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 indulgence with its ever-courteous staff, silkily choreographed service and “exceptionally creative” French-inspired cooking. It is a team effort where every member of staff has “mastered the art of making the extraordinary appear simple and elegant.”
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 of Jura (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”.
Le Manoir is indeed a restaurant for every season (it looks magical in winter sparkling under a blanket of snow) but summer is the absolute best time to visit, when menus can be languidly perused over a gin and tonic on the immaculately manicured lawns and the thwack of croquet balls is the only sound disturbing the tranquillity. You can visit just for lunch or dinner, but staying over is the best way to experience the unity of Blanc’s harmonious vision of good living – not least because breakfast is an event in its own right.