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Meeting Raymond Blanc at The Chelsea Flower Show

I’ve had some fantastic opportunities to meet some of my foodie heroes through this blog, most notably my introductions to Michel Roux Jr and Wolfgang Puck last year. But last weekend I had the opportunity to meet a chef who I’ve admired for a great many years. But more on this later….

I was super excited to be invited down to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year as I’d never been before. I donned a floral dress and Mr S and I headed along to Royal Hospital Road to check out one of the world’s most prestigious horticultural show.

On this sweltering May day we were lucky enough to be starting our day one of the show’s hospitality tents…catered by the man himself, Raymond Blanc!
Passing through the gates and into a secret garden – a Wonderland of giant apples, mushrooms, and dancing rabbits.

A bar serving botanical cocktails, champagne and soft drinks…

And the opportunity to regress back to childhood!

We ducked in from the heat and into the main hospitality tent where I met up with fellow bloggers Fiona, Reena and Sophie who were already at our table. We’d missed the breakfast that was included on our package but made it to the show in time for lunch. Starters were a sharing board of fresh garden salads and vegetable, duck terrine, gravadlax and artisan breads…

Whilst main courses were a choice between roasted guinea fowl with red currants and lime or artichoke barigoule with bulgar wheat. In the centre of the table we had the chance to do our own pruning with an edible meadow of micro herbs for garnish. We skipped the dessert of strawberry and vanilla vacherin and went out to explore the rest of the show.

Having never been before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and the show was much bigger than I thought it would be. It was also very busy when we entered but it calmed down after lunch and we were able to get a closer look at the exhibitions.

The Show Gardens are a major feature of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and are the work of top garden designers. I really like this one named for The Silk Road Garden, Chengdu China by architect Laurie Chetwood and garden designer Patrick Collins who are exhibiting for the fourth time at the show. The garden is inspired by the ancient Chinese kingdom but uses familiar plants in Western culture while a ‘Silk Road’ bridge is used to link the different features of the garden.

The Fresh Gardens are more unconventional and explore several different themes. I loved this one called ‘The Breast Cancer Now’ Garden by Ruth Willmot which highlights the work of the charity and their research into thwarting the disease. The garden depicts a future of healthy cells viewed through a microscope but jagged rocks around the edges mimic the stealthy path of cancer. If you search the show carefully you can also find the smaller scale Artisan Gardens and the Feel Good Gardens championed by celebrities including Chris Evans, Anneka Rice and Zoe Ball. One of the central exhibitions is the Greening Grey Britain Garden which illustrates the issues of climate change, pollution, flooding and city expansion and solutions for a modern garden. There are 28 gardens in total!

The Great Pavilion is central to the show and features over 100 of the world’s best nurseries, growers and florists. A top tip is to come to the show on the last day as we did when prices are slashed and flowers are given away.

Mr S and I explored the show and selected dream gazebos and garden furniture, dreaming of the day that we have a big house with a huge garden. 
Or maybe we’ll just invest in some fancy topiary!

With tea time drawing in, Mr S and I headed back to the Jardin Blanc to find the others and have an introduction to some very special. 
As Mr S enjoyed his floral cocktail and I had glass of bubbles, Raymond Blanc appeared to say hello! I have been a huge fan of Raymond Blanc for many years and I’ve stayed at his famous hotel, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons three times and dined at the property’s two Michelin star restaurant. I also used to love his programme The Restaurant, and I was fortunate enough to meet his co-star, restauranteur David Moore last year. What I didn’t know until now is that Raymond is Vice-President of Garden Organic, the UK’s leading organic-growing charity and works closely with Royal Horticultural Society.

I don’t think my smile could have been any bigger as we got our group shot…

And I got my selfie!! Before sitting down to hear Raymond’s latest news and the changes afoot at his restaurant. I was keen to tell him about the first time I ever visited his flagship Oxfordshire restaurant and saw Mick Jagger on the next table! Apparently this is no rare occurrence at Le Manoir and many A-listers passed through the famous doors. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes but Raymond Blanc was utterly lovely and there were hugs all around for all of us!

Inside the hospitality tent, afternoon tea was being served. But not just any afternoon tea…this was an afternoon tea specially designed by Raymond Blanc. I tucked into the smoked salmon and spinach roll, whilst others chose the chicken caesar salad sandwich, mozzarella focaccia or brie baguette.

Inside our little greenhouse were the scones, served with special preserves made at Le Manoir.

Inspired by the beautiful florals, colourful macarons, fruit tarts, lemon cakes and eclairs made up the sweet selection. With coffee and teas in hand we headed outside to enjoy hopefully one of many sunny London days… 
Being not such a green-fingered person myself I’d never really thought of visiting the RHS Chelsea Flower Show but it’s a truly fabulous day out and we had so much fun!

We were guests of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.