit