British-born French chef Raymond Blanc has held two Michelin stars for more than half his life. Blanc’s restaurant in his 15th-century Oxford Quat’Saisons Manor, a Belmond Hotel, has retained its coveted multi-star status for 37 years. Making history, breaking the rules, setting precedents are all strictly for Blanche.
His influences range from French to English to Asian, all executed with seasonal and organic produce, much of which is grown on the estate. Farm-to-table is all the rage now, but when Blanc started pruning and cultivating his two-acre garden – with over 90 types of vegetables; 70 varieties of herbs; and rows of apple, pear and quince trees – it was a complete anomaly. Blanc picked the best of what was available, obsessively tweaked his menus, and served only what grew before his eyes before all the gastropubs and pizzerias followed suit.
It should also be remembered that Blanc is both self-taught and self-taught. Raised in Franche-Comté, amid the rolling hills and rugged mountains between Burgundy and the Swiss border, Blanc learned his artisanal cooking in a remote hotel owned by his wife’s parents.
Next, Blanc spent seven years as head chef at the meager Les Quat’ Saisons – a gem of a restaurant tucked away in the center of a shopping center near Oxford. And when Blanc first created Le Manoir in 1984, the praise came as fast as the overture. The 1984 Michelin Guide to Britain awarded it two stars almost instantly – at the time the only country hotel in the UK to achieve such success.
Egon Ronay, the Hungarian-born food critic who published a series of British guidebooks considered the gold standard, stopped for lunch the day after the opening and said: ‘As sparingly as I use the word ‘sensational’ is the only apt adjective for the whole experience.’ Similarly, Nico Ladenis, the owner of Chez Nico in London, another of the few British two-star picks from Michelin, said: ” This food tastes good.”
Intimate with 32 rooms and suites, each one is original in design. Taking inspiration from Blanc’s travels, some rooms are loud and brash, another white from floor to ceiling, and as the name suggests, the Garden Suites all have their own private green spaces.