It’s summer, which means our traditional lunch at Le Manoir aux’Quat Saisons.
Aside from a hiatus of a few years while we were busy wrangling babies and toddlers, a pilgrimage to Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin-starred just outside Oxford has become an annual event for Heather and me. By my reckoning this was either our 11th or 12th visit. It has become a highlight of our summer season, in the same way that Wimbledon, Glastonbury or Henley Regatta is a core part of other people’s.
Here’s something you probably don’t know about us. We have never been away together without kids since becoming parents. Not for a weekend, not even an overnight stay. We’ve had evenings out. We’ve sent one or two kids away to their grandparents’ for a few days. And we’ve even been away separately – but never together.
We didn’t plan it that way. It just kind of … happened. For six years we always had one child under two who we didn’t want to leave. And then we suddenly had three kids and we wouldn’t wish all of them on anyone, even for one night. So I go away to blogging events or with work, while Heather goes away for occasional weekends with her friends.
Instead of a romantic child-free weekend, we opt for a single day of decadent eating. To be fair, the weekend would probably be cheaper. But it’s what we choose to do.
And it really is a day. We arrived before midday and left at about 4pm. In between we started with aperitifs and appetisers by the croquet lawn before moving inside for our five-course lunch. Back outside for tea and petit fours and then a gentle stroll around the Japanese, vegetable, herb and wildflower gardens before heading home.
All the food is so mouth-wateringly good that it’s hard to pick a single highlight. My personal favourite is a perfectly cooked hen’s egg with watercress purée, Jabugo ham and toasted hazelnut. But visually it’s hard to beat this simple confit of cod with chorizo and coco beans.
You may think we’re mad for preferring a 4-hour lunch over an entire weekend away. But believe me, we’re more than happy with our choice.