10 Reasons To Visit Jersey This Spring
Jersey, the place so good they named a sweater after it. And a potato and a cow. Located just off the French coast, Jersey is the perfect island break, a fantastic combination of food and drink, stunning views and awesome people. The ideal place to leave London behind, and embrace a way of life you’ve been longing for. And it can all be done in a weekend.
It’s Closer Than You Think
It’s quicker to get to Jersey than it is to visit my closest IKEA. At 40 minutes from Gatwick it’s a short easyJet hop across The Channel and as an added bonus you don’t have to trail around with a trolley full of Billy bookcases. Even when you factor in the Gatwick Express, there are longer London commutes, and believe me there’s a huge different between St Helier, Carshalton, and St Helier, Jersey.
Once you’ve landed and found your way out of the tiny art deco airport, jump in a rental car and head to your hotel. This may be an island of just 46 square miles but there are a plethora of splendid hotels. Noteworthy are Longueville Manor, The Atlantic Hotel and The Club Hotel & Spa. The Club Hotel & Spa (of which more this Thursday) is located in central St Hellier, the island’s capital, making it ideal for mooching round the shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
If you thought that the speakeasy-style club was a London preserve, think again. St Hellier’s Project 52 goes toe-to-toe with Soho’s finest and comes out on top. Like all the best speakeasies, finding it is the first challenge. The anonymous door halfway down a cobbled alley, however, gives way to a real gem of a club, and one you won’t want to leave. Created by a small group of likeminded friends, Project 52 is part members’ club, part bar, serving simple food and complex drinks. For a real treat try the gin tasting menu, combining a variety of Fever Tree tonics with a range of carefully sourced gins and garnishes. Controversially, given the light-hearted inter-Channel Island rivalry, my favourite was Guernsey’s Blue Bottle gin. Tearing yourself away from Project 52 is a real mind-over-matter task.
Know where the best oysters in the British Isles can be found? You guessed it, Jersey. This is where the French, a nation of oyster shucking connoisseurs, come for the good stuff, with 80% of the island’s oysters ending up down French gullets. But the finest oysters have to be eaten within sight of where they’re caught, and there is no place more perfect than Sumas, a restaurant in Gorey overlooking the harbour and oyster fields beyond, where your lunch was just hours before. Bag a window eat and tuck in. Combine with a lunch and a glass of white wine and you’ll be in bivalve mollusc heaven.
Looking for lobster, craving for crab or if you’re after freshly caught anything then Jersey is the place to be. Surrounded by sea, the place lives and breathes fishing and fishes. Restaurants like Sumas and The Boathouse in St Aubin are ideal destinations to let your senses be taken over by chefs who know exactly what they’re doing with a fillet knife, or why not go and get your own? Faulkner Fisheries is a family-run former-Nazi bunker (now there’s a phrase you didn’t expect to hear), which has been turned into a vivier. The former fortress is full of pools containing just-caught, live, lobster and crab it’s the ultimate in fresh food.
It’s not just that I’m angling for an invite back (okay, it might be a factor), but everyone I met in Jersey was simply charming. From shopkeepers, to restauranteurs to strangers in the street, everyone was delightful to the point that it feels seriously weird to anyone coming from South London. Pull a London-driver aggressive pushing-out-into-traffic stunt here and people wave with ALL their fingers; they’re just nicer than us. And why wouldn’t they be? The lifestyle and pace of life of Channel Island life seems infectiously attractive to the point that nobody visits without wondering how easy it would be to up-sticks and relocate there.
Another benefit of being an island rich in its own produce, from the milk of the famous Jersey cows to potatoes to fish, is that the chances are that the food on your plate has been plucked out of the ground or sea in the last 24 hours. Mull this over a steak at Banjo in St Hellier as you try genuine Jersey Royal potatoes and blow your mind that you never realised what potatoes should actually taste like. It’s a real Christopher Columbus moment.
Literally The Best Blustery Walks
Come to Jersey in summer and pack your sunnies and plenty of factor 50, it’s the most southerly point in the British Isles and being that smidgen closer to the equator means it enjoys better weather than anywhere else. But this time of year, prepare instead for the best blustery seasidey walks around. And, as we all know, these are some of the best types of walks. Wellies and macintoshes on, bobble hat bobbling and head out into that headwind as you enjoy the stunning clifftops and majestic beaches. Break the journey with elevenses and a cuppa from the Hungry Man Kiosk in Rozel Bay, dinner at sunset at El Tico Beach Cantina or celebrate your step-count with a spa massage. A massage followed by a sauna and swim in the salt waterpool at the spa bit of The Club Hotel & Spa and I was a new man.
Stumbling across a brilliant bakery is a bonanza at the best of times, but doing so in the middle of a scotch egg craving and then happening upon the place that does the best scotch eggs on Jersey is literally like manna from heaven in sausagemeat and boiled egg form. Step forward The Works. Famed for its artisanal produce The Works is a bakery packing a serious punch, and even more serious coffee.
The Michelin people have been and deemed two Jersey restaurants worthy of their coveted stars. Given its size this only confirms the entire food scene on the island is clearly leagues ahead of most parts of the British Isles, but of particular note are Ormer, formally Shaun Rankin’s gaffe and named after the eponymous type of crab, and Bohemia, where the tasting menu is out-of-this-world (granted this is from a man who one paragraph ago was likening scotch eggs to manna from heaven, but I know food and know that Bohemia is something special). And if it’s good enough for an obese French man made from tyres, then it’s certainly good enough for me.
In summary, within 40 minutes you can go to Watford, Slough or just South of Croydon, or you can take an incredibly fun weekend minibreak to Jersey this spring. I know which I’d recommend.