It was dark when we arrived at the Manoir aux Quat Saisons. There is a wonderful theatricality to the walk from the car park, down a long straight path through formal gardens towards brightly lit mullioned windows. Like the enchanted domaine in le Grand Meaulnes. And a wonderful sense of quiet luxury in the welcome. Relieved of our coats inside the door we were led into another ante room before being ushered into the lounge. A little tray of olives and rice crackers on the table. Nothing fancy yet.
We opted for the menu gourmand. Two plates of four amuse-guele arrived, between four of us. Not generous but we were rather consciously pacing ourselves at this stage. Nice but not worth the bill in themselves.
Once at table the first real bit of food arrives. An espresso cup of jerusalem artichoke soup. I make this at home and I always add something to give it a bit of zing, some bacon or parmesan croutons. Raymond scents his with truffle oil. Much the better idea. Next up, very lightly cooked foie gras on a bed of watercress and wafer thin slices of apple. I know the apple and foie gras combination is a classic but it doesn't really work for me. The foie gras was perfection, however. The sommelier had recommended a bottle of Meursault which was an excellent choice.
Then a real "don't try this at home" dish: a ravioli of spinach and soft boiled quail's egg. Served with more spinach, a few croutons and I wish I could tell you more about the sauce, but I wasn't taking notes.
The fish course was a piece of seared sea bass fillet in a sauce vierge with a seafood dressing. Beautifully done, but restrained. Nothing tricky.
The main course was awesome. A sliced duck breast in a red wine jus surrounded by a very thin quince puree. The garnish was of brussel sprouts and chestnuts. I have never forgiven brussel sprouts for schoold dinners but even they couldn't spoil the effect of the quince dissolving into the jus washed down with Les Rubans de Haut Brion
Two desserts. A creme brulee, which was perfect but you can get a perfect creme brulee for less. We also had to ask them to bring the dessert wine, a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, over before we finished the creme brulee. That shouldn't have had to happen. Finally a passionfruit souffle with a segment of mango sorbet sitting on something that we thought might have been mango rice pudding.
I was, at the end, ever so slightly disappointed. But only because I expected this to be the best meal I'd ever had and it wasn't. This was in part, I think, because it is so classic, straight done the line French. I mean it is good, really, really good. So good that it seems churlish to be critical, but, for example, we went out to the Square earlier this year for a menu gourmand splash out and I think we probably had a better time there.