Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons review: The country house hotel-restaurant where 40 of the finest chefs in the world are responsible for your supper

Just a stone’s throw from Oxford, Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir is famously the go-to hotel for serious food lovers — it has a two Michelin-starred restaurant — but does it still make the mouth water? We sent Tiffany Daneff to find out.

The story goes that on seeing that the 15th century manor house in Great Milton was for sale Raymond Blanc drove up to the front door and made the owner an offer. The rest is foodie history: the hotel opened in 1984 and in the same year was awarded two Michelin stars which it has kept ever since. 

The house and its gardens are found at the edge of the village, next to the 11th century church of St Mary’s (which is well worth visiting), and nothing could be more restful than sitting with a cocktail overlooking the croquet lawn lulled by the cooing woodpigeons. 

The hotel is now part of the Belmond group, but it is still wholly Monsieur Blanc’s establishment and his influence can be sensed throughout the beautifully maintained grounds. He was filming in the walled kitchen garden on the day of Country Life’s visit and during dinner that evening stopped by every table to chat to his guests. 

The rooms

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Each of the 32 rooms is inspired by M. Blanc’s memories and travels. Country Life was lucky enough to stay in L’Orangerie (along with Blanc de Blancs, this is considered the best in the house). It was inspired by the orangery at a chateau that his grandparents used to care for. The room, which opens onto a private terrace, has mirrored doors like those at the chateau and is filled with the scent of citrus from the Branche d’Olive handsoap in the bathroom (a small linen bag is helpfully provided so you can take the last bit home).

As its name suggests Blanc de Blancs, inspired from a party held at Versailles, is pure white throughout with crystal chandeliers, Venetian mirrors and marble. On arrival Country Life pounced on a freshly baked lemon cake left in the room with a bottle of vintage champagne and some fresh fruit — and, simply unable to consume it all, happily took home the leftovers in the little cardboard boxes provided for just that purpose.

Eating and drinking

New dinner guests would be missing a trick if they didn’t sign up for the seven course tasting menu with wine pairings. Highlights on the August menu: pitch perfect gazpacho granita (paired with biodynamically produced Reisling Le Schild 2020); the revelatory horseradish sorbet that accompanied Cornish mackerel, gooseberries from the garden with an elderflower jus; and the delicate risotto of garden vegetables that was made using a umami rich stock made using tomatoes from the garden.

We strongly recommend saving a little of the final wine, Barsac Cyprès de Climens 2016, for the excellent selection from the cheese trolley. 

For breakfast there’s an array of fruits, yoghurts and homemade granola and muesli as well as cooked dishes of which the vegetarian offering of eggs with wild mushrooms and sautéed spinach was almost more exciting than the usual English. But make sure you have plenty of space for the warm croissants — look out for the pistachio ones.

How they’ll keep you busy

The cookery and gardening schools run a selection of day courses which are a great way to top and tail a stay. Run by the chefs and gardeners they really make you appreciate the food that you’re served. After sowing microleaves (tiny plant seedlings that explode in a blast of flavour on the tongue) you realise why they are so popular with the chefs. 

Former air hostess turned enthusiastic gardener, August Bernstein packs the well balanced day with good sense, real knowledge and so many laughs. When we popped in for a quick look at the cookery school guests were being shown how to make the sublime tomato stock that many had eaten the night before in the aforementioned garden risotto (garnished with microleaves).

There’s croquet to play, M. Blanc Japanese garden to lose yourself in, and the kitchen garden demands a good walk through as does the orchard which displays 2500 fruit trees — rare heritage English apples and pears and from France those types (plus apricots and mirabelles) that remind Raymond of his childhood in the Saône.

Our top tip: if you’re interested in fruit trees, book early to secure a place on one of Head Orchard Gardener Paula Fleming’s popular pruning classes. 

What else to do while you’re there 

Where to start? You’re a half hour drive from the city of Oxford, but visitors often like to take in a wider loop through some of the finest villages in the Cotswolds. This is English countryside at its finest and with a rich and long history of landed estates. Blenheim Palace is not far away, nor is Waddesdon Manor.

Garden lovers might want to visit the famous Waterperry Gardens. 

Who is it for?

Children are welcome — and there is a children’s menu — but this is really the place for couples of all ages who really enjoy the finer things in life: great cooking, a beautiful garden and somewhere to escape the bustle of the world beyond Great Milton. 

What gives it the ‘wow’ factor?

Raymond Blanc in the Le Manoir kitchen

Knowing that 40 of the finest chefs in the world have prepared your meal using produce picked just hours ago from the vast organic kitchen garden where 12 full time gardeners tend the soil and the plants with utter devotion. And the attention to detail such as the thoughtful going-home gift bag with water and freshly baked biscuits for the road as well as a bag of native wildflower seed balls.

The one thing we’d change

The lighting systems in some of the rooms could do with simplifying and some of the interiors in the main house feel a bit tired but all will be improved in a forthcoming refurbishment.

Rooms at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons from £900 a night — call 01844 278 881 or book direct at www.belmond.com