Under the auspices of Raymond Blanc and Head Chef Gary Jones, Le Manoir has secured a reputation as one of the best places to eat in the UK – it’s one of the possible stops on the Orient Express route, is unabashedly luxurious, and offers courses for visiting food lovers of an enquiring mindset.
Given its accolades, visitors can expect formality - and quality of food and service to match. The restaurant is popular but retains an intimate air, with attentive staff and elegant, uncontroversial decor. Le Manoir is, as you might expect, situated in a grand and elegant country house in the middle of grounds busy with manicured vegetation. Herb gardens are open for exploration by the stream of visitors; jogging routes are suggested for guests. And from the conservatory dining room, fine views of the bucolic surroundings provide a backdrop to the dining experience. A stay in the hotel provides the kind of levels of indulgence that have led Le Manoir to be described as more than a restaurant and a place to stay – it’s been compared to a ruritania in the heart of Oxfordshire.
Dining is fundamental to this. Jones’s style follows the classic philosophy of bringing every single element of the ingredient to the fore – ensuring that the full flavour of whatever deceptively simple-sounding component of the dish is captured. So, ravioli of wild lobster is served with lemon verbena; confit of duck liver will arrive complemented by spiced cherries and almonds.
The 1,000 strong wine list – which, like the food menu, focus on French provenance but with nods to the New World - is indicative of a restaurant that likes to keep ahead of the competition. It is little wonder Le Manoir has two Michelin stars, five AA rosettes and a clutch of other awards.