Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – Great Milton, Oxfordshire, England

A French Coup de Foudre in the English Countryside

The extraordinary talents of Raymond Blanc draw food lovers to this chef d’oeuvre of the art de vivre. Fans and scrutinizing critics alike regard his celebrated manor-restaurant as one of the best in the nation, a niche of French perfection by a transplanted former waiter turned self-taught master chef. Built of mellow Cotswolds stone in the 15th century, this is a quintessentially perfect English coun­try house used as a luxury venue for the gas­tronomic whims of its Gallic chef-proprietor. Although Blanc insists his touch is light and that he would not have his manor experienced as if it were a shrine or temple, there is still something that approaches reverence in the barely audible tones of diners in awe who make the hour’s drive from London.

Return patrons from Sydney or Los Angeles are as commonplace as in-the-know Europeans. For the uninitiated, prices are remarkably high, but so are the standards of the kitchen. The manor’s head gardener—responsible for over­seeing the 3-acre potager garden and its cornucopia of fresh bounty—holds such an important role that her name appears on the menu.

Contented once-in-a-lifetime splurgers are advised to go the distance and fall into the enveloping luxury of one of the sumptuous rooms, such as the romantic round Junior Suite in the converted medieval dovecote, reached by spiral staircase. The Manoir’s din­ing has always been its strong suit (wait until you sample breakfast), but the accommoda­tions are just as noteworthy.

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