Glass stays at Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

THERE’s a certain magic to Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. After a train journey and a short drive down some quiet Oxfordshire roads, I found myself greeted by a picture-perfect pair of iron gates which led to the gorgeous 15th century mansion. 

Although I was not geographically far, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d left London and travelled somewhere deep into the country. It may have been the effect of being in lockdown for so long, but the air was crisp and clear.  

Overhead plot of Le Manoir

With dinner booked at 7pm, and time to kill, I decided to take a stroll of Le Manoir’s gardens in the meantime. 

“Out the door and turn right” a man instructed me, before handing me a A3 sized map which featured a delicate watercolour paint of the plot. Now, the grounds of Le Manoir are big, but there is no real need for a map. This may sound like a complaint but it’s actually an appreciative nod to their attention to detail. I later found that Le Manoir offers plenty more of these quirky details. 

One section of the grounds is dedicated to growing fresh produce. Rows of colourful vegetables were being grown just metres away from the restaurant area and dedicated greenhouses homed some of the delicious ingredients which would feature in my dinner later that night.

Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is known both as a high end culinary institution and luxury hotel. Chef patron Raymond Blanc, bought Le Manoir in 1983 and nurtured it to its cult success, and I was thrilled to be able to stay the night to experience the full package. 

L’Orangerie suite

In terms of accommodation, there are rooms in the main mansion along with a selection of secluded suites. My home for the night was the L’Orangerie suite, which was as fresh and vibrant as its name. 

L’Orangerie is conveniently located a short few steps away from the main mansion building, and it boasts its own gated entrance, a private patio and quaint looking glass porch. The space is luxurious and classic – a theme that ties in with the overall Belmond brand. 

Two small orange trees were placed on either side of the living area, and the bedroom had an extravagant four poster bed which was fitted with a television. It doesn’t end there. The bathroom is also fitted with a television which is conveniently placed above the large bathtub. I wasted no time utilising it, and decided to take a soak before heading to dinner to sample the legendary tasting menu. 

A room at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

The restaurant attracts everyone from die hard foodies on a culinary pilgrimage to those celebrating a special occasion. Before dinner, guests are invited for an aperitif and nibbles in the lounge area. The extensive cocktail list was tempting and staff were very willing to recommend, however, I opted for a glass of champagne as I was celebrating a special occasion. 

A couple threw me an excited look as they left to make their way to the restaurant, and I shortly followed with my partner.

The restaurant is pleasantly relaxed at Le Manoir considering the prestige and cost of dining. No formal dress code is enforced and its conservatory roof felt cozy. 

Dinner began with an amuse bouche and selection of delicious fresh baked bread, before quickly changing gear into an array of colourful dishes featuring seasonal produce. 

I was served a rich orange coloured pumpkin agnolotti with pumpkin broth to begin before moving to a beetroot terrine made with agar agar, served with buckler sorrel and horseradish.

A mixture of French gastronomy and fresh back garden produce offered up an eloquent contrast of spectacularly good food with humble origins. Each dish was accompanied with a wine chosen by the sommelier, but for those who prefer to choose their own, they have pages of options with some bottles reaching deep into the high thousands mark. 

The first two dishes were strong openers for the showstopper course of the truffled hens egg with wild mushroom tea. 

Our waiter poured the rich nutty mushroom broth over the egg from a glass teapot and I couldn’t resist videoing the moment as it was theatrical. 

Raymond Blanc OBE, Chef Patron

Other than that there were no extravagant tricks. It was just plate after plate of delicious dishes. The next course is cauliflower and broccoli served with a side of spicy lentils which tasted like small delicious dollops of creamy daal. 

There’s no question as to why Raymond has held his two Michelin stars for so long. The final plate before dessert was an outstanding cut of celeriac served with a sharp tasting puree and truffle shavings. The nutty dish was a brilliant finale which reinforced the versatility of quality vegetables in a fine dining setting.

In true French fashion, a selection of cheeses made its way to the table, and our waiter explained that we were looking at a mixture of British and French staples. The blue veined Colston Bassett could be smelt from across the room, and the Mont d’Or splayed on the plate in a gooey mess. 

For the sweet courses we’re treated to a tropical fruit ravioli with a mixture of mango, passion fruit and papaya followed by an edible chocolate cup with coffee and almond milk. 

By the end of the meal, I’d learned that my sensory enjoyment had been exercised to its maximum. Le Manoir certainly lives up to its legendary culinary status and I was physically exhausted. 

Of course I shocked myself the next morning when I was hungry for breakfast. Perhaps it was my many indulgent years of practice or maybe the sleep allowed me to recover, but the idea of a morning at Le Manoir was extremely appetising! The full restaurant was full of familiar faces from the night before, and we all seemed to be on the same page with breakfast. The sight of fresh fruit and pastries filled surrounding tables and many enjoyed a cooked breakfast.

by Katrina Mirpuri

*This visit was taken in December 2020 in line with Covid-19 safety regulations.

To book a meal/stay at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, please visit their website