“A castle for the holidays”, on France 3: an early New Year’s Eve under the sign of Normandy and good humor

What is the difference between a palace and a castle? What does it mean to “flower” a dough or set the table in the French way? To be ready for the big day, Anne Boétie (“La Matinale” from France 3 Normandie) and host Raphäl Yem invite us, four days in advance, to a New Year’s Eve in a sublime castle

“A castle for the holidays”, on France 3: an early New Year’s Eve under the sign of Normandy and good humor

What is the difference between a palace and a castle? What does it mean to “flower” a dough or set the table in the French way? To be ready for the big day, Anne Boétie (“La Matinale” from France 3 Normandie) and host Raphäl Yem invite us, four days in advance, to a New Year’s Eve in a sublime castle. An unpretentious invitation, except to bring good humor. Which is rare enough to be highlighted.

A themed New Year’s Eve: 100% Norman. Also, to create ambiance, the setting plays a vital role. This is the little-known Château du Champ-de-Bataille, in Sainte-Opportune-du-Bosc in Eure. Desired by Count Alexandre de Créqui and built in the 17th century according to the plans of the architect Louis Le Vau (1612-1670), it has been the property, since 1992, of the French decorator Jacques Garcia. And it shows.

In his absence, his collaborator Sébastien Bagot takes care of the historical reminders – in a learned tone, certainly from the habit of guiding the groups – then of the visit, starting with the private gardens, the largest in Europe, with a topiary of 'elephant. As the guests arrive, all Normans, by birth or adoption. First the singer Christophe Willem and the novelist Katherine Pancol. Then Peter Doherty. Dressed in a large black hat, a large coat and a cane in his hand, the British singer wanders around with a false air of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with a youthful face and astonished eyes.

The interior of the castle offers a fantastic area for exploration, between secret period passages and more contemporary fittings – including a corridor with crocodiles on the ceiling. The table plan becomes clearer with the arrival of Clémence Castel, twice winner of “Koh-Lanta” and future presenter of “Ma petite escapade”, on France 3 Normandie; by Matthieu Tordeur, adventurer of the poles, and the comedian Edouard Delavoine, who immediately felt very comfortable.

Star chef

The menu is refined when Michelin-starred chef David Gallienne takes possession of the vaulted stone kitchen, with its banks of copper pans. As a starter, traditional oysters are the pretext for an excursion to an oyster farmer in Gouville-sur-Mer (Manche), before serving burnt leeks with kiwi vinaigrette – the gastronomic discovery of the day.

The mayonnaise sets. Between the musical interludes of Peter Doherty and Christophe Willem – relaxed and impressed in front of the table, straight out of a fairy tale, set with the crockery of Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838) – a short report in the illuminated village of Beauchêne (Orne) as a Norman hole. Between the pear and the cheese, a musician in a gold shirt “plays” a brief extract from Swan Lake by placing his hands on a theremin (or invisible harp)...

The only regret is the quarter-hour promo imposed at the table, while time is running out. So much so that the viewer – already deprived of wine, not politically correct – will not have dessert, the sequence not being included in the final edit. We can bet that, at the end of the year, there will be burnt leeks on the menu and Last Christmas on the playlist.