Restaurant: Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
Location: Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford, OX44 7PD, England. +44 (0)1844 278 881
Date: July 10, 2013
No Gavin vacation would be complete without a couple top gastronomic restaurants. As it turned out, this year our summer travels brought us to England, and specifically to a little town just fifteen minutes away from Raymond Blanc’s gastronomic temple, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. This lovely (and pricey) country hotel is a Relais and Chateaux (absolutely stellar hotel group) and the restaurant has two Michelin stars. Several English friends recommended it as being perhaps the best restaurant in England!
Certainly a lovely spot! They sat us in the bar before dinner for aperitifs.
These included some fabulous olives in these cute boats (notice the spout like hole for tucking away the pits).
There are two different tasting menus. I’m sure they vary seasonally.
Pimms Cup. English.
Gin and Tonic. English.
The first of two different arrangements of amuses. I don’t remember the exact ingredients. We have salmon on radish. Fritters. I think an eggplant mouse on crisps. A think much like a caprese.
This second plate has a few more meaty versions.
Then we moved into the restaurant itself, and I couldn’t help but photo these cool custom plates.
1988 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet. While this wine wasn’t perfect, and was quite restrained, it was in great shape, not oxidized in the least. It had that wonderful quality that mature white Burgundies get, even if it was a little alcoholic on the finish at first (this blew off).
Terrine of baby beetroot, horseradish sorbet. A wonderful light take on the “beet and goat cheese salad.” The slab was cubed and the horseradish provided a very bright flavor contrast.
Confit of Salmon, elderflower, garden radish, yuzu cream. This salmon was perfectly cooked, tender, and full of soft flavor. There was an interesting and exotic tone set by the other ingredients, particularly the elderflower. Really excellent.
Ricotta agnolotti, artichoke and tomato vierge. Tasty summery pasta.
2005 Domaine de L’Arlot Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos de l’Arlot. Burghound 92. Mild reduction detracts from the otherwise ripe aromas of plum and red pinot fruit where there is also a trace of vegetal that gives way to rich, full and sweet flavors that remain pure and refined on the sappy, dusty and obviously mineral-infused, firm and beautifully balanced finish. This is quite linear at present and will need time to flesh out and I would strongly suggest decanting this first if you’re going to try one young to dissipate the reduction.
Chick peas done “all ways.” I’m not sure it’s exactly every way possible, but it is more than a few!
Devonshire crab, garden courgette flower, lemongrass. Another exotic take. At some level at stuffed zucchini flower, this had a Thai crab bisque vibe.
Risotto of summer vegetables, chervil cream.
Roasted loin of rose veal, watercress puree, madeira jus.
Assiette of Cornish lamb, jersey royals, artichoke and gooseberry puree.
With the jus. This was some really fine lamb.
Mothais sur feuille goat’s cheese and goat’s curd, honey, sorrel and hazelnuts, kalamata olive. This unusual cheese course was very intense and flavorful. Lots of goat (in a good way).
2010 Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé. 93 points. Like liquid apricot. Unctuous and sweet panoply of marmalade, citrus, mixed exotic fruit; a whiff of smoke; reasonable acidity manages to keep up with the sweetness.
You can see how dark and thick this is — and it’s brand new!
Raspberry soup with fresh mint and basil.
Apricot Almondine, caramel croustillant. Really nice and intense. It also paired fantastically with the dessert wine.
Chocolate dumbo! This was some intense chocolate and a bit of candied hazelnut – plus the various textures and the ice cream. Really lovely.
Textures of coconut and Chana chocolate Grand cru. A wonderful coconut/chocolate combo. Like the flavors from a Nutella and coconut crepe — but so much better!
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons didn’t disappoint. This isn’t radically modernist as top gastronomic places go, but the execution and presentation was superb — plus what was really interesting was the subtle complexity of each dish. There were a lot of floral and herbal notes going on, and they blended seamlessly, adding to the dishes rather than distracting. Clearly a very fine chef hitting on all cylinders.
For more English dining reviews click here.