Glass joins a class in the cookery school of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire

“FOR ANYONE who is a pan-shaker, remove your hand from the pan on the heat. Take an empty pan from the drawer and shake that if you have to” chuckles Michael John, our course tutor for the day. He continues, “when browning a fillet of salmon, leave skin side down to caramelise. Shaking will cool it down and cause liquid to form. It will steam rather than sear.” Noted!

Mikey is the affable, cheeky head cookery school tutor at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, a Belmond Hotel in Oxfordshire, the first Michelin-star kitchen in the UK to have its own dedicated cookery school. With legendary chef Raymond Blanc at its helm, Le Manoir is a world-renowned two-star Michelin restaurant within the picturesque honey-coloured manor- house hotel that has luxury woven into its every pore. Set within 27 acres of manicured gardens (tended by 12 gardeners) in the leafy village of Great Milton in Oxfordshire, Le Manoir has become the pinnacle of gastronomic experiences in England.

Oxfordshire Travel issue 51

I have selected the ‘stocks and sauces’ cookery class from a long list of options which includes half-day to residential programmes including dinner-party masterclasses to children’s courses, each one showcasing recipes which inspired Raymond Blanc’s career. I am perched on a stool over a kitchen island together with five enthusiastic students, who are all excited to learn about the most fundamental component of French cuisine.

Attendees range in age and ability – from inquisitive beginners to advanced chefs, who all want to perfect their craft and impress their guests. We are handed recipe cards, a notepad, and our own complimentary chef’s jacket. After watching Mikey’s entertaining step-by-step demonstrations, we work in pairs, attempting to recreate some of the plates under his close supervision.

First up, we commence by making breakfast, asparagus with a lemon sabayon, a light version of hollandaise sauce. This is followed by a display of dishes, including pistou soup filled with tons of tiny chopped vegetables, a gewürztraminer sauce perfect for salmon, and a red wine sauce to accompany the steak. We conclude with a fluffy floating island placed on a sea of crème anglaise.

During a break from the kitchen, we head out to explore the extensive kitchen gardens. They are brimming with 250 different organic varieties of fruit, vegetables and herbs, which are grown for use in the restaurant and cookery school. Walking through the grounds, we notice the signage for the unique Raymond Blanc Gardening School, where a tutorial is in full swing inside the Botanical Greenhouse.

Oxfordshire Travel issue 51The Raymond Blanc Cookery School

Oxfordshire Travel issue 51Blanc de Blanc Suite at Le Manoir

Back inside the kitchen, we continue with our class. Throughout the day, each meticulous Michelin-starred dish is devoured on completion, with gasps of delight, each accompanied by glasses of wine specially selected by our sommelier. Finally, we are presented with a certificate – eight hours have never passed so quickly – and we depart with a sense of achievement and with plenty of enthusiasm for putting our new cooking skills into practice.

The manor house itself comprises 32 staggeringly opulent offerings, ranging from deluxe rooms to garden suites. My Blanc de Blanc garden suite with its private terrace has been designed by Raymond Blanc himself and is furnished and decorated in (obviously) white-on- white. The sumptuous marble bathroom houses a gargantuan shower and sunken bathtub with integrated TV. The four-poster bed takes centre stage in the bedroom and in the living room, a bottle of Veuve champagne is on-ice adjacent to fresh fruit and a box of hand-crafted chocolates.

In the evening, I stroll over to the dining room for dinner at the only British restaurant to have held two Michelin stars for more than three decades. As I indulge (very slowly) in the subliminal seven-course taster menu, I now appreciate the years of experience and expertise that have been invested in creating this supremely indulgent experience. This is a unique destination – where memories are made – and where dreams really do come true.

by Amanda Bernstein

Room rates start from £1,130 per night

To book a cookery course and/or arrange a stay, email or call 01844 278 881.