In June I had the pleasure to spend two days at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, an award-winning hotel and restaurant in heart of the Oxford countryside. Le Manoir, part of Relais & Chateaux, is one of the most luxurious and magnificent country hotels in Britain. Located in the small village of Great Milton, less than two hours away from London , Le Manoir is the perfect destination for a romantic and relaxing weekend away from the city.
Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons
There are many reasons why I fell in love with Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons: the picturesque surroundings, splendid bedrooms, impeccable service and the fine dining. Within the hotel sits a 2-star Michelin restaurant, opened by Raymond Blanc in 1984, and renowned as one of the UK’s leading gastronomic destinations.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is the fulfilment of a personal vision, a dream that one day I would create a hotel and restaurant in harmony where my guests would find perfection in food, comfort, service and welcome. [Raymond Blanc OBE, Chef Patron]
Raymond Blanc Cookery School
Within the grand hotel premises there is also the acclaimed The Raymond Blanc Cookery School, which offers a wide range of cooking and baking classes led by an excellent team of chefs and tutors. The workshops are open to anyone, from enthusiastic novices to professional cooks. It’s a fantastic place to soak up classic French cooking skills and baking techniques.
I was invited to review the full day Patisserie and Dessert Course, during which I learnt invaluable tips from my tutor Rebecca Boast and benefited from the hours of hands-on tuition. I learnt how to make the ultimate French lemon tart, a lemon cake, raspberry macarons, sorbet, and the visually striking and delicious fraisier cake.
Aside from my baking achievements, the day spent at the Raymond Blanc School was a really fun and sociable experience that I would recommend to anyone with a passion for baking.
Le Manoir sits within impressive gardens, so after lunch Rebecca took us on a tour of the hotel’s premises including a wander around the immaculate kitchen garden. The garden is used to grow sustainable and heritage vegetables, but also to educate students and guests on the importance of organic gardening.
In the afternoon I left the cookery school and checked into my room for the night: the opulent and luxurious One Bedroom Suite.
The suite was 60 square metres, with a king size bed, a separate sitting room with sofa and dining table, a dresser and en-suite bathroom.
Each of the 32 rooms at Le Manoir are individually decorated in a contemporary style. Although the decor of my room – with black furniture, glass tables, mirrors, dark marble floors – wasn’t exactly my style, I still did a little happy dance and giggled when I saw it. It was the biggest and most incredible hotel room I’ve ever stayed at.
The marble bathroom featured a bath-tub and a walk-in shower. I loved little touches like the bottle of perfumed bath salts or the cotton pouch to take the soap bar away at the end of your stay.
My room was quiet and comfortable, located on the first floor of an annex building, with views of the courtyard. Later that night, I had a hot bath with jazz music playing in the background, followed by a deep and relaxing sleep. I woke up feeling refreshed, as if I had been on holiday for days!
The Bar and Lounge
In the evening, I walked over to the main house for a 5-course tasting dinner at Raymond Blanc’s Aux Quat Saisons restaurant. As I entered the hotel lobby I was accompanied to the lounge area first for Champagne and canapés.
The restaurant at Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons is housed in a conservatory hall, so the ambience is warm and cozy, as a country house should be. I had a lovely time, despite being on my own, the odd girl in the corner of a fancy restaurant taking photos of her food. The wonderful staff made me feel at ease.
The tasting menu at Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons was a unique gastronomic experience, featuring inventive flavour combinations and seasonal ingredients. The lunch and dinner menu change monthly, developed by Head chef, Gary Jones, Chef Patissier, Benoit Blin, and of course Chef Patron, Raymond Blanc (who I saw by the kitchen on the day of my visit).
Confit of Loch Duart Salmon, elderflower, garden radish, yuzu cream.
Risotto of summer vegetables, tomato essence, chervil cream
Braised fillet of Cornish turbot, scallop, cucumber, wasabi
Highfield Farm quail, beetroot gratin, grains and garden leaves
The dessert – curiously named A theme of seasonal strawberries – was made of a crispy tuile, a thin sponge cake, coulis, and some fresh Gariguette strawberries.
A choice of 4 traditional wines and 4 prestigious wine is offered to guests who want to pair the tasting menu with wine. I decided not to have the full pairing, instead I tasted just one white and one red: the Austrian Grüner Veltliner Renner 2014 and the French Macon Cruzille Cuvee 910. Both were very good.
Waking up in the bedroom suite at Le Manoir the next morning felt like a dream. I had a large breakfast (guests can order from the a la carte menu but also eat from the buffet) in the restaurant, followed by a walk in the garden.
I feel very lucky to have had such a wonderful experience. Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons is the epitome of old-fashioned luxury and the place to visit for the ultimate rural escape in England.
Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons is located on Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford, OX44 7PD, United Kingdom. I travelled by train from London Marylebone to Haddenham station and a taxi from there to the hotel (the ride takes around 15 minutes). For more information, follow Relais & Chateaux UK on Twitter.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Relais & Chateaux. All opinions are my own.