How can you be certain you’ve arrived somewhere special? Well, chances are that if a member of the concierge team is at your car door before your key is even out of the ignition… you’ve come to the right place.
A friend and I felt we needed to get away to celebrate and spoil ourselves, so we escaped to Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons.
If you’ve been here, you will know what I mean when I say that walking through the gardens to check-in is like entering another world. The hotel is just a 60-minute drive from London and 30 minutes from Oxford, yet it feels miles away from anywhere. How’s that for a relaxing environment?
Le Manoir opened in 1984 to fulfill Raymond Blanc’s dream to create the perfect experience – a fantastic combination of food, comfort, service… and a warm welcome.
Everyone certainly seemed to be “living” this dream while we were there.
All 32 of the property’s rooms are individually decorated – unique and beautiful. Of course, its 2 Michelin Star restaurant is what it is most famous for. So famous in fact, that there is a six week wait list for mid-week lunch reservations for non-residents.
That list is even longer if you want dinner on the weekend. All I can suggest is, plan well ahead… or better still: book a room!
We were staying in one of the four newly opened signature suites. Interior designer Emily Todhunter has worked with Raymond to create four unique suites, which – like all the rooms – have been individually decorated.
The Eastern-inspired Jade suite was ours during our stay. Its fireplace, raised bedroom area and attention to detail are all amazing. The sugar-covered almonds on our coffee table were even color coordinated.
The bathroom was very large and beautifully decorated, and the walk-in steam room and shower deserve special mentions. With a flick of a switch you have a steam room with a lovely stone “pebble” on which to relax. And then you can stand under one of the largest shower-heads ever. Forget rainforest showers, this was like the Iguazu Falls!
We watched the sun set while sipping a glass of the complimentary Madeira wine from the decanter in our suite. Then we continued our celebrations with a glass of champagne in the main lounge – prior to dinner.
We decided to go for “Les Classiques du Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons” five course menu, designed to showcase some of their most famous dishes, using ingredients from their gardens and local farms. The confit of wild rod-caught sea trout was truly delicious, followed by the most delicately flavored risotto I have ever eaten. But the pièce de résistance was dessert, a theme on “Gariguette” strawberry… mouth watering.
By the way, if you think you too could perhaps be a 2 Michelin Star chef, you can try out your skills in Raymond’s on-site cookery school.
After a peaceful sleep following our delicious five-course dinner the night before, I felt I had to make space for breakfast – the most essential meal of the day!
The hotel grounds were one option – which nine gardeners spend their days looking after – and the extensive organic vegetable gardens looked amazing. They even surpassed those of Meryl Streep’s character Jane in the movie “It’s Complicated.” And I thought that was close to impossible!
Instead, I decided to test out one of the hotel’s selections of walking/running guides and explored the Oxfordshire countryside. There is something lovely about coming back from a run on which wild deer, rabbits and a badger were all visible – all the while listening to bird song as opposed to cars, buses and police sirens, mind you!
Our stay went very quickly and we were so sad – naturally – to be leaving Le Manoir, but we will be back! Oh, and to help cheer ourselves up on our journey home we decided to pay a quick visit to the outlet shopping village at Bicester. If credit cards could talk, however, ours would be telling us that they wished we hadn’t made the emergency stop!