MARC WEST perfects his pronunciations as he enjoys a traditional British afternoon ritual in an iconic Oxford institution

In the same year the first locomotive left London’s Charing Cross Station and civil war raged across the not-so-United States of America, Oxford's stunning Randolph Hotel first swung open its shining doors.

Built in 1864 by William Wilkinson on the site of King Henry I’s palace, the iconic building was created to offer more accommodation for visiting nobles ahead of the arrival of the Prince and Princess of Wales to the city two years later.

Having recently celebrated it’s 150th anniversary with a major renovation, Oxford’s 'grande dame' remains the hotel of choice for royalty, politicians and rock aristocracy – all of whom still enjoy its most quintessential British offerings….especially afternoon tea.

The small pleasure we know and love today was created by the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Russell, in the mid-1840s – a time when the consumption of this exotic hot beverage was on the rise among the upper echelons of society. It is reported she felt rather peckish between the traditional two meals of the day and took to enjoying a pot a tea accompanied by a light snack. And, Oxford’s five-star institution stays faithful to this classic combination, every day at three o’clock on the dot.

Starting with a crisp glass of Champagne, dah-ling…then satisfying those hunger pangs with (almost) too-good-to-eat finger sandwiches, our loose-leaf Darjeeling brewed to perfection.

Then we indulged in warm scones smothered the Cornish way, with jam first followed by a generous dollop of clotted cream – which, I’m reliably informed by white-gloved salon manager Tony Sun, is the correct way to enjoy these freshly baked delights. However, the jury’s still out on whether it’s pronounced sc-own or sc-on…I guess it could be either…or is that ay-ther?

Relaxed in the sumptuous surroundings of “The R’s” Drawing Room, with the ambiance of polite conversation accompanied by a piano recital of ‘40s jazz standards, it’s the epitome of style.

It is an incredibly civilised and (quite literally) polished affair, with enough silver service, fine china and white linen to put one on edge – but which couldn’t feel more relaxed.

It whisks us back to a more elegant and refined age where time is no longer of the essence and sheer extravagance is de rigueur. Before we knew it many hours have passed and The Brunette and I retire satisfied to the adjacent Morse Bar for a warming nightcap before returning to the reality of the outside world.

Giles Coren may have recently slammed the Randolph's English breakfast, but I'm delighted to report that this wonderful way to while away an afternoon is highly respectable – and, I’ve no doubt would delight the Duchess too.

Randolph Hotel, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX. Afternoon Tea from £29.50/pp.