Raymond Blanc opens new restaurant in Knutsford's Royal George Building
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 August 2016
Raymond Blanc OBE is well known for his luxurious country house hotel and restaurant, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, with its two Michelin stars and world renown, so why his desire for a string of brasseries too?
met with Raymond for a cheeky fifteen minute interview on the opening night of his new Knutsford brasserie, conscious that this busy man would no doubt be dragged away soon after I arrived. Fifty minutes later, with an aching hand from much scribbling, aching cheeks from much giggling and two glasses of Blanc du Blanc encouraging more of both, I have to admit I was falling a little in love.
Raymond launched his first Brasserie, Le Petit Blanc, in 1996.
‘I always wanted to do Brasseries as I thought this was what Great Britain was missing,’ he tells me. ‘When I came to England it was an abyss; England seemed to have lost everything: its great brands, its engineering, its all. The 70’s weren’t the best time to open a restaurant! Now it is France that is in the abyss – but they will recover, as you have!’
Raymond is warm and funny, open and honest. He speaks at 100 miles an hour, in a still delightfully, deliciously, strong French accent. As we talk he sketches his thoughts out, pictures and words, underlined and scored through. He shows me photos on his phone and frequently stops me writing to share stories and nuggets ‘not for ze newspapers.’ He’s wonderful company and clearly the wellspring of the ethos of all his restaurants, summed up when he describes the training all his staff undertake: ‘All our staff need to connect with our values; it enriches them and other people. Our customers must feel the warm fuzzies, not the cold pricklies.
‘The culture of Brasserie Blanc reflects Le Manoir: inclusive luxury. At Brasserie Blanc you will find affordable quality and warm, proper hospitality. Luxury is changing. Here there is no need for pretence or dressing up. Every day in life we are getting more stressed, we have less time to do more things, so when you come in a restaurant it’s time to relax and celebrate life with the people you want to be with. You don’t want to be bothered with fuss - about what wine we drink with our fish and all that nonsense. Luxury used to be all about thick carpets and haughty waiters; ignorance used to rule our choices and now knowledge does. It’s empowering; we are much more aware. This is a mighty revolution – and it’s much more British than French.
‘This place [The Royal George, in Knutsford], is the place of the original café society of Knutsford; I like this. It reflects the café society of Paris, where writers and artists gather – I like this association with the history of this building. Here you have knowledgeable customers - curious, bon vivant – and where a restaurant can really be part of a community and not separate from it. To me this is very important: food connects with everything and everyone.
‘When you make a business commitment it’s not only this, it’s a commitment to the whole community, a collective movement to putting food at the heart of our society. The name Blanc can somehow dampen the enthusiasm, but I assure you our values are of fun and generosity and good food and sustainability.’
At this point he leaps up and heads off to where the serving staff are being given a pre-opening briefing. He interrupts and tells them: ‘Give everything your compete attention, your complete intelligence; be always alive in your brain and your heart.’
No more need be said, I think.
Royal George Building, Regent Street, Knutsford WA16 6GR | 01565 622 900