Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons
The lowdown Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, in the sleepy village of Great Milton near Oxford, is one of those places that has been on my list of “must-visits” for many years, and finally we are on our way out of London on the M40. Barely an hour later, we drive through the gates of Le Manoir. A friendly member of staff welcomes us and shows us around the main building, and then leads the way to our room – Raymond Blanc’s favourite suite, Blanc de Blanc, an all-white haven with stunning chandeliers, four-poster bed and a massive bathroom.
The rooms There are a total of 32 rooms, all individually designed to suit every taste (choose yours at the time of booking when you will also be asked whether you prefer a duvet or blankets). In addition to Blanc de Blanc, there are three further brand new suites, all very different in style but all bearing Raymond’s stamp: Jade is reminiscent of the Orient and is inspired by his trips to south-east Asia; L'Orangerie evokes a French chateau and orangery; Lace is very feminine and atmospheric.
The restaurant Dinner in the two-star Michelin restaurant is, of course, the highlight of a stay here and it doesn’t take much persuasion from the maitre d’ before we opt for the ten-course Menu Decouverte. The sommelier also helpfully suggests that he will bring us a different wine to suit each course. Easy! This is classic haute cuisine, two-Michelin-star food created in a kitchen that has seen dozens of Michelin-starred chefs train. The quality and freshness of the food is unrivalled, the creation of each dish is a work of art, without being pretentious. Service is impeccable, staff are friendly and helpful – nothing can be faulted.
The gardens The original house is the biggest in the village and is surrounded by stunning walled 17th century gardens, Japanese ponds, and a two-acre herb and vegetable garden, which supplies the restaurant’s kitchen. It is well worth taking a leisurely stroll round these after breakfast. They are stunning.
Out and about There is lots to do and see nearby. Visit historic Oxford, the Rothschilds’ Waddeson Manor near Aylesbury, Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Bicester Village for some retail therapy – all within an easy hour’s drive. There are also lots of lovely walks starting from the hotel (as at reception for details).
Accommodation Room rates for a superior room start from £480; superior suites start from £960. Price includes French breakfast, a daily newspaper and VAT.
Menus Menu Decouverte costs £135 (including coffee and petits fours) per person. The five-course Les Classiques du Manoir aux Quat'Saisons costs £110 (including coffee and petits fours) per person. An extra cheese course can be taken, price £20.
Cookery courses The Raymond Blanc Cookery School is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with the launch of a vegetarian cookery course. This one-day course teaches students how to transform home-grown produce into delicious meals. Students will pick vegetables from Le Manoir’s kitchen gardens and create an array of dishes including tomato essence risotto and poached and confit artichoke. Cost £335 per person. Dates are 15, 16 March, 30 June, 1 July, 12 and 13 September.
To book Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford, OX44 7P. Tel: 01844 278881.
By Jeannette Arnold