Saturday 23rd December
Aaaaaaaand... relax. Oh my, what a month. But deadlines have been met,
packages dispatched, and I can look up from my desk to find that gosh,
Christmas is here. Later today I'm off to Paris for Christmas en
famille - and if that wasn't enough to make you green with envy, I
thought I'd leave you with the menu from our recent trip to Le Manoir
aux Quatre Saisons. This was a long-planned celebratory trip courtesy of
The Doctors; my first truly starry experience (in the Michelin sense)
and oh, what a place to start. It was extraordinary. The food was
wonderful, of course; but the service was a revelation. Suddenly a lot
of things about the capitalist economy made a lot more sense. We were
having the Menu Découverte, and it went like this:
Champagne and canapés
Including the loveliest piece of tuna sashimi with ginger and sesame
Cornish crab, mango purée; grapefruit jelly
A tiny cup of white crab meat with sharp, bouche-amusing fruit
Confit of Landais foie gras, quince, aged balsamic vinegar jelly;
toasted sour dough bread
Well, I love foie gras. What's to say? Perfectly presented, gorgeous
Ceviche of Scottish sea scallop and tuna, shaved fennel and ginger
salad; lime dressing
Another bright, fresh fish course. The lime dressing meant both juice,
over the crunchy salad, and also finely ground zest around the rim of
the dish. There was caviare, too.
Free-range Ambroise Farm hen egg, watercress, fresh walnuts
The iron flavour of the wilted watercress was a fantastic contrast to
the rich soft boiled egg: a feat of culinary dexterity, as it had been
shelled and split leaving the runny yolk whole - hard to describe but
very impressive. There was bacon, too. Yummy.
Poached fillet of Cornish brill, Cancale 'Tsarskaya' oyster, wasabi and
Perhaps the most surprisingly good: oysters and cucumbers are, after
all, two of the last things I would choose to eat warm. A thin, frothy
Char-grilled Wagyu beef rump, wild mushrooms, celeriac purée;
More conventional: 'just' a perfect example of a classic. Wagyu beef is
as good as they say.
We were asked both whether and when we wanted cheese - our individual
choice from a trolley, of course. Some of the hards were looking
slightly end-of-the-night-ish, but the vacherin was superb.
'Kaffir' lime leaf and coconut tapioca, passion fruit and banana sorbet
After the beef and cheese, this was like a breath of fresh air.
Tiramisu flavours, cocoa sauce and coffee bean ice-cream
In other words, a deconstruction: a soft, boozy chocolate sponge with
mascarpone, ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Valrhona 'Araguani 72%' chocolate mousse, lemon butterscotch sauce and
The mousse was in a rolled up tuille. By this point (did I mention we'd
been drinking wines matched to each course by the sommelier?) I was
unqualified to tell the difference between crème glacée
and ice cream. It was light, though, and with the lemony sauce made you
realise how much care had gone into thinking how to ensure the tenth
course was as enjoyable as the first.
And then we had coffee and petit fours; and a tour of the kitchen.