A stone path leads past the green grass, hedgerows, and delphiniums to a honey-colored fifteenth-century manor house. The damp air is sweet with the scent of hydrangea. In the lobby, chintz cushions soften the flagstone floors, fireplaces, and wood beamed ceilings. It couldn't be more English, except for the fact that Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons is the brainchild of a Frenchman, two star Michelin chef Raymond Blanc.
And the Frenchman has made sure to make Le Manoir more playful than your typical English country home. Throughout there are touches designed to tweak the notorious stiff upper lip. No matter what time of day, a bottle of Champagne awaits. And the baths are naughtily large, with candles ready for lighting. In one room, twin baths lie side by side underneath a canopy — and Le Manoir is the first house in the country to sport bathrooms that open onto bedrooms, ensuring that your pleasure is seamless.
But just as Le Manoir is un-English in its surroundings, it is equally un-French in its food. Self-taught Raymond Blanc scorns the trappings usually affiliated with haute cuisine. “The protocol of the table kills the joy,” he explains. The vast grounds outside include the two acre kitchen garden, where he grows his own vegetables and herbs. And though the dishes are divine—deep sea scallops and macaroni in black truffle cream, with the Burgundy and Sancerre flowing like nectar—and the prices admittedly steep, everywhere in the dining room is the buzz of lively conversation and the relaxed expressions of people having an unpretentious good time.
In non-dining hours, there's not much to do. The surrounding village is sleepy and there is no gym or pool at Le Manoir. For those in dire need of exercise, there's croquet, and the hotel also hosts one of the most respected cooking schools in the country, for anyone interested in duplicating their meals at home. Otherwise wander around the grounds safe in the knowledge that like in most ancient country homes, there was once a poltergeist at le Manoir, but superstitiously-bent Blanc has had it exorcised.
Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons is approximately a 50 minute drive from Heathrow Airport or 1 hour from London proper. Alternatively, guests can take a 45 minute train ride from Marylebone to Haddenham and Thame station (10 minutes from the hotel) or a 1 hour train ride from Paddington station to Oxford station which is 25 minutes from the hotel.
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