October’s featured restaurant was Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Church Rd, Great Milton, Oxford OX44 7PD
Visit: 30 October 2019.
Awards: 2 Michelin Stars, 5 AA Rosettes
Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons has one of the most beautiful settings of any UK restaurant, located near the Oxfordshire village of Great Milton. Parts of the manor house date to the 15th century, although there have been a number of extensions in recent years. The hotel and restaurant are surrounded by manicured lawns, flower borders, orchards and spectacular sculptures. There are extensive vegetable and herb gardens that provide the kitchens with fresh, organic produce. The hotel has 32 rooms and suites.
In 1983, Raymond Blanc purchased and refurbished Le Manoir and was awarded two Michelin stars in 1984. Since 1999, Gary Jones has led the kitchen, retaining the 2 stars and attaining a score of 9/10 in the Good Food Guide. Holding 2 Michelin stars for 35 years is a remarkable achievement.
We visited the cookery school for the afternoon, then eat in the restaurant in the evening and stayed overnight. The cookery school caters for all levels, and we attended a half day introductory course. We thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and I would recommend the school to anybody who is interested in improving their cookery skills.
The evening meal in the restaurant was outstanding. We chose the 7-course tasting menu (at £190 each) and the Classique selection of accompanying wines (at £125 each). Apart from the full wine list, there were three choices for the paired wines, ranging from the Classique selection up to the Exceptionnelle selection (at £899 each).
Each of the courses were superb. My favourite dish was the outstanding spiced monkfish, which was bursting with flavour, exemplifying this restaurant’s superb cookery. For me, my least favourite was the dish that combined crab, lime, coconut and mango. Its so easy to overcook grouse, but here it was perfectly cooked, tender and very moist, and extra bread sauce was provided on request.
All the accompanying wines worked very well with the food. This was a superb selection, even though it was the least expensive. Our sommelier was extremely knowledgeable and explained the details of each of the wines. He topped our glass up when we were nearing the bottom!
The following morning, we were given a tour of the kitchen by Executive Head Chef Gary Jones. Gary is a legend in the catering industry and were very lucky to be able to meet and chat with him. His enthusiasm and passion for cooking at Le Manoir and developing his team are very evident.
There is so much to do here, apart from eating some of the best food available in the country. I highly recommend the cookery school, there is a highly respected gardening school, and you should explore the wonderful gardens and orchards.
The prices at Le Manoir are relatively high, but the overall experience is worth every penny. I highly recommend a visit. I will be returning very soon.