If what you seek is a meaningful culinary holiday in a most intimate setting then there really is no looking further than in an Oxfordshire haven just an hour’s drive away from London.
Coupled with an exquisite dining experience and stellar service that makes one want to linger on, Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, is the ideal place for a short getaway that ticks off all of the boxes in luxury, comfort, dining, intimacy, and pure warmth that can be felt from head, toe to heart.
There is an obvious reason that guests come back here – the staff, who are at the cornerstone of Belmond La Manoir. Every guest that arrives here are treated with genuine attention without being too obtrusive or awkward. Its staff are behind the scenes and do somehow magically appear whenever one needs assistance even when least expected. They give guests that accommodating reassurance and the undivided attention which ultimately leads to a feeling of being in great hands and welcomed, an aspect that seems to be so crucially defining of a guests stay.
Belmond Le Manoir is of course made popular by its maître de Maison, Raymond Blanc who is responsible for curating the exquisite hotel and culinary experience that is second to none. The premises have already received two Michelin stars since 1984 with a culinary and garden school to match, where you can learn Blanc’s concoctions and get a taste of what it takes to deliver a haute cuisine dish. All experience levels are accepted, so whether you’re just curious to pick up one of Blanc’s recipes or whether you’re more advanced and want to be taught the techniques from a Michelin-starred serving restaurant, its cookery school has something for everyone.
For our experience at Belmond Le Manoir, we stayed in ‘Provence’, a Garden One Bedroom Suite located on the ground floor. This was perfect as we arrived with baby in tow and the room is especially recommended for families with children. There is plentiful of space in this gorgeously rustic inspired space kitted out with so much charm you’ll catch yourself saying how much longer you wish you could stay. With a wood-burning fireplace sitting in the background and a French-inspired terrace all to yourself, you’re all set for ultra-comfort away from the bustling sound pollution that is London.
It might be interesting to know that each room at Belmond Le Manoir is named after a plant or a scent all inspired by Blanc’s travels. What’s more is that all of the 32-rooms have been individually designed so no matter which room you’ve got, you’re never going to be in the same styled room as the others. With so much attention to detail, between furniture, lighting, to the colour palettes, you will come to find that it’s more about aesthetics and character as opposed to high-tech gadgets that most 5-star hotel rooms might focus on. That doesn’t mean that Belmond Le Manoir is without the most modern of technology, as our marble cladded double-sink bathroom came with its own built-in television where you’re able to watch Raymond Blanc cook up his culinary delights whilst enjoying some bubble bath me-time and indulging in the complimentary Raymond Blanc chocolates, dessert wine and fresh juices perfectly laid out for your pleasure. Need we say more foodie addicts?
But if magnified further, it really is the little things that count, and there were so many of them that we picked up on during our experience. Staff, of course being one of them. As we had our baby in tow, it was to be expected that he would eventually throw a mild fit towards evening time, but what we didn’t expect was the genuine understanding coming from the staff. One fine example was during dinner time which commenced at 7pm. Guests were told to head to the lounge for a light aperitif whilst browsing the menu before a waiter came to take diners orders. After indulging in a few canapes, we were led to the restaurant and seated in a perfect corner, comfortably away from all the others as we were hoping to minimize the disturbance towards other diners with a fussy baby nearby. As if the staff already knew, we were delighted with our seating arrangement and our meal approached in no time.
We gave the tasting menu a go, which consisted of seven dishes. The most memorable dish was L’ouef Truffe which consisted of free-range hen’s egg, wild mushroom tea and autumn truffle – full of flavour, with an oozing yolk that was beautifully intertwined and enriched within the essence of the tea – a dish that could keep you wanting more. We didn’t order food for our little one as he is still on puree but again, the staff managed to impress us by presenting seven puree variations consisting of carrot, peas, mango and the like, each with their own spoons for the little one to enjoy.
By the time we were onto our beautiful fillet of Cornish turbot with oyster, cucumber and wasabi however, our little one was having no more of it. Soon enough, spoons were being thrown around. We felt defeated only to notice that one of the waiters was quick to pick up the cutlery, immediately replacing it with a new one. Each time anything dropped from the table, the waiter would be around the corner to very discreetly sort out the mess. To this, we cannot stress the amount of attention and service one gets here. It made the entire stay such a worthwhile one because just when you least expect it, you’ve got a helping hand ready to be at your service.
As our little ones wailing subsequently followed, the staff began to see the tension on our faces and kindly suggested we finish our remaining tasting courses from the confines of our room, if we wanted to. We were ecstatic, pleased and relieved at the same time as this meant we could dine comfortably without having to console our child each time he started crying. This meant we could actually put him to bed whilst continuing our dishes by the fireplace.
The menu was by all means, exquisite and we highly recommend Raymond Blanc’s Les Saveurs du Manoir menu. Each dish carefully thought of, using the produce harvested in Belmond Le Manoir’s own farm. It gave us a taste of Raymond Blanc’s world and this was further encapsulated by Belmond Le Manoir’s charming environment. As the weather was quite poorly for us, we weren’t able to mesmerize the acres that surrounds the hotel but should you visit this retreat do take one of their maps and explore the exquisite grounds. There are eleven gardens at Belmond Le Manoir, one of them a mushroom garden and another, a Japanese tea-garden.
It is needless to say that we recommend this highly prestigious abode for everything it stands for. Service is constantly a big factor when choosing a retreat, and for parents, you’ll be pleased to know just how welcoming they are towards families as we have carefully witnessed ourselves. Of course, such a place ticks all of the boxes for an intimate couples escape too, you’ll be so captivated by the exclusive comfort and experience, that hopefully kids shouldn’t be bothersome during your stay.
To top it off, the rooms are story-telling in their own right. With big red and green bows to announce your ‘do not disturb’ or ‘make-up room’ options, organic luxury toiletries that smell of a freshly scented garden with its own soap bags so you can take home, how could you not resist this luxurious manor escape? It is all in the details and the little things that make Belmond Le Manoir Aux’Quat Saisons a highly respectable and celebrated escape where culinary adventure and luxury living collide.