This year for Lawrence’s birthday we booked a weekend away in Oxford. The main reason for choosing Oxford was to pay a visit to Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons (try saying that after a few drinks). This has been on our list for awhile and we were finally going to sample Raymond Blanc’s tasting menu. Rather than spend the minimum £750 / night room price (pick yourself up off the floor), we decided to book just for lunch. We drove up from London, left the car overnight and got a taxi into Oxford city centre – more on that later.

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The setting of Le Manoir is stunning, well worth a visit in Spring / Summer to walk around the gardens and make the most of it.

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Although with the cold weather we also had the luxury of enjoying a glass of bubbles in the lounge by an open fire, just delightful.

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Now onto what you’ve all been waiting for, the food. We plumped for the tasting menu or in the French way should be described as ‘Les saveurs de février’. 7 courses plus amuse bouche which we had with our glass of bubbly in the lounge.

Le Manoir, Oxford

We were then taken into the main dining room, which was very intimate, spacious in the layout and only a select couple of sittings during the lunch session. The menu is very fish and vegetable orientated, which was actually rather refreshing but don’t be fooled you finish the meal feeling very very full indeed.

After large amounts of gorgeous homemade bread the feast began, first up a heavenly roasted cauliflower soup, curry, papadum and scallops. Just dreamy, melt in the mouth scallop.

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Next up was probably one of my favourites, the confit of Loch Duart salmon, pickled cucumber, mustard, potato and parsley. The presentation was ever so delicate and the salmon was so soft as you cut through. Wow, looking at the picture now takes me back to heaven.

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Onto a lovely quaint dish, free-range hen’s egg, watercress, Jabugo ham and toasted hazelnuts. Then onto the meatiest dish of the day, roasted Norfolk quail, braised red cabbage, celeriac and cinnamon. Of course the quail was delicious but just not the winner of the day.

The cheese course was an unusual one, cheese served at it’s three stages of maturation along with a glass of Vin Jaune 2008 Domaine Daniel Dugois. A first for us on the wine front, smelt like sherry but had the taste of a good white wine, very nice.

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At this point we were on the final stretch, two desserts to come. First up pretty frozen winter still life, little meringue mushroom, very cute. Then Lawrence’s favourite, the citrus dish, sharp lemony tart, gorgeous.

And there we have it, one of the best meals we’ve had and would highly recommend for a very special treat.

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We sleepily jumped in the cab to make our way to our hotel, Malmaison Oxford. The highlight here is it’s set in the old prison, really impressive and fun building, was also the set of Porridge the TV show.

We explored the city a little bit and was just about hungry enough for an evening meal at Turl Street Kitchen, which unfortunately disappointed the tastebuds. This may have been due to the absolute treat we’d had earlier but wasn’t executed very well. We started with a rather watery wood pigeon ragù, gnocchi & gemolata.

Then mains was a tough braised beef, red cabbage, potato & watercress. Then even worse was the whole plaice, potato, lemon & caper butter sauce which hadn’t been filleted making it not the most appetising to look at!

We finished our weekend away with the saving grace of a great brunch spot, Gee’s, which was a lovely setting – make sure to book as gets rather busy.

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It was a perfect mini break and will hopefully be going back to Le Manoir at some point in the future to enjoy the food again, was just the most delightful lunch.

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