Rigby's Review - Guest starred by Marcel le Corgi
Le manor like no other
Just a few miles south-east of Oxford, set within beautiful countryside, lies the picturesque village of Great Milton. As we made our way through the gorgeous surrounds, windows open on a warm Autumn day, Marcel – securely strapped on the back seat of the car – awoke from his nap, clearly impatient to arrive at our destination. For we have been talking about our visit with such excitement, especially Marcel’s Michelin star trained chef of a Papa. Driving through the village, admiring the attractive old houses and thatched cottages on the High Street, we felt as if time had stopped and we were transported to a world away from home.
As we approached the end of the village the stunning and much awaited manor house, now Le Manoir, came into view. One of Britain’s finest destinations, created by a French virtuose, Le Manoir for Le Corgi? How fitting Marcel thinks, as his snout peeps at the window to see us enter the grand front courtyard. We park, already in awe, and are welcomed outside by a smiling receptionist, with Marcel immediately getting a fuss, making him feel “bienvenus”.
With helping hands to carry our bags, and our pup keeping a close eye on his mobile pantry, our carriage was driven to the parking at the back of the property. Making our way to one of the property’s beautifully choreographed annexes, where a number of ground-floor rooms welcome four-legged guests, we admire the calming trees and perfectly appointed green alleys, where not even a leaf is out of place. Upon entering a corridor a delicious citrusy scent captivates our nostrils – and turning around the corner an enchanting display of plants adorns the walls and ceiling.
Our home for the night is the sumptuous Studio Suite Citronelle, the French for lemongrass. As soon as we enter Marcel makes his way to the lovely dog bed already installed for him, thrilled to find an antler chew nestled on it, and checks the food and water bowls with enthusiasm. A member of staff gives us a tour of the facilities and within five minutes of us asking for one a fridge is brought in to keep le chien’s raw food cool.
We explore the individually-designed suite, with its gorgeous private terrace and luxurious interiors, complete with a plethora of thoughtful touches. From its fresh and vibrant décor, to the silk lined sowing kit, delicious chocolates, fresh fruits, water and port, the biography of Raymond Blanc on the bed, and personalised welcome letter (with information on the weather during our stay and suggested activities), you can’t help but feel wanted. With each bedroom drawing inspiration from one of le chef’s travels, with imaginative decors in a range of styles to please every fancy, you are spoilt for choice here, but we have to say we adored the uplifting feel of Citronelle.
Meanwhile, Marcel got his bearings after a thorough inspection of his new abode, and our delight had only just begun. In the bathroom, lovely olive oil toiletries for us to take home and not only do we see a bath but also a romantic rain shower, with fluffy bathrobes to snuggle up in.
Intrigued by the information in the letter we headed outside to explore the grounds. After having a peak at the fragrant orchards, Marcel lead the way to the dreamy gardens, where twelve gardeners work to reconnect Great Britain with its soil. The colourful trail is composed of nearly 90 types of vegetable and 70 aromatic herbs, a romantic setting in which Marcel felt right at home, enthusiastically pulling to discover the next alley. We roamed around the greenhouses, fields and displays, after much deliberation pronouncing the Japanese inspired tea garden our favourite, with its vibrant colours brought on by Autumn. After a briefly considering a game of croquet or boules, our suite proved just too tempting so we sauntered back through our pristine surrounds.
With Marcel ensconced in his new kingdom, all cosy and happy, we made our way to the main building, dating from the 15th Century. Renowned as one of Britain’s finest gastronomic experiences, the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars over 30 years ago and has held them ever since. After amuse-bouches and a glass of bubbly in the lounge, we were accompanied to our table. With our minds set on the traditional Menu Découverte, an invitation to a culinary journey in the British countryside, we ordered the matching selection of traditional glasses. From smoked confit of sea trout to agnolotti of butternut squash, spiced monkfish, roasted loin of venison, pear Almondine, and Manjari chocolate crumble, we enjoyed le most wonderful dinner, modern French cuisine marrying organic produce. Magnifique!
After relieving Marcel of his guard duties and partaking of a long soak in the bath, all three of us retired, slumbering deeply in our splendid surrounds.
Opting for another touch of indulgence before making our way back to London, breakfast was brought to us our suite, a little while after the thoughtful coffee delivered to us as our chosen wake up call. As we settled down to enjoy, a snout appeared under the table, brushing his Papa’s leg to remind him just who the chief taster is at house le corgi.
All too soon it was time to head home but not before we were handed a lovely kit for the road and Marcel caught the eye of the young chefs attending Le Manoir’s cookery school. A dozen fusses later we checked out and took a last tour in the gorgeous village before getting back on the road.
From the delightful gardens to the historical buildings, the home-grown, stunning food to the warmest welcome for four and two paws, staying and dining at Le Manoir is a luxurious experience that will stay with all of us forever.
By Marcel le Corgi and his maman