The highlight of our Christmas break this year was an evening at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. We are rather lucky to have one of the finest of fine dining restaurants to be found anywhere in Europe just a 30-minute drive away from our home. It has held its 2 Michelin stars for almost 40 years continuously for its consistently high standards. Dining there is magical.
Arriving at such a grand venue can feel a little intimidating but the welcome is warm and unpretentious. The service and venue itself are clearly impeccable so there is none of the pomposity that lesser establishments feel the need to indulge in. To reinforce this point the restaurant goes out of its way to welcome children, there is even a very reasonable three-course children’s menu.
As for the grown-ups’ food, we were treated to the 7-course tasting menu which was an unforgettable experience. Each dish is introduced by a simple noun, such as ‘le chocolate’ or ‘le ceviche’, that belies the effort and skill that goes into preparing each plate. I love the idea of the humble chef proposing a simple ingredient, and then using his skills to elevate it to a culinary masterpiece that surprises and delights the diner.
I could go on all day about every course but I’ll have to pick a couple of highlights, firstly there was ‘le homard’, Cornish lobster encased in an impossibly delicate ravioli with flavours of fennel and lime. Then there was ‘le citron’ described as a ‘theme on lemon’. Despite its fairly plain appearance, the flavours and textures were sensational. Clearly, there is an enormous amount of work that goes into these sorts of dishes, beautifully conceived and flawlessly executed.
My seven-year-old daughter, Aarya, enjoyed the experience as much as we did. She is still raving about the tomato soup. After finishing her main course she was invited to meet the chef in the pastry section of the kitchen to help ‘make’ her own dessert. A few minutes later she returned with a stunning bowl of ice cream.
This was the menu du jour:
Truffle arancini, crab tartlets, and cheesy turnip with caviar—these little bites showed up before the main meal, and boy, did they pack a tasty punch! They made our mouths water and got us all excited for what was coming next.
Orkney scallop ceviche, fresh yuzu and olive oil
Duck liver terrine and spiced prune
I opted to swap this with a langoustine dish which was delicious.
Les ris de veau
Roasted veal sweetbread, aubergine and Thai curry spices
Since we don’t eat beef, we opted to swap this for the most flavourful mushroom (and truffle) risotto I’ve ever tasted.
Cornish lobster raviolo, fennel and kaffir lime
Devonshire Creedy Carver duck, clementine, yuzu and jasmine tea
A theme on lemon with olive oil and pistachio
Millionaire shortbread, salted butter ice cream
Les petits fours
A selection of teas, coffees and petit fours
Narrowing down a favourite from this exquisite seven-course tasting menu is no easy feat, but I must emphatically endorse the Cornish lobster raviolo and the mushroom risotto. As for desserts, the seemingly unassuming ‘Le citron’ stole the show, weaving together the intricate flavours of lemon, olive oil, and pistachio in a delightful symphony of complementary elements.
This culinary experience is undeniably exceptional—a gastronomic spectacle featuring an array of intricately crafted dishes. It’s a captivating performance, showcasing innovation and an element of delightful surprise. Yet, at its core, this culinary masterpiece is anchored in the timeless artistry of classic French cooking. Here, you won’t find any frivolous gimmicks; instead, every plate is a harmonious blend of delightful flavours and impeccable presentation.