Visited: April 2014
Welcome: On stepping out of the car, a waiting porter welcomed us with a warm and friendly greeting before taking our bags with a quiet efficiency. Walking down the path to reception, we were greeted by name and taken to our room. No waiting around at check in desks here, this is exactly how it should be done.
Room: On arrival, it was a delight to be upgraded to the Citronelle junior suite, which overlooks the courtyard and has its own private terrace. This is a bright, individually designed and spacious room where the mirrored furniture sits perfectly in hues of lemon. It is difficult not to look around and smile at the hand made chocolates, tastefully wrapped gift on the bed (use Twitter), the fresh fruit platter and the decanter of Madeira wine. From the tiny pegs attached onto note cards to the red and green bows which are used in place of a 'do not disturb sign,' the attention to detail is outstanding. Even though this hotel is part of the Belmond Collection it has a personality all of its own. All of the amenities you would expect are present, including hairdryer, umbrella, complimentary wi-fi and water.
The bathroom amenities from Branche d'Olive are full size and a soap bag enables you to take the soap home to remind you of your stay. Although the bathroom is spacious and well appointed, with bath, shower, TV and double vanity, the only gripe would be that the wet room style doesn't work when using the shower with water soaking the 'carpet'.
Service/ Staff: From arrival to departure, the staff couldn't have done any more. Service is exceptional, no waiting around uncomfortably here wondering where to go. Staff are instinctive and immediately attentive.
Dining: Dinner proved to be a sublime experience. Starting with champagne and canapés, followed by a five course tasting menu with selected wines, this is an experience that will not be forgotten easily. Particular highlights included risotto of spring vegetables and roasted fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef. The wine pairings worked well and were skilfully explained, a surprise favourite being an Austrian white which accompanied the first course.
Breakfast is exquisite with a wide selection of fruit, pastries and breads served in the light flooded conservatory. The pineapple brioche has to be tasted to be believed! A hot option is also available.
Activities: A tour of the gardens is a must and one can only imagine how beautiful they would look in the summer. Set in the Oxfordshire countryside, activities on offer include the renowned in house cookery course, a variety of outdoor pursuits and a tour of nearby Oxford.
Spa: The hotel offers a wide range of signature treatments, massages and therapies in the comfort of your room.
Verdict: This is a stunning countryside property which deserves its world class reputation. The high quality of the food is well matched by exceptional hospitality in this luxury Oxfordshire haven. Although the rates are not cheap, a more perfect place to spend a special celebration would be difficult to imagine. Loved it!
Disclaimer: Lisa Corcoran was a guest of Le Manoir