Few places hold as much gravitas as Le Manoir, a bastion of Franco-British hospitality for over three decades and the brainchild of one Monsieur Blanc. Its Tudor, wisteria-clad exterior and spellbinding organic gardens are almost as iconic as the main man himself, but the beating heart of it all is the kitchen.
After 24 years the team waved off head chef Gary Jones and ushered in Luke Selby in 2023; a full circle moment with the young chef returning to the very stoves he started on as a trainee in 2009.
Understandably, there are tight reigns in the kitchen, with guests of Le Manoir expecting a certain style of timeless French cuisine. There are glimmers of Selby making his mark however, with his love of Asian ingredients subtly spiking the menu. A flawless scallop escabeche - intense with orange - had a hum of lemongrass, and later a strawberry dessert came buoyed on an undercurrent of ginger.
The old half of the dining space is all low beams and spot lit tables, which gives way to the brighter, more spacious conservatory. The decor is old school and simple with immaculate, double layered crisp white tablecloths and dark wood accents. It's a combination that oozes class, and the atmosphere is one of utmost hospitality. Full to the brim, the restaurant is packed with diners keen to soak up the silkily choreographed service with the team explaining everything in detail.
Back to the food, and there’s a real knack here for distilling and intensifying the flavours of the garden's just picked produce. The results are plates that sing of just a few select notes but do so in exacting harmony. Earthy, sweet peas and creamy ricotta evoke early summer succinctly in canape form, and there’s the most beautiful blush lamb chop later on, with sweet asparagus and a kick of wild garlic.
Whichever way you cut it, dining at Le Manoir is damn near perfect in every department. It’s the sort of place you’ll end up comparing every subsequent meal to, and with your now permanently fixed rose-tinted glasses on, you’ll have to accept that nothing else can compare.