I took a day off work on Wednesday. Not, as Toby naively but sweetly thought, so that I could walk the kids to school. My primary motivation was something closer to my own heart – or, to be more precise, my stomach.
Now I enjoy a greasy kebab van burger or a KFC as much as the next guy (as my really-not-a-size-zero body shape will testify) but I’m a bit of a foodie at heart. So while other people spend money on clothes, cars or concerts, I was salivating at the thought of cod, Comté and a particularly fine chocolate and Earl Grey crumble in sunny Oxfordshire.
So, okay, the title of this post is slightly misleading. Not Ray White but Raymond Blanc. And not the Four Seasons Manor but Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, the holder of a coveted two Michelin stars. (It’s an exclusive club. There are only four three-star restaurants in the UK, while Le Manoir is one of 21 with two.)
A trip to Le Manoir, as well as being a child-free day out, has the added attraction of being situated in a historic manor house set in stunning grounds. The restaurant is served by its own vegetable and herb garden and, should you have need of it (which, obviously, I don’t), even has its own helipad. Oh, and it also has a tranquil Japanese garden and lake, and a croquet lawn. You don’t often see that when you step out of the back of your local curry house.
Heather and I used to treat ourselves to lunch there once a year, and although the arrival of the kids curtailed our visits for a while, this marked the third June in a row we have made the pilgrimage to Great Milton and (I think) our 11th time in total.
Four hours, seven courses (plus canapés and cocktails to start and petits fours and tea to finish) and a second mortgage later – food is served by a waiter, wine by a sommelier and payment options by an independent financial advisor – we left with stomachs pleasantly full and taste buds tingling.
Le Manoir is a decadent and eye-wateringly expensive place to eat. We spent more on a single lunch there than we do on takeaways in an entire year (to be fair, we only get takeaways once a month on average). But no matter how many times we go, I would always go back in a heartbeat. More than just being a fabulous restaurant, it’s one of my favourite places in the world.
So, pencil in June 2018, then.