Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons with The White Company...

There are event invites and then there are event invites. As a freelancer and (what feels like rather occasional) blogger, I get invited to all sorts of events and it's generally very flattering. However, most days work needs to come first and, if I'm completely honest, not every invite is necessarily my kind of thing. There are some though that I immediately know are perfect and I say 'yes' to the moment the email hits my inbox. Ok, with a little delay, but that's just because I struggle to keep up with my emails. Though that's another story...

Clearly, the invite from The White Company for this day fell very squarely into the latter category and received my reply very swiftly. A day spent at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, being shown around the grounds and attending a cookery class with chef Mark Peregrine. Not something I would pass on. 

So, last week Tuesday I made my way to Marylebone train station to meet with a group of bloggers and take the train into the Oxfordshire countryside. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen on my 'stories' that the train ride was a beautiful start to our little adventure. All frosty landscapes and blue skies, the perfect weather for such a day. 

We arrived at Le Manoir and were greeted by coffee, pastries, an open fire and a Christmas tree tastefully decorated with ornaments from The White Company. After much excited chatter and meeting everybody, we were introduced to the head gardener who took us on a tour of the grounds and explained Raymond Blanc's thoughts behind every detail and every corner of the gardens. There were so many parts, details, aspects to it, from large, open lawns and small meadows, to a lake, a Chinese garden and a huge vegetable garden that supplies the kitchen with a large part of their fresh produce. Every small detail had been carefully considered, from the paths in the Chinese garden designed to deliberately slow our pace, to the planting of various types of leeks used for different dishes. I could happily have wandered around in the frosty air for another hour or two, but too soon our cookery class was calling... 

We made our way back to the house where we were led into the school kitchen and greeted by champagne, canap├ęs, a huge kitchen island that had been turned into an elegant and festive table and our teacher for the day, chef Mark Peregrine. After an introduction and much laughter (which may or may not have been down to the champagne flowing), we were given a demonstration of how to cook a festive meal. And of course we got to try each course - I mean, what would a cookery class be without eating? They were beautiful dishes packed full with flavour from a chicory, walnut and roquefort salad and a roasted duck breast with spiced red wine sauce to a gooey dark chocolate fondant. Everything was expertly prepared and each step explained with a great sense of humour. We were then all let loose to cook our own pan-fried salmon with a champagne and sorrel sauce. Such a simple but elegant dish that I'm certain I will make again for my own guests. 

The day seemed to just fly by and ended far too soon. After having eaten our way through the festive menu and gathered as many tips and tricks as possible, we had to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts and make our way back to London. Not, however, before being given some lovely souvenirs and gifts from Le Manoir and The White Company. A certificate from the cookery school, a Raymond Blanc bread knife, pretty Christmas decorations and a divine smelling 'Mistletoe' candle. As we stood on the dark and cold platform waiting for our train home, we were still chatting and laughing like old friends and reminiscing about the fab day we had.

Inspired by the chocolate fondant we had on the day, I have now made my own version with rum and a white chocolate centre and will share the recipe next week. And isn't that just the best kind of day? One that isn't only a day, but one that still inspires you afterwards... 

Disclaimer: Big 'Thank You' to The White Company and Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons whose guest I was for the day. All photography, text and opinions are my own.