Manoir with a Few Flaws; Max Davidson Visits le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons

By Davidson, Max | Daily Mail (London), October 23, 2002 | Go to article overview

Manoir with a Few Flaws; Max Davidson Visits le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons


Davidson, Max, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: MAX DAVIDSON

THE SETTING is English: an exquisite, ivy- clad manor house in the wilds of Oxfordshire. An English porter greets us and an English rose called Catherine shows us to our room, which is jam-packed with English antiques and English prints.

Raymond Blanc, the presiding genius of Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, has lived here so long that we think of him as one of us.

Earlier this year, when a British entry was needed for the Wedgwood World Master of Culinary Arts Competition, it was Raymond who got the nod.

Blanc may be a dyed-in-the-wool Anglophile, but when it comes to the business of wining and dining his guests, he puts his faith in his fellow countrymen.

From the moment we come down to dinner, we are beguiled and cosseted by staff from Paris and the Loire.

As well as being born charmers, Frenchmen can sometimes have an irritatingly lofty attitude to Englishmen, whom they regard as gastronomic peasants.

'I cannot decide between the turbot and pigeon,' I say to the maitre'd.

'Then I would have the oxtail,' he says, in tones so definitive that I am afraid to argue.

Our starters are served by a ridiculously young-looking French waiter.

'This is 'addock soup with oyster and caviar,' he explains.

Why do they do this in French restaurants? I KNOW it's 'addock soup with oyster and caviar. I have read all about it on the menu. At least it's good, wonderfully good. My partner is equally enraptured by her cannelloni of langoustine.

The portions may be minuscule, but the flavours are quite explosive. …

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