Sometimes opportunities land in your inbox and you do a little dance and a squeal because they are so exciting! Back in July, I received an email inviting me to Brasserie Blanc in Beaconsfield to spend an evening with Raymond Blanc at a summer event he was hosting! As a huge foodie, Raymond Blanc holds a high status in my eyes and is undoubtedly one of the culinary kings - Le Manoir in Oxfordshire is on my long-term ‘to visit’ list (i.e when I win the lottery!). So no surprise, I was pretty excited at the prospect of meeting him, let alone dining in the same premises!
I dashed home, freshened up, changed, then Dan and I drove to Beaconsfield. Despite being in Buckinghamshire, it’s actually closer to London than Milton Keynes so it wasn’t a short trip but this was hopefully worth it! Beaconsfield is very, very pretty. I made a mental note as we passed through the high street, past all the bijou shops and cafes that I must visit again at some point.
We arrived at Brasserie Blanc with plenty of time to spare and take a few quick snaps of my outfit (thanks Dan!) We settled down at our table to a glass of champagne which went down a treat on a hot summer's evening. The interior of Brasserie Blanc was beautiful - it’s definitely one of the nicest restaurant interiors I’ve seen. We all had goodie bags which I couldn’t resist peeking inside of which had some vouchers and treats from local businesses in Beaconsfield including a very fetching tie, which I obviously gave to Dan.
The restaurant was full of other diners who were all undoubtedly Raymond fans themselves - though I felt distinctly like Dan and I were the youngest in the room. Jo and Q arrived and we hastily waved at each other before texting each other ‘#WheresRay’? as we embarked on our evening.
First up was a vaguely labelled ‘Tomato Essence’ which, if you have ever seen Raymond on TV you’ll know that this is made by filtering tomatoes to extract the water. This was an interesting one - Dan liked it but I wasn’t sure, mainly because it flies against everything you expect to taste when you eat tomatoes! This little glass was refreshingly sweet and danced on your tongue with a delicate amount of spice. This was served with a little tomato canape, topped with olive crumb.
The starter was glorious - a glazed mackerel fillet was served with an apple compote, coleslaw and seaweed salad. So many flavours, so many textures. The mackerel wasn’t at all fishy but had a delicate smokey flavour which contrasted nicely with the bitterness of the salad and the sweetness of the apple. The dish was beautiful to look at, a real spattering of colour on the plate.
The main course was my favourite dish of the evening. Simple but exquisitely executed, our plates were filled with a roast supreme of guinea fowl, a confit leg bon bon, citrus sauce and greens. This was summer on a plate! The citrus sauce was fresh and clean, cutting through the richness of the guinea fowl. The bon bon was absolutely gorgeous, and I definitely could have popped several more in my mouth!
Dessert was a little simple for me - charentis melon was served with raspberries, strawberries, sorbet and coulis, topped with a champagne jus. There was a nice crisp bit of caramelised sugar thrown in there too which added a nice bit of sweetness and texture. Although it was fresh and light and probably everything I needed after a few heavy courses, but I almost wanted something a little more extra. However, it emulated everything that Raymond Blanc was about - simplicity and quality of ingredients and it really was summer in a bowl.
As the guests were finishing their desserts, Raymond started to meander around the restaurant, greeting guests, taking selfies, signing menus and sharing stories, so I started to get very very excited - but alas, it was short lived as just before he reached our table, duty called and he was called up for a speech to the whole restaurant.
Although I’ve watched him on TV numerous times, his charisma and energy were really amplified in person. It was like his lifelong passion for food was culminating at this moment as he danced about the place waving his hands in the air, gesturing enthusiastically. He came across so genuine and shared his favourite stories from each guest during his Q&A session.
We were all invited to ask questions, which people did, ranging from what’s your favourite hotel, how is the Le Manoir garden doing and when are you going to make another TV show… But the whole room groaned when someone asked him what he thought of Brexit and I did a little facepalm. As I mentioned, we were likely to youngest in the room, so statistically, many were probably in favour of Brexit. Raymond recalled all his memories from the UK but I thought he summed it up beautifully by saying, “We can be enriched by other people's cultures. For me, Brexit was a real killer.”
My favourite part of his speech was when he focussed on the importance of sustainable cooking and eating. This is something I have a growing interest in, especially after watching an episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix which focussed on this. For Raymond, eating seasonally and buying local food and ingredients is key to being a sustainable chef and human being. He explained how everything we had eaten was all sourced locally and used seasonal ingredients, which is why every dish held the essence of summer - we were eating what was meant to be eaten at that time of year. It makes perfect sense.
What a wonderful evening we had. I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to chat with Raymond, but it was as inspiring and delicious as I expected it to be!
*This meal was provided complimentary but this doesn't affect my opinion. Photos of Raymond Blanc kindly donated by Jo from Girl Eats World who managed to capture Raymond's eccentric movements!