Thursday, September 18, 2003

Prawn cocktail, steak and chips and a black forest gatox

My idea of posh food served by a French person is having a Pret a Manger Super Club sandwich on Regents Street. Le Manoir Quat’ Saison is a level of quality and service I can barely comprehend.

Whilst Emma’s been telling people the reason we took lunch at the world famous restaurant was because “We were hungry” it was actually because my family bought her a meal for two for her 30th birthday.

As you can probably tell, this is no six quid chicken in a basket merchant. Le Manoir is owned by Raymond Blanc. Imagine, if you can, a cook so famous he’s beyond Ready Steady Cook.

Let’s pause to contemplate that bombshell…

It’s so high class it’s coming back the other way. The quality of the service, food, and surroundings is so high there’s simply no need for any snotty pretence which means you’re made to feel entirely comfortable and relaxed.

We took drinks and ordered our food in the gardens. The wine waiter didn’t, as I thought he might, suggest ‘Vin au Imbeciles’, before walking away sniggering smugly to himself. His recommended Chardonnay was spot on. Only Emma was drinking so she went for a half bottle at £28, which means unless you benefit from some economies of scale by going for a full bottle, you’re looking at £56 for the full Monty. And that was a cheap one – one Champagne was £1600 – a lot of money to giggle stupidly and say “Ooh the bubbles have gone up my nose”.

After a little Cod thing to clear the palette it was on to the vegetable soup. Now I’m no expert, but I’d wager it didn’t come from a tin. In fact it was so green each bowl must have contained such a concentration of vegetables that it would’ve fed a small African nation. Our French waitress took us through our order step by step, although she did get her translations a little mixed up telling us rather than it having “hints” of flavour, that there “maybe a little parmesan”. Given the price I’d have expected something a little more definitive.

For the main course, I had cod and mash, although in posh restaurants it’s “crushed potato”, Ooh, get you. Emma had lamb.

Then came the cheese.

When we have cheese it’s usually Tesco blue stripe, it’s usually mild cheddar and it’s usually in kilogram blocks. We like cheese. The nutty offer of the cheese course before dessert was readily accepted and a gargantuan choice presented. Like a Countdown contestant I took a selection from all over the plate. They were orgasmic. My experience of blue cheeses is that they can burn your nostril hair; this offered me a taste that toured my mouth. Just as it seemed it was going to consume my head and overpower my taste buds, it retreated, tantalisingly giving me something new to deal with. It was perfectly balanced, so constant, never too much, never too little and at just £5 for a piece little bigger than a Trivial Pursuit segment, I don’t think I could go back to Tesco Blue Stripe (because I can’t afford to).

The meal was finished with a desert which was so posh it made Vienetta seem like a poor man’s posh ice cream. We took coffee in the gardens.

Although price of the meal in total would have been roughly the same as a weekend away in a three star hotel being there for four hours was like being in another world, I’m go back to tomorrow… because I have to wash the dishes.


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