Even bathed in the grey light of a dull June day, the mellow stone walls of the fifteenth century Le Manoir and the abundant gardens that surround it, make it so much more than a mere restaurant and hotel. This is a tranquil slice of rural England centered around food and the best quality produce, much of which is grown and nurtured in the twenty acre estate that is Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons.
The estate is not a homage to the past, but nor has it thrown out its extensive history. The 15th century ponds fed by natural springs that were originally winter fish storage for the monks from the nearby priory, were used for irrigating the garden until a bore hole was sunk in 2008.
A graceful bronze flight of Terns, that rises from the surface of the water is now the teaser to the delights of sculpture that is in every corner of the garden.
This is a garden of preservation and experimentation, old English and French fruit varieties are grown alongside poly tunnels of asian herbs and spices, lemongrass, ginger and turmeric. New varieties are grown, as many as thirty of a particular fruit or vegetable, then tasted and only the most flavourful are kept and replanted.
Even the poly cloches are open for exploration, carpets of multi hued greens and purples fill one of the flimsy structures. Micro herbs, the tang of utter freshness that is so much sweeter and more delicate than its full grown counterpart, tiny bright green coriander, deep purple radish tops, oriental mustard and chrysanthemum greens. Each carefully chosen for its flavour and appearance.
The extensive vegetable garden supplies frilly lettuces, bouncing out from underneath terracotta cloches and amaranths draped in their fronds of tiny red – purple flowers, huge globe artichokes so sculptural they have been cast in bronze and even the humble carrot is less humble here, coming in heirloom varieties and a plethora of colours.
This is vegetable gardening at its most exciting and innovative, only the best will do, that means organic and hand picked. Raymond Blanc sees himself as custodian of this parcel of perfect English countryside and he has taken to the task of building, growing and blending to produce a garden as beautiful outside as the food on the plate inside.
Mr Glam and I visited Le Manoir for his birthday lunch
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