Just one year away from celebrating its 25th anniversary, The Raymond Blanc Festival of Music is a unique gastronomic and musical extravaganza held annually at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. This week I was lucky enough to be invited along by Raymond himself.
Any opportunity to stay at this gorgeous place, easily one of my all-time favourite hotels, is a welcome one. And the chance to see the great jazz musician Courtney Pine play in the intimate surroundings of the chapel was sure to make for an exhilarating evening.
On arrival at the hotel I was once again blown away by the incredible service and attention to detail. Whisked up to my room, who should I meet in the corridor but Courtney himself. I would have liked to stop and say something but reckoned he probably wanted to ready himself for the concert ahead.
Following a cocktail reception we all headed over to the neighbouring St Mary’s Church where Courtney and his bass clarinet, accompanied only by fellow Mercury nominee and MOBO-winning pianist Zoe Rahman, performed a collection of ballads. The stripped back vibe was wicked and the musicianship incredible. And when it came to Amazing Grace, one of my late father’s favourites, I admit I had to hold back the tears.
A perfect evening concluded with a superb feast prepared by Raymond and his long-time executive head chef Gary Jones, that featured an out of control beetroot terrine, lobster ravioli and one of Le Manoir’s signature duck dishes.
Needless to say I slept like a baby. The next morning a short stroll around the glorious grounds in the autumn sunshine capped off a truly memorable experience.