FT Quintessentially weekend at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

FT Quintessentially weekend at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

The FT Quintessentially weekend is one of those events that belong to the extraordinary. The FT has joined forces with Quintessentially and myself to create one of the most memorable weekends and I was their host.

We chose Paris as the first city to celebrate, we discovered the best market places, recited Zola poetry in the Marché du President Wilson – I cooked a beautiful feast in the Le Grand Véfour with Guy Martin a 2* Michelin chef.  We discovered the oldest restaurant in Paris, La Pérouse. We visited Paris in a fleet of 2CV’s, and to finish, champagne on a private bateaux Mouche on the Seine.

 

So it was a huge challenge as Le Manoir was the setting for our second FT/Q Raymond Blanc extravaganza.

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Our guests arrived on Friday afternoon, welcomed with champagne and the most beautifully crafted patisseries. I must tell you something about my guests; they came from all over the world, Hong King, Russia, Scotland, Sweden. What was really special is that four of our guests who came to Paris with us joined us at Le Manoir. It was nice to welcome them to the house.

 

The feast had started…. there was a lot of food, champagne and the finest wines.

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I wanted to start delicately and not with a 15 course meal, so we opted for four courses of the most delicious food and finest wines. I hosted our first dinner in La belle Époque, our private dining room. These evenings are always a great success; they are warm, hugely passionate and celebratory, filled with many secrets on how Le Manoir was built with fantastic spicy anecdotes, my vision and our great triumphs.

Great Britain has given me new skills..I now laugh about myself, I have learnt how to loose (that’s the hardest). I can listen whilst others speak. These evenings do not only offer the best food and wines, but also laughter, proximity, conviviality and fun… The very heart of life… Pure unadulterated ,joie du vivre.

The following morning was a triumph, first the skies decided not to pour with rain and only give us light rain and the Oxfordshire sky was the perfect bleu/France.  Much was going on, our guests had a choice of a demonstration in The Raymond Blanc Cookery School or tours of our magnificent gardens and The RB Gardening School where Anne Marie, my head gardener showed her craft and her wonderful personality. Of course I am proud, as it was the first time we presented our new glasshouse. Hartley Botanic Garden provided and sponsored the most beautiful glasshouse which is divided in two; a working space and the very first gardening school in Great Britain in any restaurant or hotel.

Few know this but there are 11 gardens at LMQS all inspired by my travels, the marvellous people  I have met, the landscapes I have seen and of course my old terroire from France and my new terroire – England!

Under the beautiful sunshine, there were 12 classic cars lined up each with their own chauffeur ready to transport us to Henley in the greatest comfort and style. A sight to behold!

I wanted to show my guests the exciting revolution which is happening in GB and that young British chefs are now leading, so we headed to Henley to dine at The Boat House. Shaun Dickens, Chef Parton of the Boat House and his wonderful wife Gemma who also worked with me for 7 years greeted us.

We had an incredible lunch, thank you Shaun.

On the way back, one of the classic cars broke down but there were some kindly guests stopping to squeeze us in! We drove back to Le Manoir in our beautiful classic cars to relax, unwind and to prepare for dinner! By this point I felt full, very full and in need of a nap!

After a well-earned nap which set us up ready for the grand gala dinner. By this time everyone knew each other and in a single weekend we were bon vivant.

Dinner at Le Manoir was a sumptuous 5 course menu which I had selected and included many of my classics with fine wines to match. The feast finished by 2am. I realised that age was catching up with me and I couldn’t party as hard as my friends.

To close the weekend, I gave our guests a full on RB demo which was meant to last only 1hr and lasted 3hrs and with guests still eating all the food!

I'm pleased to say that we were not beaten by our Autumnal weather! We had fun, we filled the house with laughter, starting the weekend as strangers and ending as friends.

To me there is no other way to spend a weekend than with good friends, fine food and lots of laughter.

Best RB x