If you have come here from the link in my previous post about our evening with Prue Leith you’ll know that this is going to give details of the meal we enjoyed at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons on that night.
As soon as we arrived home the next day I completed the pressing task of praising the team who had given us such culinary pleasure.
My tweet extends to the busy, invisible kitchen team and all the servers who presented food and wine at our tables so discreetly and efficiently.
I didn’t check on any vintage of the Laurent Perrier served for the champagne reception but it was almost certainly a step up from our frequent 10 euro French supermarket purchases. It went down very well but I shall continue to seek and find its ‘country cousins’. They are capable of giving just as much pleasure in all sorts of other circumstances and for many different reasons. And I’ll continue to consider the best ways of finding champagne ‘cheapos’ of quality.
I was relieved to see that canapés were arranged as Prue would demand… rows of each variety rather than higgledy-piggledy scatter.
Here again is the menu which we were offered.
Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons is all about perfection… so let me get the shocker out of the way first. Reader, I found crab shell in my starter. That’s it. That’s your lot on the jaw-dropping revelations. We can move on and I can tell you how lovely every single other element proved to be.
The crab was delicate and bedded on a light, moussy, avocado base. Chilli and radish were present but, as might be expected, they were judged so cleverly that they refused to overpower.
The risotto was a proper zingy affair. Spring vegetables at Le Manoir, thanks to gardener, Jennifer Pryke and her team, are the earlier and jealousy-inducing equivalent of what our raised beds at Chez Cheoff will produce in about eight weeks time. Acidity was the top note. Vegetable crunch and forgiving grains were secondary. If tomato essence was involved it had not achieved the ripeness of summer and announced itself with a youth and brashness which was even cheekier coming from the softness of rice. The whole thing could only be diminished in any way at all by memories of the outstanding September version from our first visit. Extract your own very best essence and cook this at home like I did!
Everything calmed down completely with the lamb. It would have been silly to get excited and miss out on the gentle reverence due to the animal and its treatment by the kitchen. Broad beans, peas, curly greens and mild baby onions were there too. I did wonder why there was so little gravy but the meat was so succulent that it had little need of extra juices. A wonderfully understated example of how to get the very best from nature.
Dessert had notes of a warmer, more tropical (passionate!) fruity season. Lighter milk chocolate and quintessential English tea soon pulled us back to a cooler climate and a suggestion that summer could wait its turn.
The wines were so cleverly chosen for us. I often search for a bottle which will impress without producing a warning letter from my bank. Here were three thrifty successes one after the other. Good value did not compromise quality. Our glasses were refilled unstintingly and I eventually called a halt to both the white and the red.
This Sauvignon Blanc tells Sancerre to pack up and go on holiday for a few weeks. Great with the crab and then started to sing very loudly but in perfect harmony with the risotto. A really long finish from what many might pass by as a too safe, mid-range choice.
On previous trips to France the well-established Frédéric Mabileau has provided us with lovely reds from Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil. Relative newcomers, the Boisard brothers, have produced wines which offer much of the quality of their neighbour and might just approach the rather special, infrequently made, Mabileau ‘Eclipse’ given time. Their Cabernet Franc even had a hint of ‘chewiness’. Certainly much more than that wonderfully, meltingly tender lamb.
This was the same great wine which I had recently enjoyed at Gravetye Manor. It made exactly the same good impression as it had first time round. Worth tracking down... and I’m delighted to say that we’ll be close enough to do that on our next trip to France.
Three Loire wines which delivered much more than expected. The red and white in particular seemed perfectly in tune with the spring theme. Vibrant and playful, without the heaviness of fuller heat on grapes from further south.
This was a meal which, for the most part, did not excite. I have to qualify that immediately, of course. There were fine flavours, attention to detail, and a lovely sympathy given to every ingredient. But the shock of being confronted with a challenge from chefs who are pushing boundaries is not what goes on at Great Milton. The food placates you. Enjoyment is abundant but restrained. You are cosseted without being made to feel uncomfortable. You are forced into calm as you attempt to dissect all the wonderful detail of planning, care and process which is behind the delivery of your meal. Time and talk with fellow diners feels less frantic as well. I suppose it ultimately seems out of order to disturb the surrounding serenity of such a classic approach and such sophisticated presentation.
I will look elsewhere for ‘throbbing’(!) culinary thrills. But I will always hope to return to Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons for a totally different, but no less real, treat.
The whole evening was different in very many ways to our first experience of Le Manoir. But both occasions were hugely enjoyable. Oh, and instead of a single loved-up couple with eyes only for each other on our first visit there was at least one more doe-eyed duo at our second.
Sam Davey-Joy, ‘Marketing bird from Yorkshire’, summed up the evening much more succinctly than I have. Here’s a screen capture of her tweet which I’ll assume is in the public domain until she sues me for copyright.
So… two posts about one visit. But the prequel covering our Ruby Wedding celebration dining experience will complete a trilogy. Press me hard enough and I’ll divulge.