One of the questions I get asked most frequently is ‘where is the best vegan afternoon tea in Oxford?’. Up until fairly recently, I’ve struggled to suggest anywhere to find an afternoon tea in our city, let alone the best. Happy to report that this has now changed and I’m bringing you news of a completely vegan afternoon tea at The Alice, inside The Randolph Hotel by Graduate Hotels. What’s more, they can cater to gluten-free, nut-free, and other dietary requirements too, so you’re sorted if you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy a special treat.
My partner Jamie and I were invited to try the new Live Music Afternoon Tea, and were welcomed with a couple of cocktails into the beautiful venue, complete with live pianist. Whether you’re visiting the city or have lived here for a long time like myself, the classical setting really felt like we were experiencing something quintessentially ‘Oxford’.
From an ample tea selection, we were served the traditional English Breakfast, complete with teapot and strainer – and the plant-based milk of our choosing (oat). Shortly afterwards, out came the food, with a breakdown of the vegan options given by our host. On the savoury layer were four sandwiches filled with avocado salad, cream cheese and cucumber, and cheese and chutney. They were all clearly freshly made, with no stale bread, brown avocado or limp lettuce leaves in sight. I enjoyed the flavours and they looked very pretty lined up on the plate. To take it to the next level, I would’ve loved to see a vegan sausage roll to match what was on the non-vegan platter, instead of two of the same sandwich.
On to the scones, which contained no dried fruit – a plus for me but I noted it as a point of difference. Still warm, they tasted great with a big dollop of jam on top. I have a feeling they might’ve been gluten-free as well, as the texture didn’t quite replicate that of the scones I’m used to, but definitely enjoyable nonetheless. I would’ve loved to see a vegan alternative to the cream that Jamie enjoyed on his scones, which is fairly easy to get from the supermarket or whip up in the kitchen. Saying that – I’m not a fan of cream myself, so on this occasion at least nothing went wasted.
Finally was the sweets layer, which looked very enticing on the top of the tea tray. First I tried the blackberry shortbread, which was crisp with a hint of ginger. Felt like it could’ve done with a dash of coconut cream or something to make it more of a finished dessert, but the fresh blackberries kept it from going completely dry and it was still tasty. Then onto the raspberry tart, which had a cake-like texture and both sweet and slightly tart flavour. The brownie was very rich with dark chocolate. It was hard on the outside and difficult to break into with a fork, but had that gooey middle you are looking for from a brownie. Lastly, the charred pineapple. I love pineapple cooked this way – still juicy and tender, and bursting with natural sweetness.
The afternoon went by very quickly as we enjoyed leisurely finishing off our cups of tea with the live pianist in the background. It might’ve been the fairly free-flowing champagne but I left feeling like I’d had one of the best Friday afternoons in a long time.
The afternoon tea at The Alice is £39 per person, or £49 with a glass of champagne. For a special occasion, perhaps a birthday, hen party or Mother’s Day, I think the experience is well worth it. If you’re so inclined, they’re serving a Coronation Afternoon Tea for £69, from Saturday 6th May (2023) until the end of the month.
This meal was complimentary; review is my honest reflection of the food and experience.