Oxford – Malmaison and Afternoon Tea at Le Manoir
We’ve always had a dream of eating at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Until a month ago it was out of our grasp. Occasionally Le Manoir offer champagne Afternoon Tea to non-residents on certain weekdays at the rather tempting price of £50pp. Yes this may be the most expensive Afternoon Tea we would ever eat, but by far the cheapest meal we would ever have at one of the top restaurants in the world.
Although Oxford is less that 2 hours drive from us we decided that as we didn’t have a proper holiday this summer we’d to make a weekend of it with a night stay in Oxford. For a few city breaks we have stayed in Malmaisons. We’re fans of the chain. The beds are comfy, the hotels are often quirky, the baths are deep, they are generous with the toiletries and most importantly the breakfasts are great.
The Malmaison in Oxford is in the castle and what used to be a prison (also the set for Bad Girls before it was converted into a Hotel). The rooms in the main part of the hotel are cells that have been knocked together and the main block in which we stayed still had the railings and stairs running down the corridor. As we stayed midweek the hotel was quiet and I can honestly say I had the best night sleep I’ve had in a hotel in a while. The rooms are dark and the thick walls and doors offer some good sound insulation. Just a warning if you do decide to stay parking in Oxford is limited so we decided to use one of the few car parking spaces at the hotel. That cost is an eye-watering £28. After a night and morning in Oxford we drove the short distance to Le Manoir.
As we pulled into the grounds the impressive hall greeted us. Didn’t realise until later we’d arrived through the wrong entrance but it did mean we parked at the front door. It was a wet, cold, grizzly Oxfordshire day but we still managed to spend time wandering the extensive gardens there. They have 1.5 acres of organic kitchen garden along with 5.5 acres of ornamental gardens. Hubs was envious of the La Vallée de Champignons (the mushroom valley) and we spent a good time in the Japanese Garden and tea house reflecting on the last year and the next year to come.
As we entered the house we were greeted by the wonderful staff who showed us to our window seat table with a roaring fire for warmth. We then spent the next 2 hours slowly making our way through some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. As we were both working the following day I drew the designated driver straw, but the glorious sip of champagne I had before begrudgingly having to pass it to Hubs tasted divine. The pastries were generously sized and we shared each one. After eating the rich delice we had to take a brief breather before finishing the rest of the food. I was not going to leave a crumb of this Michelin-starred treat behind.
- Champagne along with freshly brewed teas or coffee
- Open sandwiches on a selection of bread served with:
– Rare beef fillet and celeriac
– Smoked salmon and caviar
– Crab and grapefruit
– Brie, apricot and hazelnut – an unusual sounding combination that turned out to be utterly delicious.
- Fluffy fruit scones with jam, butter and clotted cream
- Tart Tatin
- Pear and almond cake
- Rich chocolate raspberry delice
- Choux pastry filled with salted butterscotch sauce and topped with sesame seed brittle – my favourite sweet of the day.
Now all Afternoon Teas are going to be substandard. It was a joy to taste the patisserie on offer at Le Manoir and I can understand how Louise – Crumbs & Corkscrews enjoyed her day at the cookery school learning how to make it.
What really stood out at Le Manoir was the service. I have never experienced such impeccable service in my life. The staff were there, but discrete and seemed to preempt every move. I liked that we were treated just as well as the guests there spending ££££.
The problem is we had such an amazing experience now want to return to Le Manoir for dinner and a night stay. I wonder if Santa can stretch his budget this far?