Church Road, GREAT MILTON, Oxford, OX44 7PD
Raymond Blanc has eased comfortably into his fourth decade at the Manoir, one of the great surviving testaments to the sea-change wrought in British gastronomy in the 1980s. Youthful untutored exuberance has ceded to honeyed maturity over the years, as though to match the surroundings, the sympathetic persona burnished with a regular TV presence. The old place is partly corporate-owned these days, but not so as you'd notice. Its singular charm and personal ways are intact. Even those just popping in for lunch should allow time for a shuftie around the grounds, where the glasshouses and vegetables patches pour forth their provender, and a space for the taking of tea in the Japanese fashion is among the amenities. Inside, refurbishments have been afoot in the main dining room, which of course retains its gentling view of the gardens, and the service ethos remains at a rarefied pitch of consideration. Does this read a little like a mea culpa for past practices? 'I have realised that constant interruptions by the restaurant team can reduce the enjoyment of your meal and, as such, I have decided to place [i.e. leave] a copy of the menu on the table for you to see what each course is, without lengthy explanations.' At least these issues are at the forefront of policy making here. It's hardly as though the dishes are not worthy of lengthy explanations. Gary Jones, Benoit Blin and the team raise the bar skywards in the interpretation of Blanc's seasonally oriented, intricately composed dishes, presented on monthly-changing menus that are noticeably more classical in outlook nowadays than they once were. March brings on a dazzlingly colourful terrine of garden beetroot with horseradish sorbet, or adds rhubarb and a cloud of ginger to seared duck liver. At main course, there may be delicately braised brill fillet, its oyster and cucumber accompaniments spiked with the smouldering note of wasabi, or perhaps a generous serving of Aberdeen Angus, the fillet roasted, the Jacob's ladder braised, in a gloriously intense red wine jus. Every single element in each dish is as carefully considered as every other, down to the garden chard and cauliflower that come with a VIP double-act of sea bass and scallops in subtle red wine essence. The various prix-fixe deals offer scenic routes through the repertoire, and there are more modernist goings-on on the Découverte option - steamed sole with langoustines in ginger consommé, duck breast with caramelised chicory in clementine, yuzu and jasmine. At the finishing-line, there could be roast pineapple with its partnering sorbet alongside rum baba, or something as bewitching as milk chocolate and Earl Grey crumble with banana and passionfruit sorbet. Wines will add to the outlay, naturellement, but what wines!
Tel: 01844 278881
Please quote 'The AA'.
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Open all year.
Sunday lunch available.
Cooking type: Modern French
Chef: Raymond Blanc, Gary Jones
Number of seats: 100
Accessible for wheelchairs.
Vegetarian meals available.
A La Carte Dinner Main Course from: £52.00
Prices are for guidance only. Please check when booking for current rates.