Oli Blanc’s Favourite Places
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Oli Blanc (below right, with his brother Sebastian, left) is an actor, director and now App creator. The son of Oxfordshire-based Raymond Blanc, he has developed a children’s App, Henri Le Worm (£1.49, voiced by Simon Pegg), which aims to help children develop an interest in food and nature. Here are his favourite places.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
No surprise that this is one of my favourite spots in the world. We used to stay here as a family at Christmas before the hotel was open all year round and I have magical memories of young childhood years between 5-11 years, wxploring the old house and getting up to lots of mischief with my younger brother Sebastian. Everything felt like an adventure. I remember the roaring fires, the huge walled garden and pond. I also remember the ghost!
Le Manoir had been owned by Lord Cromwell, who’d had a riding accident and died in his bedroom. Twenty years later we bought the manor and renovated it, and his bedroom became a wetroom. As it opened for business, guests seemed to check out of that room more often they should, and I remember my sister staying there and hearing her scream at four in the morning as the room was utterly freezing despite the central heating – you could see your breath. Then he shower exploded. There was this sense of forboding that you feel as a human when someone is watching you. A priest was called in to perform an exorcism and after that everything was fine, but it was scary and thrilling at the same time.
I live in Hackney so I’m a bit spoilt for choice with trendy, funky places to eat out, but my favouite is Bistrotheque which does brilliant English fare despite its name – beautiful burgers, lovely roasts, fish n chips, that kind of thing. The interior is very stark and minimalist.
Grand Union canal
I’m London based now, but when I lived more locally I’d do an extended walk by the Grand Union Canal several times a year – The Berkhamsted section is particularly pretty. Or I’d take a boat along the river with a picnic, wine and friends. We’re all moving so fast these days that taking a boat feels like a rebellion, like allowing time to stand still so you can drift away.
Silverstone race track
The Maclaren team used to stay at Le Manoir so they used to invite us to the track. The mix of noise, speed and glamour isn’t for everyone but if you like classic cars like me they do some great races. As I get older I find myself veering more towards gardens and nature these days but I still love cars. I have a Jeep at the moment, but I’m planning on buying an old 1960s Porche with all those beautiful curves!
Chinor and Princes Risborough railway
I like a bit of tradition, and a train is a fantastic way to see the countryside. In a car you’re generally on a motorway, seeing no scenery, but a train ride is a lovely experience – I have ambitions to go on the Orient Express one of these days. I think we’re so lucky in England in terms of our countryside, but we just don’t realise it – the colours, foliage and variety of landscape. English countryside is up there with Africa in terms of beauty.
The French Table, Surbiton, Surrey
This restaurant is just gorgeous. Run by a husband (French) and wife (English) team, it’s small with only 50 covers and really good food – it’s not pretentious, and hovers around the 1 star Michelin mark. I used to go there when I had some money! Over the last few years I’ve been doing more cooking, particularly because I’ve been trying out recipes on the app. I do love my food but that’s no surprise!