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Liz Stansfield finds peace and quiet in uncertain times with a foodie trip to the island famed for its perfect potatoes
‘You must never crush a Jersey Royal’, farm owner Christine tells me during a tour of her family-run operation on the famous island. ‘All these chefs doing fancy things... You just need them boiled and served with a little butter.’ Who am I to argue? It’s my first trip to Jersey, so I’m a novice when it comes to the island and its legendary spuds.
And what a time to visit – it’s just before lockdown number one, after wild storms caused havoc across the UK and Flybe (the main operator to Jersey) went bust. But landing on this beautiful island – which, though not part of Great Britain, is one of the British Isles – the chaos of the real world melts away in moments. This is a rather special place – and a foodie one at that.
I’m here for the annual Eat Jersey Food Festival, hosted at The Atlantic Hotel, where executive chef Will Holland is joined by a brigade of experts to put together a five-course feast. The Atlantic is perched right on the coast, with a cracking view of St Ouen’s Bay. It’s family-run and has an easy, friendly vibe throughout the complex, which includes 50 rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, and the à la carte Ocean restaurant, with its emphasis on fresh Jersey produce. (What else?).
It’s been run by the same family for 50 years, and the owner, Patrick, swings by to say hello and welcome us to the festival. I suspect he’d be happy talking to guests seven days a week – such is the warm welcome from him and all the staff.
The Ocean restaurant is the setting for Eat Jersey’s opening night, where a ‘gourmet celebration’ is promised – and it doesn’t disappoint. We’re served five courses of truly beautiful cooking, each with a wine paired by The Atlantic’s characterful sommelier. ‘You’re my favourite guests!’ he promises each and every table. It never gets old, and his enthusiasm for a good bottle of wine is infectious.
We dine on Jersey scallops, beef tartare and wild pesto, perfectly cooked turbot and more. My dish of the night is dessert, which I’m forever grateful that I still have room for – the Jaffa Cake tart with orange and Jersey yogurt ice cream is heavenly. I fall into bed feeling very round, very happy and full of grand plans to run it all off along the coast the following morning.
Of course, that doesn’t happen. Instead, I fling open the Juliet balcony and spend an hour watching the waves from bed, clearing my fuzzy head before heading off to see one of Jersey’s most famous attractions – the zoo. The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is based on the island and does all sorts of impressive work to save under-threat species from around the world. It’s a long-standing partner of the Atlantic Hotel, and after my trip I’m pleased to read that Eat Jersey raised more than £5,000 for the charity from this event in 2020.
Back at The Atlantic we sit down to sample the hotel’s lunchtime tasting menu, where lobster salad, poached sea bass and beef with bacon, caramelised onion and horseradish cream is on the menu. Locals drop by for Sunday lunch, and the afternoon tea is a popular choice for celebrations, especially when it’s served on the terrace with views of the coast.
The restaurant has a good buzz, even during a midweek lunch, and is a happy place to spend a few hours expanding the waistline and watching the waves. I fly home (clutching my bag of fresh spuds) to a very strange time for the world. But as I settle into lockdown life in London, Christine’s wise words from Jersey about the simple life ring loud in my ears – and I’m sure never to crush those perfect potatoes ever again.
How to book
Rooms at The Atlantic start from £160 per person, per night, on a bed and breakfast basis. Check the website for more details and information on the Eat Jersey Food Festival in 2022. theatlantichotel.com.