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Church Road, Great Milton
We’ve said it before, but Le Manoir is damn near perfect in every department – a sentiment echoed by legions of fans, who seldom stint on the superlatives when it comes to Raymond Blanc’s fine-tuned take on country-house luxe. This immaculate Oxfordshire mansion is quite simply “faultless”, the “perfect treat” and a dream ticket for out-of-town indulgence with its ever-courteous staff, silkily choreographed service and “exceptionally creative” French-inspired cooking. Blanc’s vision of ‘sustainable harmony’ is buoyed by produce from Le Manoir’s showpiece organic gardens, and the result is a “superb, well-balanced menu full of seasonal flavours and surprises” – from veal sweetbread with spring asparagus, peas and morels to the ever-popular risotto of garden vegetables with tomato essence and chervil cream, salt-baked pigeon with cabbage, wild garlic and bacon or confit Gigha halibut with squid, chorizo and smoked red pepper. This is clear-minded, limpid cooking from a kitchen that knows all about consummate technique. There’s also room for gasp-inducing extras, peerless patisserie (millionaire shortbread with salted caramel ice cream, say) and lovingly ripened cheeses from M. Blanc’s home region (and beyond). Of course, it costs a fortune (particularly if you take a serious dip into the aristocratic wine list), but readers concur that the experience is “worth every penny”.
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Church Road, Great Milton
Radley Station 10km
Haddenham & Thame Parkway Station 11km
M40 Junction 8 1km
M40 Junction 7 2km
Mon-Sun 7.30-10am 12.15-2.45pm 7.15-9.45pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
Reputedly the busiest Michelin stared restaurant in the UK and of course being a keen fan of Raymond Blanc and his TV shows excitement was running high for our dinner and stay at Le Manoir.
Right from the start service was impeccable, a chap came over to our car and relived us of our bags, directing us to reception who he also clearly forewarned as as soon as we entered we were greeted by name. After a quick tour of the house we were taken to our room. We were in the snow queen room, absolutely stunning in design, very spacious and very comfortable. Flowers, chocolate (very yummy Manoir made), fruit (all perfectly ripe) and champagne all there to greet us as part of our overnight package.
Dinner which was preceded by a lovely walk around the garden, essentially an allotment but immaculately kept and full of beautiful bronze sculptures, then aperitifs and canapés on the lawn as we perused the menu.
We opted for the Découverte tasting menu with matching wines. Far too many courses to list, but all came sublimely cooked and all clearly using ingredients from the garden. Despite the ten or so courses the portion sizes were pitched exactly right leaving you full but not stuffed at the end.
Service was once again impeccable, food arrived together and was properly introduced, napkins done properly, on your first visit to the lavatories they showed the way rather than leaving you to search yourself, if food arrived when one of you was not at the table it was served with cloches on and a promise that if it was cold it would be cooked again. All made for a very seamless and fluid service.
If one was to compare it to the Waterside in you would wonder why it only has 2 stars and not 3, as it surpassed it in everyway both the food and the hotel, but albeit at double the cost!
My only critic and maybe why Le Manoir is missing its third star, is that what you pay for is very much what you get, there are no ‘compliments from the chef’ amuse bouches nor any extra petit fours at the end. It has been a long time since I have been at hospital road but it is still a lasting memory that the petit fours never seemed to end, which leaves you feeling you’ve been treated to extra special service, which was may be lacking at Le Manoir.
That is me being super critical though as service, food and the whole experience was second to none.
Expectations were running very high as I drive with my wife up the M40 early evening last Sunday. Immediately regretting that I had not valeted the car as we swept into the gravel drive, I parked next to what I assumed might be a member of staff's car. A man quickly arrived to relieve us of our luggage and point the way to reception. When we arrived at reception we were greeted by the receptionist, manager and assistant manager and a charming hand written note from Raymond apologising for not being able to greet us personally- I should perhaps point out at this point that our stay at Le Manoir was partly funded, only partly, by Squaremeal thanks to my review of Locanda Locatelli.
We were shown to our room, which had been upgraded to a suite, and was fabulous, a bit chintzy, but I am being picky. Three TV's, a giant bed, lounge area, views over of the front of the hotel and a bathroom big enough to accomodate a football team or the US womens beach volleyball team whichever your fancy. Dinner was in the conservatory and as we were shown to our table I thanked my wife for cajoling me into bringing a suit, this is not a place for denim what ever the label.
Dinner was ten courses of finely balanced beautifully flavoured and presented food. Your fellow dinners are likely to have known each other for some considerable time and not have much to say, making for a fairly hushed almost library like atmostphere. The only disappointment was the cheese board which was even more French dominated than the wine list and not that interesting. Service was friendly, not stuffy, knowledgable and efficient. Breakfast at a place like this is not something you should have to pay for whatever the circumstances and whatever you order. The grounds are wonderful as is the bed linen and the bed for that matter, I am sure that I am not alone in thinking that there is a direct correlation between the quality of the bedroom and the quality of the…sleep.
Good for taking the most special person in your life on a special occasion, bad if all you want is pasta, a bottle of pinot grigio and a quickie!
Food + drink: 3
I would place money on Robert B. enjoying splendid food’n drink in stately style at Le Manoir because staff will inevitably be aware that the critique to follow will generate a degree of interest.
Early 2007, I wrote about Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saison having dined there many times, happening to live quite close since 2003 :
Never, out of about six visits, have I had a completely satisfactory meal despite undoubted flashes of brilliance. My first experience was when I travelled 150 miles purely for what I had hoped would be an impressive gastronomic event, only to discover that I'd had better suckling pig in both Wales (Walnut Tree – then in the adroit hands of Franco T) and Madrid. A trio of desserts was such an ornately concocted sight, elegantly crafted to nautical proportions that it should have been majestically set to sail on a pond, rather than put on a table. Had it been a culinary triumph, then I couldn't complain, but each pud’ fell short. Last time (Dec 06) the kick-off was promising with an excellent pumpkin risotto of mushrooms and chestnuts. Then the grouse – bitter in places (definitely not gamey) was a let down. When I raised a query about it, the waiter returned stating that the chef had tried to remove most of the dried blood which was the source of the unpleasant flavour. Surely at this supposedly acclaimed level, shouldn’t the chef get fundamentals right? To ‘add insult to injury’, scant jus made the dish too dry. There was no offer to redress – not even coffee. My partner got the better deal, but shouldn’t nearly all aspects be ‘spot on’ ?
Not just for reasons of LMaQS’s formal setting and starchy atmosphere, I’d much rather spend my money, or preferably someone else’s, at the Fat Duck, where superb food can tantalise the taste buds from start to finish in more cosy surroundings. Obviously presentation is never an issue here and nor at LMaQS, but surely in venues like these, don’t most people expect stunningly luscious food; with extraordinarily elaborate good looks a bonus?
It’s time that some chefs (Heston Blumenthal excluded) stopped trying to deliver ‘platefuls of theatre’ and aimed to please the palate more so than the eye.
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