One of Britain’s most loved destination restaurants – le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – is the perfect place for a gastronomic escape. Chef Raymond Blanc is a hands-on kind of boss. It’s not his style to be hidden away, simply overseeing his brigade. He’s out welcoming guests, gauging times, subtly managing the whole operation. And well managed it is too with the front-of-house service working in elegant concert with the kitchen.
Once you’ve had a chance to take in the surroundings with you apéritif and amuses bouches, you’ll be escorted to your table. Menu wise, you’ll notice that there doesn’t seem to be any outlandish tricks ahead of you. That’s because Blanc’s cooking is routed in classic, French traditional cuisine. Though what you can expect is simply the most outstanding produce, treated with modern techniques to create fresh dishes. In fact, Blanc is so proud of his suppliers that he names them one by one on the back on his menu.
The confit salmon dish exemplifies his style perfectly. This dish is made-up of simple elements that come together to create a refined sum. The fish, poached lightly in oil is humming with flavour. Sections fall apart to eat with the crisp picked cucumber and a sweetened grain mustard dressing. Horseradish cream and fresh radishes give a peppery burst while buttery caviar adds a well-placed touch of luxury.
The “poached egg”, first placed in a low oven then delicately broken in its semi cooked state into water is finally roasted in a pan with a beurre noisette, hazelnuts and Jabugo ham. Rich egg (which is perfectly runny), salty crisp pork and crunchy nuts, all sit in an irony bath of watercress purée. This is perhaps what a **2 star breakfast looks like? Each mouthful is an array of textures, richness and acidity; another stunning course.
Though perhaps the humblest looking dish that surprises the most is the agneau à la Provençal, cooked three ways. One – a rolled shoulder of melting meat. Two – the finest, delicate slices of roasted leg. Three – a crepinette faggot stuffed with liver and heart. Luscious, fine and bold flavours, that come together with al dente flagolet beans, tender baby artichokes, char-grilled flecks of marinated pepper and an olive oil stock reduction; magnificent.
And all the other courses are worth a mention too, which makes it hard to showcase just three. Raymond Blanc is a master of restraint in his cooking; he knows when to let extraordinary products speak for themselves. That said, it’s the small touches of brilliance that turn his cooking from great into glorious. Le Manoir in every aspect will create an experience that will stay with you for a long time to come. We highly recommend this solid **2 star institution.