Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons, Oxfordshire

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If you’re ever stuck for a present then look no further; a cookery course at Le Manoir is just the thing. Four days of heaven and hard work in equal measure. Well, probably more heaven to be honest.

You arrive on the Sunday evening, drinks, a short introduction to the week and then a private dinner. The pistachio soufflé with bitter chocolate granita centre – what a start. Each of the four days [Monday to Thursday] you spend cooking in the Cookery School kitchen, a glass-walled construction right in the centre of the restaurant’s main kitchens, so you can watch what goes on to create some of the world’s best food. There are photos of the cookery school pupils around the hotel [hidden] so the staff recognise you and are effortlessly polite and friendly, even if you’re wandering through the reception in your kitchen whites to the shock of the more refined guests.

Each day is different – Day 1: Soups, salads and preparations, Day 2: Fish and shellfish, Day 3: Meat and poultry  and Day 4: Desserts. Twelve of you, cooking in pairs, you cook your own lunch from the impeccable ingredients and the sommelier pops round with some exquisite wine to go with your efforts. Afternoon tea, a short relax, and then the task of sampling the restaurant’s signatures dishes at dinner throughout the week. We said it was hard work. You can take  a partner, sharing your room, and you pay a very measly and affordable contribution to their food and wine.

The veg garden is fully stocked [depending on the time of year] to go foraging. You’re taught essential skills to understand how to make the food taste just great – that being their first requirement – and the presentation follows [always put things in threes – there you are, the secret]. The great man [Raymond Blanc] popped in to say hello [bonjour] at breakfast, between filming. And a great tip from the sommelier…

Don’t spend more than £200 on a bottle of wine…

Of course, you can go and stay there anytime. They say that nearly all their guests are there for special occasions – it’s not a quick pop in for a Thursday night supper sort of place. We had a surprise visit from some friends and it was just great.

Two Michelin Stars. Save up – it’s worth it.

Restaurant with rooms Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons

Interestingly, walking round the local villages pre-dinner, to work up an appetite, you notice a huge number of red kites. They’ve been released there to reintroduce them – similarly around Harewood House in Yorkshire. A magnificent sight, although we suspect the farmers will soon be complaining.

Le Manoir

Le Manoir

Le Manoir

Le Manoir

The wine cellar...in the cellar

The wine cellar…in the cellar

The bedrooms

The bedrooms

Sherry, almonds, petit fours to keep you going between the lemon cake and dinner

Sherry, almonds, petit fours to keep you going between the lemon cake and dinner

Souffles have worked...

Souffles have worked…

Cooking our lunch

Cooking our lunch

IMG_0194

The veg garden…

The great man at work...

The great man at work…

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