Paul Spike gets a taste of the venue for the Eat Jersey Food Festival — and would like to go back for seconds
Every traveller keeps a list of life-saving hotels close to their heart. Mine includes The Lowell in New York City; La Colombe d’Or in Saint-Paul-de-Vence; the Inn of the Mountain Gods in Ruidoso, New Mexico; and the Sa Pedrissa in Deià, Mallorca. These are refuges for the spirit, destinations more than worth the journey, secure locations offering not escape from the world, but immersion in the very best of life’s experience. And, after just 24 hours, I felt The Atlantic Hotel on the west coast of the island of Jersey slip quietly on to my list.
Opened in 1970 by his father, Patrick Burke’s Atlantic is obviously not a grand old palatial confection of tradition and celebrity. There are only 50 rooms. The luxury is muted, tasteful, friendly. The location is spectacular, looking west straight into thousands of miles of open ocean across the sweeping crescent beach of St Ouen’s Bay. My room embraced me with every possible comfort, including a wonderful, firm bed and a pleasant sitting area beside the window’s panoramic view. There was nothing glitzy, no eccentric gimmicks, no brash, Trump-like vulgarity, just the relaxing security of genuine quality and good modern taste. I could have happily spent a week there, reading and thinking and, yes, resting. When not swimming in one of the two pools or off on any number of gentle cliff-top walks.
Downstairs, the Ocean Restaurant has boasted a Michelin star since 2007. This was the reason for my visit to Jersey, as it was hosting the second annual Eat Jersey culinary festival over four days. Eight leading British and Channel Island chefs (including Andrew Fairlie from Gleneagles, Tom Brown from the Capital in London and André Garrett from Cliveden House) were joining the Ocean’s own head chef, Mark Jordan, to cook a progression of multi-course feasts, along with appropriate wines. Taittinger was one of the sponsors, and nothing could have been more appropriate, to my mind, than the seemingly endless glasses of Taittinger Brut we were offered before Friday’s dinner.
Nine courses and many ‘appropriate’ vintages later, it was nearly midnight when we staggered off to bed. Unfortunately, my memorable highlights of the meal include as many bizarre moments as delicious tastes. In particular, I was amazed to find that my craving for some fresh local Jersey lobster (having toured the shellfish tanks at nearby Faulkner Fisheries earlier that afternoon) was blunted by a smoked lobster tail that screamed ‘creativity’ so loudly that I lost any hint of freshness. There were some extraordinary episodes in this culinary saga, certainly, but also a few that conjured up the studio kitchens on MasterChef Australia: awkward and self-conscious, striving without tasting. Frankly, I hope the old maxim about ‘too many cooks’ will be heeded next year when the Eat Jersey festival takes place again. Our lunch on Saturday, for example, was cooked by just two chefs and comprised only four courses, and it was sublime.
Among other activities packed into my Jersey visit, foremost was the tour of the amazing Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s extensive holdings of endangered living animals and its own farm, where all their exotic food is grown. The Eat Jersey festival supports the Durrell Trust. Although the weather was chilly and damp, a group of us were taken on an enthralling tour of the very humane habitats where silverback gorillas, fruit bats, meerkats and many other threatened species roam under expert, loving eyes.
The same kind of eyes that watch over the human guests back at the superb Atlantic Hotel, where I hope to return as soon as possible. Truthfully, the staff could not have been more professional, kind and generous, starting with the cosmopolitan owner, Patrick Burke, himself and down to the beaming waitress who kept topping up my glass with champagne. Bravo!
A three-night stay in The Atlantic Hotel arriving on 2 November 2017 costs from £510pp with return flights with BA from London Gatwick with 23kgs pp luggage, private return transfers and accommodation in a golf view room on bed and breakfast. (01425 480600, www.toursprestigeholidays.co.uk/ukholidays)