TRAVEL

Le Manoir Aux Quat'saisons

CONCIERGE – The F1 Inside Track - - CONTENTS -

Sim­plic­ity is at the heart of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons. But, as its cre­ator, the French chef-pa­tron Ray­mond Blanc, ex­plains: “Sim­plic­ity is never easy.”

He re­calls crit­ics who baulked at the price of Pablo Pi­casso’s line draw­ings. “They went to see his work and looked at the £200,000 price tag,” he re­counts. “They asked: ‘For just one sin­gle line? Are you jok­ing? This work must have taken you two min­utes.’ Pi­casso looked at them and said: ‘It took me five sec­onds to draw, but a lifetime to cre­ate’.”

Blanc’s leg­endary restau­rant earned two Miche­lin-stars when it opened 35 years ago and has re­tained them ever since. He was the first chef to cre­ate a veg­e­tar­ian à la carte menu when, as he ex­plains, “there were no veg­e­tar­i­ans”.

There are 12 gar­dens in to­tal, as well as a gar­den­ing school, in the ver­dant grounds of Le Manoir in the Ox­ford­shire vil­lage of Great Mil­ton, and they pro­vide the roots

for the whole ex­pe­ri­ence. His gar­dener has worked with him for 35 years, and over­sees every­thing from the Medic­i­nal Herb Garden and Eng­lish Wa­ter Garden to the Ja­panese Tea Garden in­spired by a trip to Ky­oto.

In fact his extensive trav­els (“I am 150 peo­ple in a sin­gle French­man,” he says in his typ­i­cally ex­u­ber­ant style) in­form each of the 32 in­di­vid­u­ally-de­signed rooms, lav­ish bath­rooms and el­e­gant lounges of the ho­tel – but for­mal­ity is some­thing in short sup­ply.

“Mod­ern guests are amaz­ingly well­trav­elled, they are knowl­edge­able, but they are exhausted,” he ex­plains. “They travel the world, they never see their fam­i­lies, they are un­der con­stant stress. When they visit they want to re­lax. They want to live, they want to talk to their loved ones. They want an ex­pe­ri­ence that is to­tally ef­fort­less with no pre­ten­tion.”

“Sim­plic­ity, pu­rity, crafts­man­ship and cre­ativ­ity – then most of all you have to be rel­e­vant. This is what makes an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ence. ” Ray­mond Blanc

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