Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons

Driving through the lush Oxfordshire countryside on an incredibly hot and sunny day is nothing short of beautiful. The fact that our destination was not only a great restaurant run by one of the country’s most renowned chefs, but also a fabulous property dating back to Tudor times set in acres of beautifully landscaped gardens made it even better. Raymond Blanc, the self-taught chef patron has presided over Le Manoir for over 30 years, having had some of the countries best chefs pass through his kitchens, including Marco Pierre White and Heston Blumenthal!

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So, lunch, lunch, lunch! Not wanting to miss out on being roasted in the sunshine we decided to have a drink in the garden that also came coupled with our canapes. Although mine were vegetarian (I’d said I was allergic to shellfish, but they decided I was allergic to all fish, as the others had salmon gravadlax). Nevertheless, these were tasty morsels.

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Luckily our table was in the conservatory as it was rather stuffy in the main restaurant. Unluckily, they forgot that I had a shellfish allergy and brought the amuse bouche of cauliflower veloute, curried biscuit, roast scallop, whereupon I reminded them of my allergy, and my plate got taken back to the kitchen and soon returned with curried hazelnuts instead of scallop. Delicious. The only thing that made me worry was that a few bites into my hazelnut, I started feeling an itch at the back of my throat – typical signs of shellfish ingestion. This was rather odd, but as it was incredibly minute and not a reason to panic, I let the matter be. I could only put it down to the fact that the kitchen had not changed my plate from the scallop, instead, just removed it and replaced it with the hazelnuts or used scallop hands to handle hazelnuts. Luckily I don’t go into shock with my allergy (itchy throat that leads to swelling, stomach cramps, respiratory difficulties – all depending on severity of contact), or else this would have been a very disastrous situation. After about 10 minutes or so, the itch passed and I was able to relax and didn’t have to let the folks or M know so we could still enjoy the afternoon rather than panic. Still worrying nonetheless – even at the Fat Duck I nearly ate langoustine, but decided to check last minute if mine was shellfish free which proved to be a very good move. I guess no amount of vigilance is enough.

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My starter was a dainty and colourful Farmed salmon, waterperry apple, caviar. Perfectly cooked and a lovely mix of sweet, sour, bitter and peppery with the garnishes.

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Main course was the champion of autumn, the grouse, coming with cabbage, bacon and blackberries. Whilst it wasn’t the  most expertly cooked piece of grouse I’ve had, with some bits cooked much more than other, the whole thing being a spread across medium and medium-well,  the accompaniments,  nevertheless were delicious as was the oniony and bacony bread sauce. Another thing I noticed was that M’s dish of roast seabass had the amuse bouche as a garnish – cauliflower puree and roast scallop. This does come across as lack of thought being put into menu planning.

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Dessert was exotic fruit ravioli, kaffir lime, coconut sorbet which was one of the tastiest, lightest and most refreshing desserts I’ve had in a very long time The ravioli was a passion fruit jelly encasing an exotic fruit cream topped with exotic fruits – stunning and delicous, while the coconut sorbet and coconut sauce were just perfect husbands for the ravioli. A nice touch was the scoop of raspberry sorbet that was sent for the folks who weren’t having any dessert.

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And so we ordered coffee and here again it seemed as though the service wasn’t on it or that there was a lack of communication. We ordered normal coffees, my mum asked fora little coffee with a lot of milk to which the waiter replied ‘absolutely’. What turned up though was 4 normal coffees and the waitress decided to pour the milk herself, which as any coffee drinker knows, is something the coffee drinker themselves have to do. Nevertheless, the waitress left and returned with a cup of milk for mum to which she added a little coffee and all was good again. We never got Le Manoir’s famous petit fours though, and I was a bit embarrassed to ask. Shame.

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Whilst we waited for our taxi, we had a little stroll around the organic vegetable and herb gardens and the beautiful Japanese garden, watched people play croquet and boules, and basked in the late afternoon sun. Nature was definitely the winner on this occasion.

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Overall experience: 7
Food: 7
Recommend you go: 7
Wine: 9
Website
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