It was in 1985 when Raymond Blanc purchased this 15th-century manor-house and transformed it into a world class dining destination. The restaurant has been holding two Michelin stars for more than 30 years and there are some big names like Marco Pierre White and Heston Blumenthal who both had spent some time in this kitchen. After a decade since my first visit, I decided to come back just to check out if the cooking here is still as good as it used to be. It is still a very popular place, always fully booked in particular during weekends even in winter months. There is no chance to get a last minute table here so I suggested to book at least a few weeks ahead.
Our lunch began in the sofa area in one of their living rooms. Salmon topped with a blob of mango gel, blue cheese served on a crunchy pork skin, and a warm curry croquette ball that offered a delicious burst of flavours from spices and chutney. The meal was quite light with a heavy focus on vegetables as the restaurant utilises the hotel’s two acres of vegetable and herb gardens. The lunch menu started with a shot of wild garlic soup accompanied by a piece of green asparagus and a colourful garden salad consisted of 30 different herbs, seeds, flowers, leaves, and root vegetables from the garden. The cooking here was very precise – the hot smoked salmon was soft and moist with a touch of saltiness from the Osetra caviar, the free-range hen’s egg was perfectly poached with a runny center served with thin slices of Jabugo ham giving a beautiful deep savoury aftertaste, and for the main course, two succulent pieces of best-end Welsh lamb cutlets with a nice crispy crust on the top. The meal finished with a complex “100% chocolate texture” dessert composed of a thin chocolate base, layered with ganache, sponge cake, mousse, ice cream, and finally topped with a delicate chocolate crisp and dark chocolate sauce oozing out from the middle. Very enjoyable meal indeed.
The hotel’s garden is opened to guests and diners so while you are there, I strongly recommend to spend some time exploring different areas of this two acres garden before or after the meal.