Okay, so perhaps t'other day's review of Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons was not sufficient, did not pique the reader's curiousity, nor do the place justice. Perhaps a little more detail is appropriate.
So, to begin by setting the scene. I approached under the cover of darkness, cleverly missing all the signs to the place, and arriving (like a beggar in the night) through the impressive gate pillars without a clear idea where I was. It was only when I wandered into reception, Friday-weary, replete in jeans, fleece and two days worth of stubble, that I caught sight of the business cards and realised that I must have left my stomach somewhere on the driveway.
My car, by the by, was by far the oldest and dirtiest in the car park. It was considerably older than many in the staff car park, now that I think of it. And because I neglected to proffer my keys for it to be valet parked, it was the first sight to greet every subsequent visitor to the place. This amuses, delights and horrifies me in similar measure.
Nevertheless, my rough appearance was not commented upon, my wild eyes unremarked, and I was shown graciously to my enormous room where I was able to dress more appropriately for dinner. Only slightly more appropriately, I might add, as I had neglected to bring anything smarter than a pair of black jeans. But my shoes were by Loake, my shirt had an understated elegance, and the set of my chin more than enough to deter any comments from more formally attired guests.
I need not have worried. Although the conservatory dining room tends towards the formal rather than the informal, and the dress code and the diners themselves reflected that, I was neither underdressed nor out of place. My dinner companion and I (of which, more later perhaps) were the youngest diners there by a fair stretch, although there were some very small people at breakfast the next morning.
As for the food, we had the 10 course discovery menu, which was generally excellent. The brill - with an oyster, in the lightest wasabi sauce - was outstanding, and the scallops, always amazing, were lifted to another level by the cauliflower puree: rich, deep and tasty.
The bread too was excellent, especially the sour dough variety; it tasted like bread should taste. Full of flavour, doughy, with a good crust.
The napkins, table linen fans, are lovely.
Let's be clear about this: Le Manoir is very, very good. The service is attentive, and apparently sincere, the food superb and the setting just this side of stunning; not quite, but not far off. Scenic in a relaxing - rather than challenging - sort of way. Yes, it's expensive to stay there - but the attention to detail is beyond the ordinary. And yes, the food is comparatively expensive (I would have said that the tasting menu at The Fat Duck offers better value, bang for buck, at just a few pounds more for almost 50% more courses - but the 'Duck offers a completely different experience). But what is delivered - what you get for your money - is nothing short of fabulous.