Deep in the heart of the elegant British countryside, in the county of Oxfordshire, we’ve embarked on a 9-day road trip. Our journey begins at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, a luxury establishment well-known for its hotel, gourmet restaurant, and gardens. There’s no small amount of praise for the cuisine of Raymond Blanc, a two Michelin-starred chef. Though we find working at the range cooker, he has held the role of head chef since the restaurant’s opening in 1984.
A 15th Century Manor That Will Make Your Heart Skip a Beat
Nestled in Great Milton, a small village only one hour from the center of London and twenty minutes from Oxford (which is definitely worth a visit!), this luxury hotel is perfectly located. The pitch is tempting! Driving in our rented car, we take in the verdant landscapes as they fly past. It feels like we’re in a fairy tale as we pull up to our destination, with a gravel path leading the way to this beautiful 15th-century manor. As we pass through the doors, we can sense the undeniable charm that emanates from this place, the kind of atmosphere you imagine when you think of the English countryside and its lavish residences.
As head of the establishment, chef Raymond Blanc had the vision of creating a hotel paired with a restaurant where guests can revel in true perfection, be it in terms of cuisine, comfort, or service. And in light of all the dazzling reviews he’s received over the years, his vision has paid off! Today, the manor is part of the Belmond Group, owner of many prestigious hotels, cruise ships and, most importantly, incredibly luxurious trains, such as the famous Orient Express. This will be the first time I’ll set foot in a Belmond property, and I must admit I’m impatient to learn more!
The Jade Suite: Truly a Marvel
As soon as we step out of our car, we’re given a proper greeting and a tour of the manor, allowing us a glimpse of the building’s beautiful interior. We then head to one of the establishment’s 32 rooms, each featuring a unique design inspired by the master of the house’s travels.
We will be staying in the Jade Suite, part of the “deluxe studio suites” category. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, with a fireplace, gentle ambiance music, and Asia-inspired décor, making up for the rainy April weather outside. In addition to the room’s considerable comfort and style, there are a few details that are absolutely worth mentioning, such as the television fitted into the ceiling above the bed, or (the real show stopper!) the steam room in the bathroom.
A Walk through the Gardens
Even though the weather isn’t exactly ideal, we find the motivation to discover the manor’s gardens—and it’s a good thing we do! We spend an hour exploring the narrow pathways of the Japanese garden, the little mushroom glen, and the vegetable garden. It’s a gorgeous pastoral scene, and even if the sun isn’t with us, our stroll through the outdoors is very pleasant. It’s all about the details: there are sculptures placed here and there, and beauty shines through in every part of the garden.
Raymond Blanc’s Gourmet Cuisine
At 4 p.m., we of course have to respect the English tradition of taking our tea in one of the manor’s sitting rooms. Facing the fireplace, we have the choice of enjoying a full Afternoon Tea in the typical Anglo-Saxon style, or (as we decide to do) waiting obediently for our dinner with only a tea from the famous Mariage Frères brand and a few small sweets.
In this sanctuary of gastronomy, the ace in the hole is the Michelin-starred restaurant, renowned throughout Great Britain. Only a year after its opening, it was awarded two stars from the Michelin Guide, and it hasn’t lost them since. The chef swears by ultra-fresh, organic products, most of which come from his own garden where he grows more than 90 varieties of vegetables and 70 different herbs.
To start off our gourmet evening, we return to one of the sitting rooms to take in a glass of champagne along with an assortment of hors-d’oeuvres by the chef. We spend a few minutes looking over the menu, which offers either a seven-course set menu (also available in a vegetarian version, I should add) or a “discovery” set menu with three courses.
Once we’ve finished our drinks and placed our order, we make our way to the restaurant room. The atmosphere is relaxed, and we immediately feel at ease. Even though it’s a weekday, the restaurant is fully booked, and the atmosphere is much more convivial than in many of the other starred restaurants where we’ve eaten. We’ve decided on the three-course menu, which begins with “The Crab,” accompanied by several exotic flavors: kaffir lime, coconut, and passion fruit. This sweet and refreshing dish awakens the senses and reminds us of some of the foods we discovered during our two months in Thailand last year. Next up is “The Turbot,” enhanced by a glass of white Portuguese wine recommended by the sommelier. Finally, my husband gives in to “The Pistachio,” which combines the flavors of a bitter cocoa sorbet with a pistachio soufflé, while I opt for “The Strawberry.”
After enjoying a sound night of sleep and trying out our private hammam, we head down to breakfast, where there’s no shortage of lovely surprises! Breakfast is laid out in the restaurant room, which is full of natural light this morning. Here we find a continental-style buffet, full of high-quality products: I’ve rarely seen such exceptional dishes, and I’ve been in some of the best 5-star hotels worldwide. I particularly recommend the homemade croissants, which are divine! In addition, there are a number of freshly prepared hot dishes: scrambled eggs, eggs benedict, and even black sausage with apples—all of the English breakfast classics.
I was absolutely delighted by this establishment. I was first hooked by the beauty of the 15th century manor, but I also loved the grounds. Of course, the gastronomy is what drew me in, with the breakfast in particular joining my personal top three—one of the best I’ve had in my life! This hotel from the Relais & Chateaux catalogue is a perfect symbol of refined luxury, featuring what you’d expect from this kind of establishment: soul and style. In short, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons will have a warm place in our hearts for years to come!
- The top-notch service: our every whim was anticipated by the staff. Some of the best service I experienced in the UK.
- The impression that I was in a country house rather than a hotel.
- The room: It was so comfortable that it was like being at home, and not in a hotel room.
- The restaurant room had a rather neutral interior design which I found unimpressive.
- Dinnertime service was a bit slow.
- More information available on their website
- Jade Suite: starting at 1068 £/night, or about 1220 €.
- The restaurant is open every day for lunch and dinner, except for Monday at lunchtime.
Thank you to the Manoir aux Quat’Saisons for the invitation to explore their establishment. Of course, the content of this blogpost was left entirely up to me!