Hands up if you know Jersey has its own currency, Nope?
A ‘fiver’ in Jersey is very much like the English five pound note, except for one small, but critical detail. The queen is smiling. Yes, beaming from ear to ear. It’s somewhat alarming, but having spent a few days on the island between France and the UK, I can see how this might be unavoidable. Life on the small island is blissful.
I wonder if, before posing for the portrait, she had perhaps eaten at one of the three Michelin starred restaurants on the island. Or maybe she had slept in the plush downy comfort of the bed I enjoyed at the luxe The Atlantic Hotel. Did she breathe deeply to inhale the salt tinged air and slip into slumber to the gentle hum of sea life and lapping water? Jersey is indeed a balm for the soul.
I’m not sure what the weather was like when the Queen had her grinning self penned, but the warm weather had moved hemispheres by the time I visited in November. This was perfect timing. Early November sees the annual Eat Jersey food festival, which celebrates the rich foodie scene in the largest of the Channel Islands. Michelin stars from the island, as well as several from the mainland, come together to coax, flatter and seduce the spectacular local produce. For me, it was perfect timing.
For a tiny island of 5 miles long by 9 miles wide, Jersey is home to not one, not two, but three Michelin starred restaurants. Surely an oddity to be considered for the next edition of the Guinness Book of Records? Blessed with rich farming land and an amazing coastline, Jersey’s field to fork (or sea to service) scene is strong.
Mark Jordan’s Michelin starred restaurant, Ocean at The Atlantic Hotel provided a perfect showcase for the island’s extraordinary fresh produce. I’ve eaten Mark’s food before (review here) and knew I was in for a couple of days of exceptionally fabulous fare. For the festival, Mark buddied up with local and British Michelin starred chefs to produce a cavalcade of beautifully prepared dishes – each slightly outdoing that which came before.
One of my favorite dishes of the weekend’s scoffing fest were Mark Jordan’s beef with dauphinoise cappuccino and beef marmite. A gorgeous presentation of one of the island’s best known exports – Jersey beef. And from the pristine Jersey sea, visiting Michelin starred chef Andrew Fairlie’s smoked local lobster with lime was sublime.
Andrew’s lobster was sourced from Faulkner fisheries, a family owned fishery headed up by Sean Faulkner. I loved hearing his story as an adventurous and slightly naughty 9 year old, scrambling over the rocks and outcrops opposite his home; playing at the base of the ugly derelict concrete German bunker, not knowing that this impenetrable war relic would one day become the epicentre of his successful seafood business.
As an adult in 1985, Sean negotiated with Jersey authorities to convert the bunker to a series of water tanks which hold the day’s haul of sea jewels. Lobster, local crabs, oysters, mussels and other molluscs are hold up here in the “seafood transit lounge”, before being transported – generally within 24 hours – to the loving arms of the island’s chefs or eager exporters. I was happy several fell into the arms of Andrew Fairlie who treated them with care and simplicity creating a dish which heightened their sweetness and lengthened with luscious briny umami.
The wines over the weekend were just as you’d expect – brilliant. Lively and vibrant whites. Bubbles by Tattinger, Big earthy reds where needed. I particularly enjoyed Tom Brown and Mark Jordan’s lunchtime tasting menu with exceptional wine pairings from boutique wine producer, Levin Wines. The 2011 Mister L Sauvignon Blanc was a bit of a show stopper when paired with Tom’s elegant hake with clotted cream and cider sauce.
Jersey is such a haven from the frenetic lives we live. As a short flit across the channel (1hr) – I do wonder if Ma’am sneaks away more often than we know, spending her weekend eating well, sleeping well, breathing deeply and perhaps even smiling at herself, smiling at herself.
The Eat Jersey Food Festival is held each year in the first week of November. It’s definitely worth popping in your diary now, for next year. On this occasion I attended as a guest but every word written is from my own heart, via my own stomach.
Have you read my Review of Skye Gyngell’s Spring Restaurant?