THE restaurant at the Randolph Hotel has reopened nearly six months after a devastating blaze, but the hotel will not be back to normal until March.

It opened again on Monday, having been used as a through-way for repair workers since April’s fire which destroyed the kitchen.

Delays with planning permission for refurbishment and restoration at the Grade-II listed building have meant that 30 rooms are still not accessible to guests nearly six months on.

General manager Michael Grange said: “Things have taken much longer than we anticipated, which is disappointing.

“But it’s all coming together and it looks beautiful. Once it is completed it will look fabulous.”

Mr Grange said about 120 of the 151 rooms were available to guests with only a couple of rooms fire-damaged.

The rest are out of action because they are accessed through the damaged areas.

A chef’s attempt at a flambéed beef stroganoff is believed to have started the blaze in the kitchen and it spread upwards.

Fourteen fire engines from four counties tackled the fire which destroyed a section of the roof.

The building was evacuated and more than 80 people made it out safely. Nobody was injured.

One of the hotel’s functions rooms was used as the restaurant while repairs to the kitchen were carried out.

It has acted as a through-way for workers carrying out repairs which the manager said was an inconvenience.

Mr Grange said: “It’s very positive that the restaurant has now opened and also means we can use our function room again. People who regularly used it for summer events had to find a different location, but they have all rebooked for next year.

“We are always busy at Christmas and the room is already three-quarters booked up, which is great.”

The scaffolding on the building should be removed by January, with a three-day road closure in place in Beaumont Street.

The Randolph’s parent company, Macdonald Hotels Ltd, has also lodged plans to refurbish its kitchen and dining areas. The firm said it wants to create a new “conservatory dining area” featuring a glass panel looking into a “theatre kitchen” and glass pane in the ceiling looking up to the outside of the hotel’s grand staircase.

Inspector Morse author Colin Dexter spoke of his relief that the iconic hotel was getting back to its former glory.

Morse and Lewis often deliberated on complex cases in the subsequently named ‘Morse Bar’ in the TV show and in Dexter’s novels.

The North Oxford writer said: “I was sad to hear about the fire as it is Oxford’s premier hotel.

“I’m glad that no-one was injured and that there was not any lasting damage.

“I spent a lot of time in there over the years, as did Morse.”