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Image 1: If you’re in England during the summer, it’s a great idea to visit Oxford. It’s a beautiful and historic city, and the countryside is lovely. Plus, you’ll find this nearby – the restaurant of Raymond Blanc, the longest Michelin 2-star holder in UK since the opening of this restaurant in 1984. It’s a magnificent country house with beautiful surroundings and, of course, many gastronomic delights.
Image 2: As an overnight stay is on the pricey side, especially during summer holiday period, I decided that lunch was the best bet.
Le Manoir is more than just a restaurant and cooking school. It has rooms and suites...
... a wedding hall...
... and a two-acre garden, where Chef Blanc grows 90 different types of vegetables...
... and 70 types of herbs!
The garden has various sections: Malaysian, Vegetable, flower house...
... and a Japanese tea garden. This place is certainly impressive, but enough of walking – it's time to eat!
Image 9: A refreshing gazpacho with Kalamata olive before our first course.
Image 10: This confit of Landais foie gras came with toasted sour dough bread, and had various decorative bites scattered around it, such as soused cherries and a fresh almond in its shell. The rich foie was nicely complemented by the cherry’s acidity, and a soft crunchiness from the almond. A lovely starter!
Image 11: Every plate here is a work of art! This organic Scottish salmon had a distinct creamy texture. It may look raw, but it was actually slow-cooked to absolute perfection and served with a strip of wasabi-cucumber and touch of Osetra caviar!
Image 12: Next was a combination of seafood and meat - pork belly and Scottish langoustine. This had an exciting contrast of textures - the crunchy pork skin with delicate langoustine, followed by the soft-spongy and lightly spiced black pudding at the bottom. A fun and delicious course!
Image 13: An interesting dish, this, consisting of fillet of brill in bouillon of lemongrass, topped with a whole flower. The fish was beautifully cooked and worked very well with the aromatic sauce. It turned out that there was actually Cornish crabmeat inside the flower. What a pleasant surprise!
Image 14: We later spotted this flower in the garden!
Image 15: Resting on vegetables from the chef’s garden was roasted loin of Welsh lamb. Tender and juicy meat, plus perfectly caramelised sweetbread. It smelled nice, looked good…and tasted even better. An excellent dish!
Image 16: Roasted Anjou squab with white beans and a fruity juniper sauce. What can I say, except that it was packed with flavour!
Image 17: This delightful palate cleanser consisted of marinated peach in Sauternes topped with granité and sorbet.
Image 18: And now dessert - Chef Blanc's interpretation of Tiramisu. It’s an intense coffee ice cream, sitting on a bed of light and sweet mascarpone, surrounded by a drizzle of cocoa sauce and garnished with crispy curls. It was tiramisu but not as we know it. Amazing!
Image 19: It's always a treat to finish off a meal with Valrhona. This long cylinder of Araguani 72% chocolate mousse was accompanied by lemon butterscotch sauce and almond milk crème glacée. The powerful chocolate, together with the lemony tone from the sauce and the almond flavour from the ice cream, made a delectable dessert – and a great way to end our meal.
We then proceeded to the living room for our petits-fours...
Image 21: …where we were served an elaborate plate of "chocolats au Manoir"!
Image 22: What an exceptional meal. It would be difficult to pick which one was our least favourite course. So verdict: with such a beautiful location and garden, plus world-class cooking and professional service, it was an absolute treat to be here. We loved it!