Restaurant review: Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

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Carole Hamilton falls in love with the food, the service, and the kitchen garden chez Monsieur Blanc.

There’s no hiding from the fact that Le Manoir is expensive. Very expensive. The bill can easily creep north of £300 for two, but I can’t think of anywhere I would rather go with a special person for a special occasion. Food writer Jay Rayner describes the restaurant as the place to dine when you’re in the market for buying memories and, leaving post-lunch, I understand just what he means.

The Venue
A vision in honey-coloured Cotswold stone, the hotel is approached along a path of lavender, affording a view of the impressive kitchen garden. As a staunch advocate of growing-your-own, I love that this is more than a PR puff: a real garden that supplies one of the best kitchens in the world. The two-acre home to 70 traditional and exotic herbs, it produces over 90 types of vegetables; further comprising not only an orchard, but also the micro-herb greenhouse that recently so impressed Prince Charles.

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The Food
French, expensive and country house hotel can often add up to a stilted, stuffy experience, but Le Manoir is anything but. Staff are super-attentive, but it’s relaxed and natural – they’re there when you need, and gone when you want to focus on your meal. Raymond Blanc’s two-starred kitchen is currently commanded by executive head chef Gary Jones, and the food is sublime.

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Two tasting menus involve five or seven courses, priced at £85 or £127, with matching wines extra. We opted for three courses from the à la carte, starting with an appetiser of wild garlic soup with the best seared scallop I’ve ever tasted, then a pretty-as-a-picture fresh crab salad with zingy grapefruit mango and red pepper – a dish where the top-notch ingredients were afforded centre stage. My main of braised Cornish turbot with cucumber and wasabi had me instantly tweeting about how exceptional it was. 

The Le Manoir name gets foodies the world overexcited and, over the course of lunch alone, I racked up 22,000 impressions. Millionaire’s Shortbread accompanied by salted caramel ice-cream not only melted in the mouth but made me smile, given that many of our fellow diners were, indeed, probably of that very economic status.

The verdict: Yes, it is eye-wateringly expensive, but the beautifully-cooked food is masterful – this once-in-a-lifetime (or, at least, a once-in-a-long-time) meal left me feeling totally spoilt.
★★

For reservations and further information, phone 01844 278881 or click here.

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