If you’ve a must-eat-at restaurant wish list (and let’s face it, you have), chances are Le Manoir au Quat’Saisons is close to the top. The Oxfordshire flagship of Raymond Blanc’s gastronomic empire has been luring in hungry guests since it opened in 1984, but it’s more than just one of the best French fine-dining restaurants in the UK; it’s a vast collection of elegant vegetable gardens (growing more than 90 varieties of veg and salad leaves for the kitchen), one of the country’s finest cookery schools and a luxurious and beautiful boutique hotel – all wrapped up in one glorious green Oxfordshire estate.
As our reviewer, fashion queen Tracey Boyd, puts it: ‘The old country hotel’s character is something like a cross between Diana Rigg in an episode of The Avengers, and Margaret Rutherford as a 1950s Miss Marple (both in black and white). You feel caught in a lovely time warp, with nothing on your mind but fine dining. This, as anyone who has been will happily tell you, is the whole point; the hotel and its staff are there to create a backdrop for the food, to cocoon you, relax you and accommodate you in gastronomic heaven.’
There are à la carte options available, of course, but Blanc’s culinary theatrics are best experienced via the nine-course tasting menu, which showcases inventive French-inspired dishes of astonishing intricacy and depth of flavour. There are more than 1,000 different wines in the cellar, too. Le Manoir’s restaurant has held two Michelin stars for a frankly incredible 29 years. Dining here is all the explanation you need as to why.
Want to see for yourself? For the first time ever, Le Manoir is taking part in our exclusive 50% off promotion with the Telegraph – book online now, or ring the Travel Team before 15 November and you could save £1,050 or more on a three-night stay. (Be warned: it’s popular, so prepare to be flexible).
We asked Le Manoir to share a secret from their kitchen for our new Gourmet Getaways UK email series, in which we feature the best hotel restaurants in the Smith collection. We’ll be poring over the menus and sharing tempting try-it-at-home recipes from the most celebrated hotel chefs. (If you want to receive these, just sign up for free Smith membership). To start us off, Raymond Blanc shows us how to make the classic French dessert Tarte Tatin…
Raymond Blanc’s Tarte Tatin
This recipe is taken from Raymond Blanc’s book Foolproof French Cookery, which members booking Le Manoir get free as their Smith extra.
• 1.6kg (about 9) Braeburn apples peeled, cored and quartered
• 150g caster sugar
• 80g unsalted butter, diced
• 40g unsalted butter, melted
• 400g all-butter puff pastry, rolled 31cm round, 3mm thick, lightly pricked with a fork.
1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
2. In a Tatin dish, cook the sugar and diced butter to a brown caramel.
3. Arrange the apple quarters tightly, around the edges first, with the core facing up and towards the centre, then fill in the middle part of the mould the same way, press with your hands gently to ensure there are no gaps, and brush with melted butter.
4. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and place the disc of puff pastry on top, tuck in the edges and prick a few holes in the top with a knife to allow some of the steam out.
6. Cook in the oven for a further 40–45 minutes until the puff pastry is golden brown and crisp.
7. Allow to cool at room temperature for about an hour before removing from the mould.
…or have a nosy around Le Manoir’s kitchen gardens.
Tarte Tatin photographed by Jean Cazals