Le Manoir (for Mary W, Mrs H and Dave)

This post was written for Ms Mary W.

I recently bought a Trunki in the form of a Gruffalo. A Trunki is a small wheeled suitcase with handles and a long strap designed so that small children can use it as a seat, or be pulled along by a willing parent.

The Trunki is so roomy that I decided to pack it for our night away at LMQS. When we arrived I realised that this may have been a mistake because someone came to greet us in the car park and help us with our luggage. I honestly believe that he had never, ever taken a Gruffalo Trunki upstairs and placed it on a luggage stand before.

This gentleman was a good example of the staff at LMQS. He did not look down his nose at the Gruffalo Trunki. He would have been a heel to do so, the Gruffalo Trunki is adorable. I’ve stayed in nice hotels before and been on some cushy cruises, but I’ve often been left with the impression that the staff are being nice mainly to garnish tips. They would not have found the Gruffalo Trunki to be charming. Certainly some cruise lines present passengers with a sort of munged American notion of “posh”, high class service and seem to think that it involves a certain level of toadying. LMQS does not toad. It’s confident that it’s good enough at what it does not to require any toads.

Our Hydrangea room was beautiful, decorated with its namesake flowers, and greeted us with Madeira wine, a goody bag and pink champagne. Warned ahead of my nut allergy, the staff had reorganised our treats to include nut free fudge and fresh fruit.

We walked around the grounds and had a stab at playing croquet before our afternoon tea. Over 12 acres of land is being cultivated, not as tennis courts, a spa, car parks and swimming pools, but kitchen gardens and orchards. Nothing is anally manicured; it’s clear that these grounds work for a living. There’s clover, daisies and bald patches on the lawns and the topiary is not symmetrical. But the clover and daisies are speckled with many different species of bees and the hedges look tidily organic, not prissily trimmed.

Our afternoon tea was taken on the lawn with sandwiches, cake and cream scones. One of the cakes had nuts in and was swiftly replaced with an equivalent… and another scone to make up for the inconvenience. We were getting increasingly glad that we’d opted to have dinner at 8.30 for 9.

After tea we had a bath in a bath so enormous it was bigger than our bathroom, entertained by readings from a book of the Buddha’s teachings and pink champagne.

We then went down for dinner, and had a G&T on the lawn beforehand. We then moved to the lounge as it was getting a bit cold and had olives and popcorn. A couple opposite us scorned the popcorn, which was their loss as Nicholas took it after they’d gone in for dinner.

Dinner was simply lovely, an exercise in focused flavours, astoundingly good ingredients and simple presentation. LMQS is all about food and service, nothing else. I could tell that each individual item in each dish had been worked on and fine tuned for ages to ensure that it worked perfectly with its fellows. We had gazpacho in a shot glass with a tomato, basil and olive foccacia, crab ravioli with artichokes and a lemongrass bisque (veggie option for N), sea bass with salsify and wasabi buerre blanc, assiette of lamb with peas and broad beans, and a theme on strawberries: a layered dessert of frozen strawberry puree, strawberry jelly, strawberry ice cream, strawberry sorbet and fresh strawberries. I had Old Harbour beer to wash it down, followed by mint tea made with fresh mint from the garden.

We collapsed at about midnight.

The next morning we had breakfast in the conservatory: a dozen types of fresh fruit, cheeses, meats, pastries and cereals if desired. It seemed designed for the slightly hung over.

We checked out with our flowers, goody bag and the rest of our champagne. Although the hotel must have been nearly full, we saw only 5 or 6 other guests at the most at any one time. The service and layout has been designed so that you never feel that you’re staying in a busy, bustling hotel: rather that you’re at the relaxed country house of a fabulously wealthy uncle.

I smelt amazing after washing with the Marseilles soap in the shower but all that unfortunately dissipated in the swimming pool later on with baby J. That particular soap is now in my bathroom, fragrancing the whole house.

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