Christopher Gray talks about the stunning refurbishments at Oxford's Old Parsonage Hotel

Over 20 years have elapsed since Jeremy Mogford, as the new owner of Oxford’s Old Parsonage Hotel, conducted me on a guided tour of the premises.

I remember hearing for the first time from him of its links with Oscar Wilde, who lived there in its front rooms for a time during his student years at Magdalen in the 1870s (and gained his taste for boys as he did so). Exploring the hotel again this week, as a lavish refurbishment nears completion, it struck me that the celebrated writer — who is commemorated in a suite named for him — would have approved the changes. Famous as an Oxford aesthete — “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china” — he could not have failed to note the good taste, the respect for traditional materials, exhibited here.

The many who have come to love the Parsonage during the Mogford years — I am one — will be relieved that its principal attraction for non-residents, the restaurant, is remaining much as it was. The fabulous collection of 20th-century art, mainly portraits of writers and artists — some of them ‘Bloomsberries’ — will be restored to its walls and the ‘clubby’ feel maintained.

Approaching through the lobby area, visitors will note the York stone flags newly laid on the floor, the larger reception desk on the right and, to the left, wider access into the purple panelled Pike Room. The bar remains where it was, though a row of six stools at its counter will make it more user-friendly.

All around us, as my guide Louise Lobo leads me on, are workmen busy at the many tasks that must be completed before the first guests are welcomed on March 28. I meet Kevin Dighton, of the Oxford family building firm of G. Dighton and Sons, the main contractors. They have worked to a meticulously planned timetable since the job began on November 4. Christmas Day saw the only let-up in the labour, which has involved a 60- to 70-strong force most days.

As ever in situations such as these, it looks to the layman as if there is no hope in hell of the deadline being met. From experience I have come to learn, though, that it almost always is.

Amid much laying of floors, hanging of doors and installing of light fittings, baths and basins, can be observed — incongruous amid the kerfuffle — many jobs that are clearly already finished. These include the paintwork on most of the walls — Farrow & Ball, naturally, applied by expert painter Terry Wood — and the state-of-the-art kitchen whose gleaming steel hobs, ovens and friers await the ministrations of head chef Steve Smith, formerly of Quod, and his team.

It is in areas observable only to the guests of the future that the big changes have been made. Bedrooms have been individually designed by Sally Conran, using only natural materials like wool. linen and velvet. The marble bathrooms are the work of designer Martina Landhed. Though fittings are still going in, you can see how luxurious these rooms will be.

In a third floor added above the rear extension to the original 17th-century building are five new rooms. Visitors also have a new private room, The Library, with high-backed sofas, shelves bearing well-judged reading material and wide sliding windows looking out on a new terrace.

Mention of a terrace, reminds me that the one at the front of the hotel — perhaps Oxford finest venue for eating al fresco — is to be equipped with new canopies and heaters. At present, it is largely occupied by a portable building housing hotel staff ‘exiled’ during the renovation. These include restaurant manager Nong Smitinand and Gemma Holden, to whom Louise, Mogford Limited’s marketing co-ordinator, introduced me (and whom I expect to be meeting again very soon).

The past few days have provided me with opportunities to observe the continuing excellencies of staff at the other Mogford establishments. At a dinner a week ago at Gee’s, head chef Richard Allen and his kitchen team produced a range of wonderful dishes that I was boring on about all weekend.

While a pizzetta might not seem much to shout about, the one I had as a starter, cooked in the wood oven and with its thin crispy crust topped with fennel, anchovy and dill, was a delight. Others of the party variously had deep-fried soft shell crab, cauliflower and caper salad, and anchovies, shallots and butter. My main course was a huge share-for-two dish of gloriously tender braised lamb (from Jeremy’s Rofford Farm, I presume, though I forgot to ask), with pearl barley. Others tried the venison Barnsley chop, Jerusalem artichoke risotto and — this was Rosemarie — Gee’s hamburger and chips, which she followed with chocolate doughnuts.

Another burger bit the dust at a Saturday lunch at Quod, when I had a thick tranche of Bibury rainbow trout with cream chive sauce and puréed artichcoke.

We can’t go on eating like this.