We had been invited to the bar at 7.15pm to "enjoy a selection of canapés" and look at the menu before going in for dinner at 7:30. We habitually prefer not to rush but it was some time before we eventually got some ordinary canapés and our choice of menu was taken more than 30 minutes after we had sat down in the bar. At this point, what with the delay and the somewhat provincial level of service, we were starting to fear the worst. Things looked up, though, as soon as we arrived in the pleasant dining room with its professional lay-out and polite buzz, and sure enough the amuse-bouche, a leek and potato velouté very well balanced with some smoked salmon foam and hazelnuts, was full of promise for what was to follow. Spirits were raised still further when I enquired about the matching wine flight which comprised a sweet Jurançon, a Hawke's Bay Chardonnay, a Tuscan red and a Vin Santo, all of which were top quality. The meal began with some lovely duck liver marinated in port accompanied by a fabulous gingerbread and nut purée and pear done four ways, fresh slices, in red wine, pickled and soft poached. Imaginatively presented linguini of Cornish lobster followed, the kind of dish we cannot have enough of, especially when it is perfectly balanced with a tomato concasse, fish roe and bisque foam. The standard set by the first two courses was matched by the outstanding venison dish, the meat beautifully cooked and backed up with a super pickled red cabbage purée and a mind-blowing sloe gin sauce, and again a proper balance was achieved with the creamed celeriac and the sprouts. The pre-dessert of vanilla panna cotta, with evidence of vanilla seeds, grapefruit ice and hazel nuts acted as a good palate cleanser in preparation for the technically tricky but successfully achieved prune soufflé which was elevated to brilliant status by the chocolate and bergamot ganache concealed at the bottom of the soufflé and reinforced by the Earl Grey tea ice cream. In addition to the delicious food and the consistent balance between the ingredients in each dish, the perfect tempo for the service of the courses was certainly worthy of note as was the friendliness and efficiency of the waiting staff. Despite the hiccup at the beginning we will definitely be adding Lords of the Manor to our must go back to list.