Disclosure: Our meal was complimentary. As always all thoughts and words are my own.
Balancing a day job with a blogger double life sometimes means rushing to change in the work toilets at lightning speed and scurrying out to the car all dolled up in the hope that no one will see. Some events are too exciting to miss and this was a big one: an evening with Raymond Blanc at Brasserie Blanc in Beaconsfield!
First of all, Beaconsfield is beautiful, and the setting for their own Brasserie Blanc is just as pretty. Our Brasserie in Milton Keynes is perfectly good looking, but the old-meets-new setting here was wonderful. You better believe I did the usual of imagining it was my house.
Each seat for the event was adorned with beautiful gift bags from local businesses. It took every ounce of adulting in me to not rummage around until we got home! We arrived early, which was lucky for photos as it wasn’t long before the entire room was absolutely packed.
First up on the menu was ‘Tomato Essence’ which like all fine dining menus was characteristically vague. I only knew what this was because I’ve watched Raymond make this signature dish on his programmes. I remember marvelling at the long and painstaking filtering process of the tomatoes to extract a perfectly clear water tinged with orange. What a faff I admit to thinking, and I was very excited to actually taste whether it was worth the effort.
Oh good grief. How? How is this little glass of tomato infused water so damn delicious? It’s beautiful; it feels so pure and cleansing as you drink it. There’s incredible layers to the flavours as well where it begins as sweet then moves to savoury, before finishing with a delicate spicy hum. Really, really intriguing and I think my favourite thing from the entire menu.
Our starter was a colourful, almost artistic presentation of glazed mackerel fillet with apple compote, coleslaw & seaweed salad. This was a very oily, quite bitter dish with and interesting mixture of flavours. The charred mackerel skin was pretty as a picture to look at.
One champagne, one amuse bouche and one starter in and I was leaning back and forth in my chair to spot the man I was desperate to see. I messaged Sophie on a nearby table with #WheresRay.
On first glance of our main it looked rather safe. But of course, it was a beautiful execution of simplicity, made to shine with such fresh ingredients. Roast supreme of guinea fowl with a confit leg bon bon, citrus sauce and the most wonderful tasting greens that I have eaten in a long time. Actual Summer on a plate, and that bon bon was divine!
Dessert again appeared very simple. Charentais melon, raspberries, strawberries, sorbet and coulis & champagne jus.
And yes, it was a simple dessert. But bloody hell if it wasn’t the nicest, plumpest fruit I have had in forever. Biggest raspberries I’ve ever eaten! I loved the crisp sugar work delicately crowning the bowl. And I feel the bowl should also be mentioned: smooth and oversized it felt almost nostalgic of eating dessert as a child. Joyful. Don’t let anyone ever tell you the crockery doesn’t matter.
He suddenly appeared to the left of us and began to work his way around the tables. I couldn’t contain my excitement as he got closer to us and I was beaming in my chair until he arrived to say hello.
I’m sure at this stage I was supposed to bear in mind my blog content, ask to move to better lighting and insist that the photo was taken on my camera. But it didn’t feel right and instead we captured a really honest moment: not blogger at work, but two fans meeting someone they truly admire. Look at those smiles!
And speaking of admiring Raymond Blanc, I came away from this evening doing so even more. He is the most genuine and lovely man. He took time to speak to everyone and it wasn’t just lip service: he really cared. He even wrote little notes down about the guests so he could remember and add personal thanks during his Q&A session.
At 68 years old he shows no signs of slowing down and he darted about with his mic eccentrically recalling stories and answering questions.
Among the light hearted questions about when he planned to make another TV show and how was the garden at Le Manoir doing in the heat wave, came more serious questions followed by inspiring answers.
I died a little inside when someone asked Raymond what he thought of Brexit. Particularly when statistically speaking there were most definitely a number of Brexiteers. After recounting a stories about his many travels and his life in the United Kingdom, his response in closing was:
“We can be enriched by other people’s cultures. For me Brexit was a real killer.”
Oh Ray <3
Raymond was also asked what he would tell his younger self if he could go back in time. This inspired an extremely passionate speech on sustainability. The importance of buying locally and eating seasonally, along with accepting that we all cannot continue to live the way that we have been. He spoke with great enthusiasm about how seasonal produce is not only cheaper, but tastes so much better. For me, this speech summed up the food we had just eaten, in how wonderfully fresh the fruit and vegetables had been to make simple Summer dishes absolutely outstanding.
What a brilliant evening! Q and I drove to Beaconsfield in hope of meeting a chef we have admired for a very long time. I expected to come away with a celebrity photo and a belly full of great food. What I hadn’t planned for, was leaving with a head full of inspiration.