It’s our 20th Wedding Anniversary this week but our lives are hectic and midweek isn’t a great time to celebrate so this, Layzgennelmen, is where we spent Saturday night: Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons in sleepy Oxfordshire.

John had told me a while ago that we were going away this weekend but he refused to tell me where. No offence to the Selsdon Park Hotel but it was a relief when we passed it. I was laughing (internally) so much as we drove around the M25 and toward Oxford as this was exactly the place I would have chose to surprise John had the tables been turned.

We were welcomed graciously by the staff and shown to the Hydrangea room right at the top of the 17th Century manor house. It was perfection.

There was Champagne on ice and fruit and homemade chocolates and you can see that lovely bunch of red Damask (?) roses. After a freshen up in the double whirlpool bath it was time for cocktails and canapés in the lounge. I’d already had nearly half a bottle of Champagne and so my compulsion to order a Dry Martini was probably unwise. We sat in the lounge and enjoyed out cocktails and tiny appetisers, wistfully admiring the bride and groom having their wedding photos taken outside the hotel. How lovely to be able to celebrate your wedding here, but I doubt if they would allow a noisy disco.

DInner was the 6 course Saveurs de Juin taster manu. Quite a feat given our disastrous spring and delayed vegetation. For me the highlights were the hand-dived scallop with cauliflower puree and curry sauce and  the duck cooked sous-vide; the perfectly-cooked sea bass in red wine sauce, and the spring vegetable risotto, with baby vegetables grown in the hotel garden, was the best I had ever tasted. Dinner finished at about midnight and it was a wobble back to the room for me. A great night’s sleep, aided by squiffyness, in the Emperor sized bed and as usual these days I woke up for an hour at about 4am, but just through the morning light filtering slowly through gaps in the heavy curtains.

Breakfast in the restaurant was a friendly yet casual affair, with allowance made for guests’ delicacy and then a stroll in the gardens of Le Manoir, to see the area they’d set up for mushroom growing and the different varieties of vegetables both in the the found and as seedling at different stages, all organised into trays in the greenhouse. What a feat of organisation it must be to run this place with its perfect yet completely understated service! And how hard it is for me to say anything original about one of the finest hotels in the world! I believe lovely Sarah when she talks about a couple she knows who spend every wedding anniversary here, even though it’s well beyond their means – it’s easy to fall in love and not so easy to be sensible about this level of indulgence.

Sadly, though, the comedown to the ironing and the cracks in our house walls and the kitchen that needs to be replaced, was dreadful last night but it’s better to have loved and lost…yadda yadda. Wouldn’t it be lovely to make this a regular date?


***Post NOT sponsored at all, of course! M. Blanc?***