Since Le Manoir Aux Quatre’Saisons was awarded two Michelin stars for the first time in 1985, chef patron has become an unstoppable culinary force. Remarkably, year after year his ‘baby’ has held on to this accolade for three decades, although this continuous recognition comes as no surprise to those who have tasted the passion and commitment that goes with every dish. The flavours, textures, colours and flair are constant reminders of what world-class cuisine is all about.
While the every year rings in fresh challenges for and his team, 2014 was themilestone year for Le Manoir when it marked its 30th anniversary with the unveiling of the Heritage Garden. This kicked off with a competition to win the prestigious prize of designing Le Manoir’s new heritage garden, and the honour was awarded to Anne Keenan, a member of the Society of Garden Designers, whose glasshouse design ticked all the boxes for creating the right environment for growing heirloom seeds.
A team of skilled gardeners have been hard at work cultivating as much as 70 unique seed types in the new section of the estate’s 1.5 acre organic vegetable garden. These endangered varieties have been handpicked from Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library for their distinct flavour. Many of these date back to the 1700’s and 1800’s and have wonderfully quirky names with fascinating historical references: the ‘Lazy Housewife’, commonly known as the Climbing French bean, takes its time to rise, hence the nickname; the ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’, another bean variety, derives from a Cherokee legend about how corn and beans grew on the very spot where tears of the oppressed native Americans dropped.
But what is it that’s so special about heritage vegetables? In our over-industrialised planet where mass-production has diluted the taste and quality of greens, cultivating lesser-known varieties becomes even more significant, particularly when it comes to preserving the knowledge and use of open-pollinated ‘true to type’ seeds for future generations, increasing the garden’s biodiversity, while also allowing us to enjoy their distinct flavours and nutritional benefits. It’s also Raymond’s hope that this project will create awareness and inspire others to start their own heritage garden.
The fruits of this endeavour becomes apparent when you bite into that ravioli filled with fresh Delicata winter squash, winner of last year’s quash/pumpkin taste trial. Savour the young and tender Demi-long de Croissy turnips, an all-time favourite of ’s and a regular on the menu, while the Red Flowered Broad bean stands out for its edible flowers. At Le Manoir’s dining tables, organic vegetables are given a chance to shine in the culinary repertoire – the Terrine of garden beetroot and horseradish sorbet tease the tastebuds, and dainty micro leaves and herbs that spice up each dish are picked fresh each day.
Indeed, the future of organic gardening is well laid out at Le Manoir – from the Heritage garden and mushroom valley to the Asian garden, where exotic varieties such as lemongrass thrive. A nutritionally balanced diet is also a vital part of the menu here, so guests can tuck into the delightful seven-course feast knowing it is full of goodness. Those enrolling in ’s Cookery School will also have the opportunity to pick fresh vegetables and herbs to cook. Gourmet food has never been more tasty. Take a leaf out of Le Manoir’s organic gardens and enjoy great dining ahead.
Food images ©David Griffen
Cooking school©Mark Bassett