Our Stay at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons — near Oxford
We have to be honest here; when they initially got in touch we said YES and then faltered a little between ourselves - we were worried that somewhere so expensive and with a restaurant so highly commended (it holds TWO Michelin stars) might not be the place for us. However, we figured that no-one in their right minds would turn down such an opportunity and that we'd see if mere mortals like us could handle it. Plus we were really intrigued to see what Raymond Blanc's food would look like in real life and so off we went.
The grounds are extensive and a cornucopia of fresh produce; there are rows of kale, beetroot, courgette and chard, great big rosemary bushes, polytunnels filled with microherbs and overflowing with lemon verbena. We watched chefs from the kitchen cut fresh parsley and consult with the gardeners about where to pick the ideal beetroot - it's the kind of thing you see on television but don't really believe happens in real life.
Following the Japanese Garden Course we enjoyed the steam room and shower in our (EPIC) suite we made our way to the terrace for drinks and canapés. We watched the clouds turn pink and then were led to our table inside the restaurant.
We chose not to photograph the food (see our menus above) but can report that it was spectacular in every single way possible. Each course arrived in succession; delicate and colourful with such familiar aromas. The 7 courses took an individual ingredient as their focus and didn't intimidate us in the slightest; there were no outwardly fancy tricks or smoke and mirrors, just clean, simple and FRESH food. We used words like 'intense' 'woah' and other things that we can't figure out how to spell. The gazpacho was out of this world and had so much flavour for something so small. We keep revisiting our experience through conversations about 'that courgette flower' and telling everyone we know about how good a beetroot can be when in the right hands.
The interior design of our suite was very clearly inspired by the far east which we felt was an incredibly fitting place to stay following our days' activity. It was huge and felt opulent - the walls were papered with straw and the dark wood throughout made the room a comforting retreat from the hot summer sun. We especially loved the bathroom which featured a huge steam room and gigantic bath.
So are we glad that we went? ABSOLUTELY. The service we received from every single member of staff was probably the best we've ever received anywhere... None of it felt pretentious and instead we felt completely comfortable and relaxed. It was so luxurious and yet so human which was something we didn't really expect.
Undoubtedly the food is a real highlight and probably most people's reason for visiting but what we felt was such an incredible connection between the kitchen and the garden - that's something that you really have to see (and smell) for yourself. We came away with a complete understanding of why the food costs what it costs (the 7 course tasting menu is listed at £190 pp) and the knowledge that it's completely justified and definitely worth it. A total and utter treat in every way possible.
See our post about the Japanese Garden Course HERE.
We also posted a video on our YouTube channel HERE
*We'd like to thank Raymond Blanc and Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons for inviting us to stay and for hosting us during our experience.*