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Archive for December, 2015

This year, my birthday coincided nicely with a prize that Chris won at work. A prize that was worth a lot of money. Money I would never chose to spend on what it was, but I was very happy to experience it… a night at the Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

We arrived shortly after 3pm, it was a rather grey day and the light was fading fast as we were the other side of December 21st. The days were at their shortest. The dark sky was still full of rain, although it wasn’t falling, which was a relief.

As we parked we were met with by a very attentive concierge, who whisked our bright overnight bags away whilst we were then led on a short tour of the main house, the dining areas, the champagne lounge. Warm, cosy, expensive. Then onto our room “Sandalwood”. An African theme, a big plush bed, a tray with sherry and glasses, champagne on ice. Classical music playing. And a birthday card from Raymond!

I found a small box of sugared almonds. I devoured them. They were divine.

Off to explore the gardens. So beautiful, even in the fading light.
Amazing sculptures. Beautiful lines of kale in rows. The tranquil pond.

After dusk back to enjoy the warm, cosy room. The champagne on ice. The deep hot bath full of bubbles. The soft pillows and fat white duvet. Extra heavenly in contrast to our mid-renovation house at the moment. Glossy magazines filled with even glossier fashion and far-flung exotic destinations.

At 8.30 we headed to the champagne lounge for pre-dinner drinks. The wine menu was a little extravagant. Cheapest bottle £129. We opted for £17 cocktails. A tray of small but delicious appetizers appeared in front of us.

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Then we were led to the dining room for our 7 course menu.

SOUPE DE POTIRON, NOIX DE SAINT-JACQUES (Roasted pumpkin soup, scallop)

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CONFIT DE SAUMON, CONCOMBRE AIGRE-DOUX, CRESSON AND POMME DE TERRE (Confit of oak smoked salmon Loch Duart salmon, pickled cucumber, watercress and potato)

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OEUF DE POULE, CHAMPIGNONS SAUVAGES, TRUFFE D’AUTOMNE (Free-range hens egg, wild mushroom tea, autumn truffle)

FILET DE BARBUE, HUITRE, CONCOMBRE, WASABI (Braised fillet of Cornish brill, oyster, cucumber, wasabi)

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CHEVREUIL ROTI, CELERI-RAVE ET TRUFFE (Roasted loin of venison, celeriac and truffle)

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‘TROU NORMAND’ (Compressed apple facon tatin, Granny Smith sorbet and calvados)

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‘FRAICHEUR CAFÉ ET CHOCOLAT’ (Coffee panna cotta scented with orange. Macae chocolate ganache)

Each course amazing, delicious, different, new flavours, new textures, strong, powerful, beautiful. The anticipation of the next dish, the presentation stunning. Looking around at our fellow guests, trying to guess who they were, what they did. How they can afford a night here.

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After our full seven courses our stomachs were full with what we imagined were over 100 ingredients. Time to head back to dive into those crisp white sheets and get a start on digesting all that amazing food!

Breakfast the next morning was an incredible breakfast buffet with all the usual suspects, but these were Raymond Blanc usual suspects. Including an out-of-this-world Raymond granola bar (I had 3!!). I also ordered Eggs Benedict and a pot of Roibos tea. We had our final blasts in the hot shower, re-packed our overnight bags and then time for one final stroll around the herb garden before heading for home.

 

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I wake up in the middle of the night, distracted by the thoughts rushing across my mind.

I catch each thought in turn, press it into a poem captured inside a flimsy bubble.

I sit in the centre of my mind, a dark cosy cave, back lit by glowing embers.

I watch the bubbles gently drift up and bounce against each other before popping into nothingness, leaving imprinted paintings on the cave wall…

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Last night I woke and couldn’t sleep, it could have been the 5pm cup of coffee, or the biscuit-crunch buzz of the oil heater in our room. It could have been the wind whipping round our tarpaulin covered roof, or the silent scamper of imaginary rats on the floors below. It could have been my belly, swollen from dinner, or the reckless impressions left by the book under my pillow.

It was probably the book.

This is the book.

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