A flambé-cooked beef stroganoff looks to have been the cause of the fire that could so easily have gutted the Randolph Hotel.

Those in the city centre who saw the flames leaping from the roof of the Grade II-listed building in Beaumont Street may well have feared the hotel’s total destruction. From the outside, with flames visible in the roof and ground floor, it certainly appeared like the whole hotel was ablaze Clouds of acrid smoke reached some outlying parts of the city, with residents in Osney shocked by the arrival of a plume that briefly left the island eerily covered in smog on a fine Friday afternoon.

While it is shocking to contemplate what a touch too much cognac in a saucepan can do (the repair bill is expected to run into the millions) Oxford should feel immense relief that the city’s most famous and best loved hotel has survived the fire, with the vast bulk of the hotel left largely undamaged including the iconic staircase and celebrated ballroom.

Just how lucky the Randolph, and indeed the whole city, has been began to emerge earlier this week. The kitchen fire was quickly brought under control but not before extractor fans sucked up the flames up the outside wall of the building to the roof in what resembled a chimney effect.

Given the way the fire jumped up to the roof area, it was only very good fortune that stopped the fire spreading to the internal workings of the hotel, assistant chief fire officer Simon Furlong observed. The fact that it didn’t was “a very rare occurrence”, he tells us.

As it is, the Randolph is planning to reopen its doors by Monday, with structural engineers confirming the building to be safe and specialist cleaners brought in to deal with the smoke damage.

Thanks should also go to staff at the Oxford Playhouse. Theatre staff provided 80 evacuees and hotel guests with tea and coffee. Guests still in towelling robes, having been in hotel spa when the fire broke out, were given Oxford Playhouse sweatshirts and t-shirts. Needless to say in the best ‘show must go on’ tradition the evening performance of Arcadia went ahead with only one of the 600 people who bought tickets failing to attend.

Meanwhile, with the city beginning to resemble a large building site, and things unlikely to change for a very long time, it is little wonder that in our survey of Oxfordshire businesses Oxford emerged at the bottom of the pile when it comes to choosing a business location.

What is especially depressing is that some firms prefer not to use service providers based in the city any more, on the basis that coming into Oxford is just too time-consuming and painful.

Ironically, much of the misery and mess currently here and on its way involves schemes to ease congestion and improve public transport. A question of not-so-short-term pain for long-term gain.