When this hotel opened in 1999 it was Oxford's first 'contemporary' hotel, but now it has been joined by the Malmaison in an amazing conversion of the old Oxford jail. Hardly a quintessential charming small hotel, because of its size, but we will still think Old Bank Hotel is a good central Oxford address. What was, until the 1990s, a venerable bank with a fine Georgian façade and an Elizabethan core, is now a cool, sophisticated hotel with a buzzing brasserie. It has kept up its high standards since we last visited.
The building has much to recommend it. The best bedrooms are graced with floor-length windows or, in the Tudor part, beams and deep window seats under lattice windows - room 45, in this style is particularly charming. All the rooms - and the bathrooms - are impeccably decorated in the understated chic-rustic style of the day (think taupe, think beige, think cream). Although elegant, they might feel dull if it weren't for Jeremy Mogford's punchy art collection that decorates rooms, corridors and brasserie. There were tea and coffee facilities in our room, but no milk - a shame. However, it can be found in the guest sitting room downstairs.
As well as a hotel, the Old Bank has become the 'in' place to eat in Oxford. The Quod Brasserie and Bar stretches across the former banking hall ("weird to think that I used to cash my cheques and see the bank manager here", says one guest, a touch wistfully). Most guests will enjoy the buzz and bonhomie that emanates from this always packed meeting place (service can be slow), with a wide-ranging menu. Staff are welcoming, helpful and knowledgable.