Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Raymond Blanc

A Chinese dinner on Saturday night. Great food. We were constrained to order the crispy aromatic duck and shrimp on toast but be that as it may. We ordered a fantastic Dover Sole cooked with chilli. What a crafty and effective presentation. The whole fish is filleted and the fillets stir fried with the condiments. The carcass too is fried and the fillets piled on to the carcass. Much like using the shell when making Lobster Thermidor. Clever. The beef with mango is a good combination.

Our gastronomic journey has resumed. A client had gifted us a night’s stay at Raymond Blancs Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons along with a meal of our choice, wine of our choice and breakfast. Le Manoir is a 2 Michelin star restaurant and attached hotel a few miles outside Oxford. The location and the Hotel are extremely beautiful. The property was an old 14th century farmhouse which Raymond Blanc bought and has steadily upgraded. Each room has a name [not number] and theme. We were in something called Crystal. Nice largish room with top class fittings and upholstery. Bathrooms were large with once again top class toiletries. The soaps are handmade and you are told that they are not recycled so you are advised to take them away. The fruit in the room was beyond belief sweet. The cherries were like nothing we have ever tasted.

After a shower and some TV we went down for dinner. We sat in the lounge and had a glass of Champagne. Things are a bit over the top here but I guess they have to cater to the rich and the super mega rich so there is a large range of price points. They have 74 yes 74 Champagnes in stock. That is varieties not bottles!! The canapés with our champagne were very nice except for the infernal `curry ball’ which was jarring.

Soon we were whisked away for dinner. We had chosen the 5 course meal, which consist of the 5 most popular dishes. There was a 10 course meal available but that looked like being a bit cutting edge full of foam type food. The food was very good. The risotto was totally different from the Spring Veg Risotto we had at Galvin La Chapelle. This one had a sour note and no Parmesan. Instead you got a quenelle of Mascarpone. The veg were really lovely crunchy and the peas were really sweet and aromatic. Next course was Fish. This was quite Mediterranean in look and feel. It could be regarded as a deconstructed bouillabaisse but it had only 3 fish not the traditional 5. I thought the dish was mis-described as it said in the menu there would be a squid fricassee. The squid was grilled. The cherry tomato had olives placed on top [you can see them in the photo] and the sliver of toast had Tapenade. The Aioli and the bouillabaisse jus really brought it together. For me the dish of the day was the slow cooked chicken. This was truly astounding in texture. The Morel sauce was very very good. This dish looked and tasted earthy. Contrast it with the vibrant coloured fish dish. Clever. The desert was a masterpiece. To make a chocolate quenelle and put some fragile gold leaf on the fragile quenelle was skill. Very nice meal. Except for the gold leaf and the morels, there were really no luxury ingredients in the meal. It was good, fresh locally sourced produce. In fat it was actually quite a light, healthy meal!

Breakfast was a good quality Continental meal. Fruit, fruits compotes, yogurts, cheeses, cereals, breads, cold cuts. If you wanted as a supplemental cost you could have a full English breakfast or the usual Eggs Benedict et al. Nice but nothing great.

We wholeheartedly recommend a stay for 2 nights at Raymond Blancs Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons. A beautiful hotel, fabulous food, wonderful location and so easy to get to. It’s a short 45 minute drive from Heathrow and they will send you a car. It takes more than that much time to reach home from Sahar airport. You will be in a really magical place. Fantastic kitchen gardens you can walk about in. Friendly gardeners and friendlier chefs all around. The staff is charm personified. Really a magical place.

On our return to London we went to our butcher to get the meat. I have taken a photo of centre cut beef bones which are grilled to give marrow. The photo also has osso buco cuts. God I wish we could just live here and buy and cook this stuff. What great great produce and what great knowledgeable salesmen.

Sad the way we have wasted all we have in India.

Tonight we attend an Eric Clapton show at the Royal Albert Hall. Should be great fun.

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