I often feel that I’m not making the most of enjoying the English countryside. However, have to say it’s incredibly relaxing just to get out of town for a bit. Hence I decided to take my hubster for a birthday treat in Oxfordshire, to Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, about an hour away from London.
I did a bit of research prior to booking and apart from a newspaper review calling it the most expensive meal you’ll ever have in the UK, I also found hundreds of raving reviews on Tripadvisor. Must be worth it, right? I booked around 2 weeks before and managed to get a booking for a Monday evening, however, a week later I received a phone call from Manoir offering me a table on the Sunday night, which is what I wanted. They were also very considerate, already asking whilst booking whether we have dietary requirements or whether it’s for a special occasion. Very sweet I thought. As I couldn’t afford a night at the Manoir itself, I booked us a room upstairs of a local pub in Cuddesdon, which was about mile and a half away from the restaurant. It turned out to be perfect as the afternoon we were there was particularly beautiful and we walked to the Manoir, admiring the quietness and the local deers, who were indeed surprised to see us there.
Once arriving to the Manoir, we were greeted by friendly staff, who gave us directions to the garden. We were also provided with a map to get us through different bits. Have to say that quite a bit of what was on the map is still under construction, nevertheless it was impressive.After our romantic walk through the vegetable garden and green houses we headed back to the reception, where we were guided to a lounge/bar area to decide on which menu we wanted. The staff truly were incredible, there’s clearly a service on a completely different level. They’d taken good note of what I’d requested when booking and double check everything in the most polite manner (i.e. I hear that the madam is in a blessed state?).
We went for the Les saveurs d’août menu, and whilst waiting, the waiter made my husband just the right martini to accompany with our canapés to start us off. Whilst we were having our canapés, the waiter also helped us make some wine choices for the meal, so all of that was arranged once we were seated at our table. We started with confit of salmon, which my hubster adored, however mine was more cooked, which I had requested, but sadly it spoiled the wow factor and as such I decided to spare myself from taking a photo.
Next up was the risotto of summer vegetables, which without a doubt was my favourite. The risotto itself looks like a bouquet of flowers, however despite the floral looks, the taste was divine, flavoursome and my very favourite dish out of the whole bunch. Next up was the braised fillet of Cornish brill served with a garden courgette flower, which was stuffed with crab – also very tasty. Have to see I saw these courgette flowers growing in the garden. We later learnt from the waiter that most of the garden produce gets used for the cookery school, for the restaurant, however, they order veg from local producers.
After a little break and familiarising ourselves with the fantastic bread selection, it was time to move over to red wine and the spring lamb with vegetables from their garden.So they must have done an exception for this dish. The meat was nicely cooked and went well with all the other flavours on the plate. After the lamb dish, we could already see what was coming, as other tables were finishing their meals next to our tables, we could desserts arriving with little candles on them. Most of the people having dinner there had come for a special occasion, whether it was an anniversary or a birthday, and I wouldn’t blame them as so were we. Once our turn came, we took the obligatory Happy Bday photo and also received a little envelope to take the birthday note home with us. Once we had finished our meal, it was already pretty late, close to midnight I’d say, but I decided to have a fresh mint tea before leaving, so we were taken to a comfortable lounge to help us digest and finish off with some petit fours. The whole experience was truly memorable and it was great just to sit there for a moment and reflect on the dishes we had had. The staff had ordered us a taxi to go back to Cuddesdon and have to say that the taxi felt like the only rip off we had had throughout the evening – £18 for a 1.4 mile journey. I guess they feel like they need a share of magic of Le Manoir as well.