‘Vegetarian’ and ‘French cuisine’ are not usually words to be found in the same sentance, but at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons these two concepts are so beautifully and intrinsically blended that they combine to offer probably the best vegetarian meal I have ever experienced. Long before the very first mouthful of the 7 course ‘menu decouverte’ is savoured my sensory journey began…in the gardens surrounding the most quintessential Oxfordshire manor house made famous over 30 years ago by the acclaimed French chef Raymond Blanc. Passionate about fresh seasonal produce, his vision has resulted in a creatively designed vegetable garden covering 2 acres that includes over 90 types of vegetable and 70 varities of tradtional and exotic herbs interspersed with apple and pear orchards and even a mushroom valley. A stroll throughout the vegetable gardens is an absolute must, if not to work up an appetite for the forthcoming feast but to awaken the palate for what lies ahead!

Vegetable plot bordered by lavender

I had often overlooked a stay at Le Manor aux Quat’Saisons, opting instead for a boutique hotel with a relaxing spa and indoor pool. However, there is something so magical in the air around Great Milton in Oxfordshire that makes a 24 hour break here feel like a long weekend elsewhere.  The immaculately neat rows of vegetables, chalk labels in French and English, soothed my soul better than any aromatherapy massage. A quiet contemplative seat amongst the bronze statues within the Japanese tea Garden provided a relaxing sanctuary.


There was so much to look at, from the mushroom valley by the ravine to the orchard that is home to over 800 apple and pear trees. A bronze statue of  scarecrow, modelled on Raymond Blanc himself, watches over the 2 acres of vegetable gardens. Our waiter, during dinner, told us that 45% of the vegetables used in the menus are from the gardens within the grounds, and would have been carefully selected and picked fresh that morning for the evening dinner service.


We were then asked if we would like each course announced and described, which having experienced the gardens early that day, it was an absolute must-do experience. I started with the “gazpacho de tomato, olive et basilic” which had the lightest and most delicate essences of tomato, fragrantly warm with the summer sun. Following this a “terrine de betteraves” which contained three types of beetroot, from the vegetable plot of course. This was accompanied by salty feta cheese and icy cold horseradish sorbet and my plate was decorated with flower petals from the gardens. Three further courses were savoured with flavours that included manuka honey, goats cheese, preserved lemons, chervil cream and spiced aubergine. The highlight being the famous rich and creamy “Risotto aux legumes d’ete” complete with nasturtium flowers.


Two sweet courses completed my 7 course Vegetarian tasting menu, first a pre-desert of “Gourmandine de framboise et betterave”. Then the piece de resistance “Textures de noir de coco et Grand Cru de chocolat du Ghana”, a somewhat de-constructed Bounty Bar that appeared inside out. Firstly, strong earthy coconut textures made way for the rich chocolate encased within and decorated with summer-scented rose marshmallows.

To whet your appetites further, peruse the Menus that are on offer at Le Manor aux Quat’Saisons.  As for me, I’m saving up for a return visit, next time to experience Raymond Blanc’s Cookery School to learn how to cook these delicious dishes.



Sophie Suggests…

  • Make time to explore the gardens before enjoying a pre-dinner aperitif on the patio
  • Discover the Bronze Sculptures placed around the gardens
  • Blow the budget and stay the night…the French breakfast patisseries with home-grown peach are simply the best!
  • Don’t rush to depart the following morning. Coffee and weekend newspapers should be lingered over on the lawn









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