Harden's survey result
“You feel on Cloud Nine when eating in such incomparable surroundings” as Raymond Blanc’s famous Elizabethan manor: the survey’s most-mentioned destination outside London, and, “unparalleled for a special occasion”, with legions of reports of weddings, landmark anniversaries and birthdays celebrated in its cosseting quarters. It boasts “a gorgeous setting, buried deep in the Oxfordshire countryside”, “everything about the place is done with impeccable taste”, and no visit is complete without a stroll around its glorious and “well-tended gardens”. From the moment you arrive, staff “make you feel special”, and you are “whisked through to the cosy lounge to make your menu choice”. Most diners are then seated in the dining conservatory: a “wonderful environment” on most accounts (if, arguably, a tiny bit anticlimactic compared with the house proper). “The food tastes like it has come straight from the garden, field or ocean to your plate” and dishes “are not ostentatious: just perfectly-made food, beautifully served”. That’s by far the majority view anyway, although there is, perennially, a dissenting view that “while classy, the food lacks innovation” (very occasionally laced with cynicism that the whole experience is a luxurious “production line”). For most folks, though, the whole experience is plain “genius! – truly unforgettable!”. Ah yes… including the bill! “Your credit card will have a severe heart attack, but at least you’ll have ticked it off, and enjoyed doing so”. Staying the night is also highly popular, although it does then take the cost to a new, parallel dimension. Justify it to yourself with the thought of breakfast which “is unbelievable in scale, scope and quality!”.
“Any visit must include a walk through the gardens” when you visit Raymond Blanc’s “enchanting” converted Elizabethan manor, and “from the moment you arrive you are hit by the peace and tranquility of the whole enterprise”. “From beginning to end, the attention to detail is exceptional”: “nothing is left out, nothing is too much trouble” and staff “make you feel very, very special; not in a cloying way but through sheer politesse” (“exceptional service that includes attention to young children”). On the vast majority of accounts, it’s “a breathtaking, out-of-this-world gastronomic extravaganza” too, with “exquisite food (with no hint of overambitious ideas or overloading of ingredients), whose preparation is exact and whose plating is very graceful”. Where reservations are expressed, the issue is usually either the absence of a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ (“the food was beautiful and delicious, courses flowed perfectly, but they didn’t wow”); or “the need to chat with your friendly bank manager before you open the wine list”. On most accounts, though, the equation stacks up beautifully: “this was a one-off bucket-list visit, but worth it despite the vast expense”.
“I couldn’t take any risks for my wife’s 50th birthday weekend... so I placed my trust in Raymond’s impeccable hotel and restaurant... result: perfection!” M Blanc’s “magnificent” converted Elizabethan manor boasts a “dream location” in a picture-book village south of Oxford and, “if you want to spoil someone with luxury”, an overnight stay here is “the ultimate ‘because-you’re-worth-it’ experience”. “Any visit must include a walk through the gardens”, which not not only cap off “the perfect setting”, but also help supply the restaurant and “would make any kitchen gardener green with envy”. “Special praise also goes to the service: that all-too-rare combination of humanity, wonderful politeness and efficiency” that “sets a standard others only aspire to”. Last but not least, when it comes to the cooking – “essentially French haute cuisine, but not so rich” – it is occasionally said to be a tad “safe”, but more commonly it is described as “exquisite, with supreme attention for detail” (and – unusually for such a high profile restaurant – provokes vanishingly few ‘contrarian’ negative reports). One unavoidable downside: “a visit is unfortunately hugely expensive”; but on most accounts “this is not just a meal, but a spa for the soul and the senses, generating a deep sense of well-being, and – viewed as such – is a good-value prescription!”
“One of the most beautiful places in the UK”; Raymond Blanc has created “a jewel-like experience” (especially for couples who stay over in one of its rooms), at this “immaculately kept” Elizabethan manor, in a small village south of Oxford – “an iconic destination” (and the survey’s most mentioned outside London). “From the moment you step out of the car”, the “staff’s welcome instantly makes you feel at ease”, and a visit to the gardens – including the large kitchen garden that partly supplies the dining room – is an essential part of the trip; “even in the icy cold of February they are a pleasure to wander around”, and “make one truly believe that fairy tales are indeed true!” For some reporters the atmosphere in the dining conservatory itself is exceeded by other elements of the experience, but quibbles in this respect are few. Meanwhile, if there’s a gripe about the “beautiful and typically French haute cuisine”, it’s that some find it “slightly lacking innovation” – but for the vast majority of guests its “finesse” and “awe-inspiring attention to detail” contribute to an overall occasion that’s “a benchmark for all things good in hospitality”. Naturally it’s best not to dwell on the prices, but the overwhelming verdict is that it’s “worth it!”
|Wine per bottle||£55.00|
Church Road, Great Milton, OX44 7PD
|Monday||6:30 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Tuesday||12 pm‑2:15 pm, 6:30 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Wednesday||12 pm‑2:15 pm, 6:30 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Thursday||12 pm‑2:15 pm, 6:30 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Friday||12 pm‑2:15 pm, 6:30 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Saturday||12 pm‑2:15 pm, 6:30 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Sunday||12 pm‑2:15 pm, 6:30 pm‑9:30 pm|