Beautiful country manor hotel serving stylish and pricey 2 Michelin starred dishes heavily influenced by the expansive garden produce
This was a long-overdue visit back to Le Manoir which has hosted many happy occasions. Knowing how the landscape has changed, I cautioned a visit for lunch and this proved to be a wise decision as the cheapest menu that now exists at Le Manoir is the 5 course set menu at lunch for £85 (the three-course a la carte is £150). I found the food customarily well crafted with one stand out dish that sang amongst a well-presented series of elegant dishes. The establishment has held 2 Michelin stars since 1984 and Gary Jones has been at the helm here as head chef for the patron Raymond Blanc since 1999 and maintained the 2-star verdict ever since as at time of writing. A staple of the UK, it is arguably one of the most beautiful settings in the whole country – this will account for the overheads of maintaining such gardens and grounds and your final bill when presented to you.
Canapes for this meal included a curry bonbon which was very good, beef carpaccio (beautiful with a cheese biscuit base), goat cheese mousse (powerful and pleasing) and sea trout (melt in mouth and fresh but not packed with flavour). All these were a very good way to begin.
Breads served were ciabatta with black olive and tomato which I found a little bland, sourdough and beer and mash brown bread. Sadly the latter was covered in too much flower almost clumsily much as had formed a pool on the saucer and one side of one of the sourdough breads was a lot harder than the other which I had to send back owing to feeling almost stale. This can happen when left out long enough in services, but this was surprising to occur at a 2 Michelin starred restaurant, especially at these prices. Although this was dealt with straight away when I mentioned it, it is still disappointing.
Wonderful pumpkin soup was first, with langoustine done well, and biscotti biscuit with blue cheese, pumpkin gel, nuts was warming in every way and dispelled the bad feeling from the bread. The star dish visually was, without doubt, the mackerel with compressed orchard apples. It was also utterly vibrant and beautifully light with all components working together; the mackerel itself perfectly fresh and oily, complemented superbly by the marvellous soy, ginger and honey gel – a knock out dish.
Hens egg on a fricassee of mushrooms, mushroom gel, wild mushroom ‘tea’ included chanterelle, trompette & girolle mushrooms. Truffles on top, with a perfectly cooked and runny egg, and broth created a super dish. A pleasing crunch from the mushroom shavings & crisps as well gave the dish the texture it needed. The Jacob’s ladder of beef was beautifully succulent with good mash, red wine essence jus and altogether was absolutely stunning.
Tiramisu Coffee bean ice cream and amaretto gel were the main components for dessert and came with a gorgeous cream and hint of liquorice. There was exquisite cream and star anise in the coffee bean ice cream making this a luxurious dessert.
Therefore, aside from the slip up of the breads, this was a superb series of dishes, done with class and style. It definitely sits within the two Michelin starred family still for myself and is practically an institution of the country now. To stay over for one night and have dinner would be magnificent I’m sure – the only problem with this is that you will need roughly £1,500 minimum to do this with one other guest. One day, perhaps.
Food Grade: 88%
The paté, the lamb and the pea puree starter on this lunch occasion were very nice but unfortunately back to the old style of expensive freshness providing the reason to be charged such a charge for the experience which was not really returned on the level that the menu prices were. Perfectly pleasant food on this occasion but it was only just that with the added negative of being too expensive for what it was.
Food Grade: 78%
This was a special occasion and now etched memory. As a treat for doing something completely different and creating a welcome change away from home for this one year, this was the perfect location to arrange and take the family for a wonderful Christmas meal. In short, it rates as one of the most memorable Christmas Day lunches ever had.
The biggest fear before going on such an occasion was the service being too formal. This however, was actually kicked right in to touch as the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming and genuine at every stage. The meal itself was a set Christmas menu but with elements of real brilliance that I genuinely thought was better food than the degustation menu experienced earlier in the year. The salmon blini starter was wonderfully light and creamy; the true ‘Normande’ was beautifully fresh as an apple sorbet with freeze dried apple slice; the turkey was actually moist unlike how turkeys can very often be and the bread sauce with bacon bits and small amounts of cheese was a stroke of genius as well as the cheese with blob of truffle honey on the top being a delight.
The menu demonstrated simple flavours that would agree with virtually anyone and was beautifully done. The mini ice creams (had in the bar with after the meal with early evening liqueurs) were a lovely way to finish and this really was a superb meal. In terms of finding somewhere to have a unique Christmas Day away, it really was pure gold as an experience and one that will be very hard to match.
Food Grade: 88%
This was a no brainer to try as a long-standing 2 Michelin starred restaurant which was also the nearest to where I was located in 2009 /10 on a nine-month training course. The first thing that struck me when I finally got here, was how beautifully laid out the restaurant was with its conservatory setting. This cannot fail for any celebration or a special occasion but as an establishment, it would also be a special place to stay for a weekend or even to have the likes of afternoon tea; one can only think England, on a June afternoon when doing so.
The food served here is elegant and definitely among the freshest I have come across with its plethora of vegetable selections, which Raymond Blanc uses, from his many surrounding gardens for all his dishes along with beautifully succulent fish. The meats are equally delightful but my only criticism with the food for this first visit was that for all its obvious style and impressive creations, the flavours were just pleasant rather than outstanding. The dishes themselves were luxurious and highly pleasing on the eye though. Overall, this is a gem of a place in general and I will never have an issue going here on any occasion, but it would be probably more for the occasion rather than to go for just the food itself – the latter here serves more as the bonus factor.
Food Grade: 78%