In the picturesque outskirts of Oxford lies one of the finest restaurants in Britain. Le Manoir is a slice of French perfection and the brain-child of Raymond Blanc OBE. The grounds are elegantly laid out with a well kept British lawn surrounded by quintessential British Trees and blooming lavender. The building itself is draped with an ensemble of climbers and ivies framing the period windows. Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is an undeniably stunning setting for fine french food.
Whilst you enjoy an aperitif, perhaps a glass of Champagne or Rosé, you will enjoy a quartet of ‘amuse-bouche’. Starting with the canapé closest to you working backwards in a straight line (starting on the right in the picture) you enjoy these excellently presented tantalizing adventures for the mouth. These mouthful sized adventures last a few seconds: from the moment you pinch the base between you thumb and index finger until the last flavours leave your mouth and you sigh in hungry desire for more. Whether its a sweet and creamy guacamole filled cherry tomato on a seeded biscuit, or a tower of melt-in-the-mouth air-dried beef on a foundation of soft cracker, these give you an idea of what to expect from your meal – outstanding quality and imagination.
Then the main adventure starts: Les Saveurs de Juillet (Flavours of July) – a five course journey through local, seasonal dishes of pure delight. The dim lights create elegant shadows across the food. To begin, Confit De Saumon, Verveine, Pommes, Oseille. To avoid getting ridiculously stuffy I’ll adopt a more informal voice from here. Okay, so what even are all these things. Confit de Saumon is a slowly cooked piece of salmon with a warming, tender texture. Verveine is verbena in english a lemon tasting herb – the long green herb in the picture below. This nicely complements the fish without overpowering its delicate flavours. Pommes is french for apples, which here come from the garden’s very own orchard and are presented here as a trio: both with and without skin, and also pureed. Oseille is Sorrel, which is sometimes called dock. This has a strong tangy apple flavour with an acidity similar to lemon perfectly balancing the rest of the meal. The food is presented like crown – simply flawless. The pinks and greens colours complement each other to create a warm yet summery looking dish. The colours have been chosen to avoid the salmon looking cold and limp. The apples are shaped nicely to drawn the eyes towards the centre pieces topped with a sprinkling of caviar. Caviar pops on your tongue and has a salty flavour which naturally helps season the dish. Three texture emerge in this dish; the soft warm salmon and pureed apples; the crunch apples, and the sparkling caviar. The presented crown becomes a cosy firework display in your mouth – divine.