Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
One of the most highly regarded countryside hotels in this country is the charming Manoir. Set in beautiful gardens in the picturesque Cotswolds noted for its honey coloured stone houses it is everybody’s idea of England at its best. Charming and an homage to Raymond Blanc with its two acres of gardens including the renowned Kitchen Garden set out for everyone who visits to admire. Although, I have to admit my favourite garden ‘room’ was Chris Beardshaw’s ethereal Wild Flower Meadow which was truly romantic and fragrant.
However, the hotel is rightly predominantly known for its food and our dinner was simply sensational and should you be horrified at the prices, trust me save up or raid your savings like many of our fellow diners, it really is perfect for a special occasion. The menu is predominantly French inspired but is not an exercise in inventiveness or trying to astonish you with something way-out. It is just perfection itself accompanied by delicious wines.
Some years ago, we actually celebrated our son’s 21st birthday with a lovely lunch in the sunny conservatory which I have to say I prefer to one of the dark intimate dining rooms. If you are staying at the hotel, breakfast is in the conservatory and is a truly delightful place to start your day. All in all the experience of dining at the Manoir is a truly memorable experience with its taste sensations in the most beautiful surroundings.
Over the last twenty years Raymond Blanc has been creating orchards filled with unusual British species of fruit, as have my husband and I. We, however, have concentrated on very local varieties grown in our part of Kent on a much smaller scale. Raymond Blanc’s project has some eight hundred vine-grown apple and pear trees with which to experiment. Our hedgerow sloes and plums will obviously come in use for delicious homemade liqueurs if we have time!
We were shown a number of rooms and suites, there is quite a range of styles and sizes. The dovecote is very intimate and charming with the most gorgeous wallpaper. A delightful and very unusual suite which has been very sympathetically converted, but maybe for some it would benefit from a few more windows.
In the converted stables there are some suites which are themed on country styles including the Chinese inspired Jade suite in which we stayed. There was also a Japanese styled suite but the most beautiful to me were the Orangerie suite with its little garden, or the Provence suite with its small private terrace. Those two are definitely the ones to go for if you win the lottery.
Even the corridors of the stables have interest; one has mature vines along one wall; a bit like walking through an orangery. The hotel is so frequently described as a prime example of an English country house hotel and to that end a good choice would be to consider rooms in the main house.
Should your coffers not stretch to staying in the hotel, there are plenty of nearby more affordable options but please, please do not miss the opportunity of dining at the Manoir and eating one of the best meals you will ever have.
Things to see in the area: Historic Oxford, Blenheim Palace, Greys Court (beautiful garden), Bicester Village with designer shopping, The Raymond Blanc Cookery School, The Raymond Blanc Gardening School.