The thing with the UK is - the weather is mostly pretty unimpressive and this week has been an exemplary display of a typical British November. It also just so happens that after all the waiting for my Speciale to arrive - Maranello decided to drop her at my dealer in what has been the wettest month of the entire year. I kid you not when I say the Speciale is yet turn a wheel in dry weather since collecting it from the dealership. But when you live in the UK - you just have to get on with it!
Today's occasion has also been a long time coming - a reservation at Le Manoir - one of the countries finest restaurants, established by eccentric and enthusiastic chef, Raymond Blanc and awarded 2 Michelin stars for it's outstanding culinary experience. What better occasion to release the horses for a cruise to Oxfordshire!?
From my location the journey is predominantly motorway miles, but as it happens the Speciale needs running in for 500-600 miles before I can take it up to the 9,000rpm red line, so despite the weather, this type of mundane journey wasn't something I minded - as every mile counted further toward unleashing the true potential of that spectacular engine.
The misperception of Ferrari's is that they are typically cars reserved for sunny Sundays and only the most perfect of conditions. One can only assume that this stereotype has developed because historically, when it came to getting wet - Ferrari's of the 60's and 70's stopped working more than the country they were built in.
Today's Ferrari's are a very different story however. These cars are designed, engineered and built to be driven hard and in all conditions. I recently read of an F12 doing a spot of off-roading along the jagged surface of Mt.Etna - yes, the volcano - so a heavy dosing of Britain's finest November rain is nothing to worry about.
The Speciale was joined by the F12 for the journey to Le Manoir - it was actually a celebration of my fathers 65th birthday - so he got to kick start his big day with a V12 bang, piloting the IPE F12 to Oxfordshire.
The restaurant-come-hotel is set in a grand hall in the village of Great Milton, a stunning little hamlet with a distinct touch of Cotswold charm. A lot more charming if it wasn't pouring it down mind you. The instant you pull into the long driveway you know it is going to be a pretty special place.
Parking was perfect, while I do use my cars a lot there is often the underlying ideal of finding a suitable space for your beloved car. Le Manoir does this well.
You can appreciate how this place would be awesome in the Summer, and a great location for a spot of supercar photography. But actually there was something quite mystical about the fine manor house in the rain. The elderly buildings and shedding trees could have been plucked right out of a scene from Harry Potter, and of course when the rain is out - the people are in - so it was the perfect opportunity to discover the beauty of the hall in private!
Now then, to the food! We are at a fantastic restaurant after all. I know this is a "Supercar Lifestyle" blog - but this is part of the gig people - drives out to awesome places, with great cars experiencing stunning things!
Off to a very good start too, the canapés at Le Manoir are very Speciale...
An even better start - DRIVERS BEER!
Not so friendly drivers juice...So inconsiderate.
Epic crispy bread...and lots of it! The sourdough was a delight in it's self, sorry to get overly exctied about bread but, as simple as it is, I often think bread can be an indicator as to how good the restaurant is...as are the toilets! (Which were great by the way) It's an exact science ; )
5 courses of mouth watering perfection were to follow...
Clearly, that was awful!
The tranquility of Le Manoir was the perfect distraction from the torrential rain outside. Still, the thought of driving home in those conditions wasn't that appealing - even in a Speciale!
On to desert!
It's the little touches that make all the difference : )
Spot of gold leaf never goes a miss!
An actual hot chocolate menu! Pretty much most restaurants offer hot chocolate - but never have I been presented with an entire cocoa menu! How many different types of hot chocolate are there!? A great many it transpires. I suppose predictably this was going to be no ordinary chocolate, I can't exactly see Raymond tearing open a sachet of Cadburys finest powder and spinning it in the microwave after all.
No, Le Manoir's idea of hot chocolate is quite literally a silver cask of molten chocolate, so thick is this nectar that it is served with a side of pouring cream so you may create your own desired consistency. Literally the most awesome cocoa I have ever had...and being the big kid I am...I've had a lot!
Home time... I can't recommend Le Manoir enough, from the minute I pulled into the drive I knew it was going to be a great location, but the service, food and staff were fantastic every step of the way and escalated the whole experience to a level difficult to find these days. I will definitely be back in the Summer for much better photo opportunities with the cars! Until then, the Speciale is going to have to get used to the cold November rain...