DESPITE being forced to close for much of the past year, Oxfordshire restaurants have been praised for their exceptional cooking by that bible of gastronomy, the Michelin Guide.

The highest rated restaurant in the county continues to be Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Great Milton which retains its two Michelin stars.

The guide singles out its Cornish crab with kaffir lime, roast fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef, and dark chocolate cup with textures of cappuccino for particular praise and says: "Excellent cooking, worth a detour!"

Read more: Raymond Blanc on surviving lockdown at Le Manoir

The Nut Tree at Murcott near Kidlington holds into its single star, with the guide saying: "High quality cooking, worth a stop!"

Oxford city has lost its only Michelin star, however. Two One Five, previously known as Oxford Kitchen, in Banbury Road, Summertown had held a star for two years, though was awarded a coveted Michelin Plate for good cooking.

Praising Two One Five, which is run by chef Paul Welburn, the guide says: "The long, narrow room has a laid-back vibe but you’ll feel passion and intensity coming from the kitchen.

"Menus change with the seasons and reassuring combinations deliver on sophistication and execution."

Read more: Paul Welburn on Michelin Guide success

Mr Welburn thanked the Michelin Guide for including his highly-acclaimed restaurant, saying: "Great to be included in the Michelin Guide. After the change around, name rebrand and the tough time the industry is going through, to open Two One Five and get the Michelin Plate recommendation sets us up for when we reopen again and continue the rebuild."

Herald Series: Paul Welburn, Executive chef at Two One Five, Oxford. Picture by Ed Nix.Paul Welburn, Executive chef at Two One Five, Oxford. Picture by Ed Nix.

Paul Welburn of Two One Five in Summertown is celebrating a Michelin Plate

Michelin Plates also go to nearby Pompette in South Parade, Summertown; and Arbequina, in Cowley Road, which is described as a "bohemian tapas bar offering tasty, authentic, filling tapas dishes".

The accolade also goes to the Magdalen Arms, in Iffley Road, of which the guide says: "The experienced chef-owner creates gutsy dishes with wide-ranging influences and the menu can change twice a day."

In West Oxfordshire, Michelin Plates go to The Wild Rabbit, Kingham, near Chipping Norton, and nearby Daylesford Organic Farm, both owned by Lady Bamford who is married to the billionaire industrialist Lord Bamford, and is a director of his family's JCB construction company.

Read more: Timeless quality and first class food at The Old Swan, Minster Lovell

Also in the west of the county, Michelin Plates go to the Red Lion in Northmoor, near Standlake; the Harcourt Arms in nearby Stanton Harcourt; Chequers in Churchill; Wild Thyme in Chipping Norton; Killingworth Castle in Wootton near Woodstock; Lamb Inn at Crawley; Old Swan at Minster Lovell; Five Alls at Filkins; and The Plough at Kelmscott.

Read more: The Five Alls: High fives for a Cotswold beauty

In the north of the county, Michelin Plates go to the Muddy Duck in Hethe, near Bicester; and The Bell at Hampton Poyle.

Herald Series: The Nut Tree in Murcott. Picture by Ed Nix.The Nut Tree in Murcott. Picture by Ed Nix.

The Killingworth Castle is a former winner of an Oxford Mail food award

In the south of the county, Michelin Plates have been awarded to the White Hart, Fyfield, near Abingdon; Greyhound Inn, Letcombe Regis; Orwells, Shiplake Row, near Henley; Crockers in Henley; Bottle & Glass Inn in Binfield Heath; Olivier at The Red Lion in Britwell Salome; Chequers in Berrick Salome; Miller of Mansfield in Goring; Eyston Arms in East Hendred; and Sir Charles Napier near Chinnor.

Read more: Head into the woods for quality food at the Bottle & Glass

A Bib Gourmand for good quality, good value cooking, goes to Oli's Thai in Magdalen Road, Oxford, with its crispy chickpea salad, Panang confit duck and custard tarts coming in for particular praise.

It says: "The concise menu offers fresh, meticulously prepared, vibrantly flavoured dishes."

The diminutive East Oxford eaterie is owned by Ladd and Ru Thurston who also set up the Michelin Plate-rated Arbequina.

A Bib Gourmand was also awarded to the Bell Inn at Langford, near Lechlade.

For the first time, the Guide has included a new category: the Green Star, awarded for commitment to sustainable gastronomy. Recipients include Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons and Daylesford Organic.

Read more: Le Manoir offers faultless food...but is it worth the money?

Raymond Blanc, Chef Patron of Le Manoir, said: "At last, today's luxury is becoming responsible towards the environment, the management of waste, energy, food miles, seasonality and training and caring for one's team. We practised this (from) the beginning."

Herald Series: Le Manoir aux QuatSaisons opens for business with Raymond Blanc. Picture by Tim HughesLe Manoir aux QuatSaisons opens for business with Raymond Blanc. Picture by Tim Hughes

The kitchen of Le Manoir before it was again forced to close

Individual green initiatives were also praised at Orwells, where most fruit, vegetables and honey comes from its own smallholding and apiary; the Ox Barn at Thyme Hotel, Southrop; and The Wild Rabbit, where fruit, vegetables and meat from native breeds come from the Bamford family's organic farms.

Two One Five, The Wild Rabbit, The Red Lion, Muddy Duck, Eyston Arms, Oli's Thai, the Harcourt Arms, Killingworth Castle, Bell Inn, Five Alls are among the recognised restaurants serving takeaways during lockdown.

Read more: Is the Nut Tree Inn in Murcott still worth it's Michelin star?

A Michelin spokesman said: "Despite the huge challenges the hospitality industry has faced over the last year, we are delighted to be able to award 23 restaurants our new accolade... the Michelin Green Star.

Read more: Christopher Gray loves the Eyston Arms

"This distinction highlights restaurants at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices and who act as role models to us all. They hold themselves accountable for both their ethical and environmental standards, and work with sustainable producers and suppliers to avoid waste and reduce or even remove plastic and other non-recyclable materials from their supply chain.

Read more: You should eat at Oli's Thai every day of the week

"Many work directly with growers, farmers and fishermen; forage in hedgerows and woodlands; grow plants and rear animals; and use regenerative methods such as no-dig vegetable gardens and successional cover crop growing. They also often go beyond environmental considerations to address the quality of life of their staff, as well as contributing to local, national or global charity and education projects."