Raymond Blanc's famous Le Manoir might not be new, but it's still the best 'restaurant with rooms' in the UK today
Where? Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford OX44 7PD (01844 278881)
Isn’t that the place off the telly? Thanks to BBC2’s The Restaurant (back on screens this September, FYI), Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir has a waiting list to rival The Ivy, but it’s no new discovery to Francophile foodies, who’ve been filling its immaculate, two-Michelin-starred dining room since 1984.
So might we spy Monsieur Blanc in his chefs whites? Unusually for a household culinary name, the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ Nothing in this amazing restaurant – from the canapés to the music – comes without his personal stamp of approval. If you’re lucky, you might even spot him in Le Manoir’s organic vegetable plot.
So we’re expecting some seriously good food then? And you won’t be disappointed. This is haute cuisine at its very, very best. Rich but never heavy, imaginative but still with a strong sense of tradition, dishes are fresh, seasonal and, in a word, delicious.
So how on earth do you decide what to eat? Well, that’s where the different menus come in. If you’re really indecisive, the Menu Découverte includes ten courses for true taste-it-and-see splendour. Meanwhile, the slightly less waistband-busting, five-course Les Classiques du Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons includes a selection of Raymond’s most famous dishes. Alternatively, there is an à la carte selection, alongside special children’s and vegetarian menus.
Any personal highlights? For someone who usually raves about the dessert, and make no mistake, they’re absolutely superb here, it was actually the summer vegetable risotto, served somewhere around course two, that got my highest mark. That and a curious tomato sorbet, which tasted a bit like my grandfather’s greenhouse used to smell.