The Restaurant at Le Manoir Reviews; Oxford, UK
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The Restaurant at Le Manoir, Oxford

Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford, OX44 7PD, UK
The Restaurant at Le Manoir Review
5 Star Rating
25 March 2014The Restaurant at Le Manoir
Tags: Oxford, UK, Fine Dining reviewsThe Bill: £263 per head

Raymond Blanc's restaurant at Le Manoir provides quite the experience. Having gained, and subsequently retained, two Michelin stars just one year after opening, we were expecting great things; and one thing we certainly weren’t, was disappointed.

We began our evening at Le Manoir with an aperitif - a glass of Laurent-Perrier rosé, along with a selection of outstanding canapés. The quality and attention to detail couldn’t be ignored. Sometimes, I feel as though canapés are served simply for the sake of being served, however these canapés were just delicious, and incredibly satisfying.

Shortly following, we were escorted into the restaurant, where our dining experience began. We chose to sample the seven-course discovery menu. A notable fact is that the restaurant is seasonally focussed, so that the emphasis is on the freshest produce. This is abundantly clear, when with each course, every ingredient exploded on the palate.

“Every ingredient exploded on the palate”

Our meal began with a salad of Devonshire crab with grapefruit and celery. The presentation was simply beautiful; reminiscent of a sea bed, with greenery representing seaweed, and a small piece of toast depicting coral - along with the crab claw, this made for an impressive visual, that tasted as good as it looked. This course was paired with a glass of Westhofener Riesling 2012, Weignut Wittmann, Rheinhessen, Allemagne. It set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the meal.

The second course came in the form of a plancha-seared, spiced scallops served with cauliflower and curry oil. The two scallops were presented beautifully placed on the cauliflower puree, amongst pea shoots, and the curry oil drizzle. This dish was delicate in flavour, with the scallops undeniably cooked to perfection. This was paired with a glass of Chassagne-Montracet 2011, Domaine J.N. Gagnard, Bourgogne, France.

Next up, we enjoyed a free-range hen’s egg, with watercress puree and Jabugo ham. This was a striking dish, with the contrast of the white egg topped with the ham against the deep green watercress puree making for a beautiful tri-coloured stack; simple, yet gorgeously delicious. This dish paired with a glass of Pinot Noir 2010, Wild Earth, Central Otago, New Zealand.

Course number four saw Cornish sea bass, served with Scottish langoustine on a stick, smoky mash, and a star anise jus; this dish was paired with a Côtes du Rhône 2011, Le Clos du Caillou, Vallée du Rhône, France. The texture of the fish was beautiful, and the mash was melt-in-the-mouth. The flavour of the star anise jus was beautifully paired with the delicate flavours, yet thankfully did not overpower the dish at all. It was stunning.

The next course was in the form of roasted quail with spring cabbage, red wine and cinnamon - accompanied by a glass of Les Lions de Suduiraut 2009, Château Suduiraut, Bordeaux, France. Once again, this dish saw a clean and colourful plate, with a great depth of flavour - this dish was both rich and light; a combination we are sure is no mean feat!

As a palette cleanser, we were then presented with blood orange Carpaccio accompanied by a blood orange sorbet. This dish was visually stunning; with the thin blood orange layers arranged overlapping each other to form a deep orange disc on the clean white plate.

Finally, our meal concluded with textures of coconut and Ghana chocolate - a gorgeously presented dish, with stark colour contrasts between the coconut and the chocolate. This dish combined rich, deep and refreshing flavours to create a culinary masterpiece. It was very impressive indeed.

It’s hard to describe how good the food was at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, but what I will say is that the menu is highly accomplished, devoid of any nasty food clichés, and on the credible side of experimental. What I mean to say is that the food tasting combinations really work, instead of being bewildering on the pallet.

Our overall experience was heightened only by the members of staff who genuinely want to impart their food of knowledge to their diners. Most importantly, there was not even a hint of patronising snobbery in any conversation we were involved with, or overheard. I always find it a shame when restaurant staff almost belittle their guests - this is not present at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons even in the slightest.

Putting the food to one side momentarily, one of the most beautiful things I have had the pleasure to witness was when another guest sneezed, and two waiters from each side of the restaurant rushed over with a tissue box. It raised a smile for fellow diners.

What more can we say about Le Manoir? It truly is a special place, and one that I urge you to experience for yourself. If you don’t go for the food (which is reason enough), then please go for the service.

On a final note, here’s to the handbag stool - a dying accessory!

Square Meal

Photos courtesy of The Restaurant at Le Manoir
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