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Le Manoir in its thirtieth year, for a very few, very special dinners – ‘Diner des protégés’. Throughout the course of the year, the wanderers will return to familiar surroundings, and - working with the existing team of chefs - produce a tasting menu, resurrecting and reinventing some of RB’s signature dishes, whilst incorporating creations from their own restaurants for an intimate gathering of fifty guests. The evenings commence with a champagne and canapé reception in the exquisite glass roof gallery, and mingling among the throng of guests and immaculately attired servers is Monsieur Blanc, introducing himself and his guests to one another, with a palpable sense of excitement and welcome. Our protégé for the evening is Michael Caines MBE, who after having flown the Le Manoir coop in 1994, earned his own two Michelin stars at Gidleigh Park Hotel in Devonshire. The dinner is held in the private dining room, where guests are seated in tables of ten. Once our glasses are charged, Raymond stands and officially (although in his typically enthused and flamboyant manner) welcomes us all into his home - Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and with pride ensures us all that there’s a tremendous evening ahead. We feast on eight intricate dishes, each an edible 20

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work of art, including lobster combined with cardamom, lime and mango, salted cod with crab and samphire and exotic fruit ravioli with kaffir lime and coconut - each course complemented by beautifully selected wines. The evening’s smooth flow is punctuated with an introduction to each course by the responsible chef, often playfully heckled by Monsieur Blanc. It’s all very light-hearted – a far cry from the thunderous kitchen relations espoused by other well-known chefs.

to slumber in a delightfully contented glow. After breaking my fast, devouring the best Eggs Benedict I have ever experienced, I take the opportunity to ramble through the gardens, meandering through the enchanting beds of flowers, fruit and foliage, contemplating the sculptures of the award-winning gardens.

Although the food takes centre stage, the night really revolves around the staff, past and present. As he dances between the tables, Raymond’s fervour is contagious. With conductor’s arms he enthuses his seated audience. But what is most endearing is that not a single opportunity is missed to praise the individual creator, concluding in a crescendo of parental pride as the entire kitchen and serving staff files into the room. Crushed between tables, chefs, and servers, sommeliers and pot-washers take their well-earned bow, with diners seeking the opportunity to congratulate them on their individual input.

But I can’t stop reflecting on the previous evening, and so I can only conclude that I have never felt so wonderfully spoilt than I have whilst in the care of Le Manoir. No special treatment: this is simply how every member of staff believes each guest should be treated. It was an experience I would be so delighted to repeat (regularly). And although this isn’t one I can enjoy on a weekly basis, contrary to common belief, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility for us mere mortals to savour one of these divine soirees with a little self-sacrifice. They are the most perfect way to celebrate a birthday, or an anniversary, just because these are the evenings that create memories, the glorious, forever kind. The kind Monsieur Blanc should be incredibly proud to provide.

As the night draws to a close, we retreat to our room, a sumptuous combination of classic and contemporary. With our shoes left out to shine and our breakfast request submitted, we succumb

Evenings will be held throughout the year, hosted by Raymond Blanc and a selection of his former protégés. Here are dinners scheduled from July to November:

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