I’ve never had much success eating at National Trust properties but I guess when you’re eating in the former kitchen of a de Rothschild home, they really do pull out all the stops.
Built in 1874, and modelled on a French Chateau Waddesdon Manor would display Baron Ferdinand’s vast art collection and be a place to entertain guests. Today it does exactly what it set out to do then, you can wander the vast rooms gazing at Dutch Old Masters, French decorative arts and it’s stunning Victorian Gardens, featuring examples of Parterre (symmetrical bed planting) and a working Aviary. Unsurprising it’s one of the National Trust’s most visited properties.
Found on the back stairs, the Manor Restaurant is split into two, one restaurant is tablecloths and linen napkins reserved for pre-booked afternoon tea and the large room decorated with wonderful copper and 6 litre bottles of the family wine, is for light lunch and refreshments.
For those short on time, after all, there’s a lot to explore here, an express menu offers soup, sandwiches and a dessert. The menu assures that you’ll be out in under thirty minutes. A set menu of two and three courses is also on offer but our party of four went a la carte. The serving staff here are delightful, really helpful and we loved our waiter Rex Harrison. Yes. Really.
The plate of baked cheese ciabattas had Brie and caramelised onion, Goat’s cheese, tomato, black olive and pesto and Stilton and pear toppings with a small side salad of baby leaves (£9.50).
Smoked salmon and sea-trout with a leek and potato rosti, poached egg, hollandaise sauce and baby leaves was the choice of my Mother-in-Law who was really pleased that the rosti was more leek than potato, she’s watching the carbs, and thoroughly enjoyed it (£13.50).
Mr had the roast sea-trout which was beautifully cooked and served with steamed fennel, green beans and sugar snap peas. The Dauphinoise potato was perfectly layered and the estate-grown gooseberry butter added a sharpness to a rich and creamy dish. (£12.50).
Deep-fried, with a light and very crispy batter, coated baby courgettes and the flower, stuffed with sharp cream cheese, studded with lemon and baby peas. The summer vegetable salad was plentiful and I wish I had asked for more instead of the saute potatoes which were nice, but the salad was better (£12.50).
The drink choices were mixed, I had a nice glass of rose, there were a couple of organic Luscombe ginger beers and the most delicious bottle of Gardener’s Ale with quince from the estate.
As you’d expect, the wine list is has both Rothschild and guest wines, after all, this is a property with its own wine cellars, stuffed with 15,000 bottles of the finest wines from the last 150 years.
We toyed with the desserts and once we’d seen a vanilla panna cotta on the menu it was all over. It came with a scoop of raspberry sorbet and homemade shortbread which was also offered gluten-free. It tasted as good as it looked, topped off with an edible pansy (£5.75).
A white chocolate tiramisu had an extravagant chocolate quill for decoration and a couple of biscotti, I assume it tasted good because it didn’t last too long (£5.75).
I couldn’t resist and the salted caramel tart didn’t let me down. Perfectly balanced filling in a crisp pastry tart was decorated with a macaron. Praline and pistachio nuts kept a ball of ginger ice cream in its place and it was a superb end to the meal.
Our meal came to a very respectable £97.80 which included a large bottle of sparkling water, coffee and a 10% service charge, which the waitress said is shared among the staff.
Because we ate late, the afternoon tea service was in full swing, pastries included lemon posset with berry compote and crumble a chocolate and praline macaron, salted caramel tart, raspberry delice and the all-important scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Sandwiches with various fillings and a savoury tart can be taken with either Jeeves and Jericho tea (£18.50pp) or a glass of champagne (£23.50pp).
Waddesdon Manor is open Wednesday to Sunday and is just off the A41 between Bicester and Aylesbury. Bookings can be made online here.