Le Manoir Aux Quat'saisons
Simplicity is at the heart of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons. But, as its creator, the French chef-patron Raymond Blanc, explains: “Simplicity is never easy.”
He recalls critics who baulked at the price of Pablo Picasso’s line drawings. “They went to see his work and looked at the £200,000 price tag,” he recounts. “They asked: ‘For just one single line? Are you joking? This work must have taken you two minutes.’ Picasso looked at them and said: ‘It took me five seconds to draw, but a lifetime to create’.”
Blanc’s legendary restaurant earned two Michelin-stars when it opened 35 years ago and has retained them ever since. He was the first chef to create a vegetarian à la carte menu when, as he explains, “there were no vegetarians”.
There are 12 gardens in total, as well as a gardening school, in the verdant grounds of Le Manoir in the Oxfordshire village of Great Milton, and they provide the roots
for the whole experience. His gardener has worked with him for 35 years, and oversees everything from the Medicinal Herb Garden and English Water Garden to the Japanese Tea Garden inspired by a trip to Kyoto.
In fact his extensive travels (“I am 150 people in a single Frenchman,” he says in his typically exuberant style) inform each of the 32 individually-designed rooms, lavish bathrooms and elegant lounges of the hotel – but formality is something in short supply.
“Modern guests are amazingly welltravelled, they are knowledgeable, but they are exhausted,” he explains. “They travel the world, they never see their families, they are under constant stress. When they visit they want to relax. They want to live, they want to talk to their loved ones. They want an experience that is totally effortless with no pretention.”
“Simplicity, purity, craftsmanship and creativity – then most of all you have to be relevant. This is what makes an extraordinary experience. ” Raymond Blanc