Open for lunch and dinner Le Manoir restaurant is one of the country's biggest attractions. With excellent refined French fare, the main feature is not that every single dish is impeccable and extremely tantalising, but that Raymond Blanc, the celebrated adopted English chef, grows most of the vegetables used in the kitchen in the hotel's backyard. Blanc's responsible attitude and various initiatives are a celebration of environmental awareness.
We were welcomed by a clean-shaven meticulously dressed young man in the original house at reception, who led us to his colleague (another meticulously groomed young man), who handed us on to a waitor at the bar who took our coats and sat us down in a room adjoining the restaurant. The staff, a little cold, didn't explain the process, which would have spared us wondering whether we were expected to order a drink or to wait to be seated in the restaurant or both. Instead, we were left waiting for 15 minutes before anyone spoke to us again, by which stage we were ready to order a drink, which came later with hors-d'oeuvres so pretty that we didn't want to eat them; but seeing how hungry we were by this stage, we didn't hesitate long. Half-an-hour later we were still sitting in the waiting area-cum-bar, glasses empty, fingers crossed for the fox-like maitre d'hôtel who was busy schmoozing with other guests to come and take us to our table.
Eventually we had to ask to be taken to the restaurant. A conservatory with a garden view, the restaurant has 32 tables, like the number of rooms. The staff, French for the most-part, were nimble and moved without sound. Diners can choose between à la carte dishes and a Menu Dégustation (tasting menu), which we highly recommend - however be aware that you need a few hours to get through all the courses and for logistical reasons the whole table needs to opt for it.
The Alba truffle risotto was simply mind-blowing, as was the main of spiced Cornish monkfish mussels seasoned with saffron and Gewurztraminer, an aromatic white grape. The wine list comprises 1,000 wines, 60 percent of which come from France and is worth eating at the restaurant for the incredible hand-chosen wines of Blanc's list alone. A word of warning: if ordering à la carte do save some room for the delectable selection of French and local cheeses - you might end up regretting it as the cheese trolley is wheeled from table to table.