Treasure island: Jersey’s fantastic food scene

by Ollie Lloyd

The huge success of the inaugural Eat Jersey Food Festival has put the island's incredible produce and restaurants under the spotlight. Ollie Lloyd went to the festival's opening night and discovered a place brimming with world-class cuisine and passionate suppliers.

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Ollie is the founder of Great British Chefs.

Ollie is the founder of Great British Chefs.

For the average British mainlander, Jersey has been associated with some great ingredients for a long time – most notably the famous Jersey Royal potatoes, unbelievably creamy milk from Jersey cows, fresh oysters and giant, sweet lobsters. But while it’s always been a popular holiday destination, it’s only recently that the small channel island tucked between England and France has become known as a place to go for food. It’s surprising this didn’t happen sooner; after all, there are plenty of beautiful, luxurious hotels, award-winning restaurants (four of which hold a Michelin star, an incredible number considering how tiny Jersey is) and brilliant markets, delis, butchers, fishmongers and grocers selling some of the freshest and highest quality produce I’ve ever come across. But people are starting to take notice of Jersey’s food scene, and with good reason. This year marked the first Eat Jersey Food Festival, created by Patrick Burke and the team at his luxury hotel, The Atlantic. He wanted to find a way to fly the flag for Jersey’s world-class produce and make it a place known for fantastic food around the world. His solution? Bring over acclaimed chefs from across the Channel Islands, mainland Britain and France (with a combined six Michelin stars between them) for a weekend to create special menus showcasing the very best of what Jersey has to offer. I was lucky enough to attend the first of these three dinners.

Cream of the crop

The festival took place at Mark Jordan’s Michelin-starred restaurant based in The Atlantic Hotel, Ocean at The Atlantic, which acted as the festival’s headquarters over the weekend. For the first night the five courses were created by Mark along with England’s Russell Brown (formerly of Sienna), Guernsey’s Simon McKenzie (of The Brasserie Restaurant), Jersey’s Steve Smith (of the Michelin-starred Bohemia) and Frenchman Philippe Hardy (of the Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Mascaret). They certainly made for an amazing brigade of chefs, but the real star of the night (and, indeed, the festival itself) was the island's produce. Royal Bay oysters, famed Jersey scallops, crab, turbot, local cider and beef were just some of the ingredients being prepped and cooked in the kitchen. For an island that’s just nine miles long and five miles wide, that’s pretty impressive.

It’s safe to say that the dinner – and Eat Jersey overall – was a huge success, and the visiting chefs returned home with a greater understanding of what makes the island so special. It’s not just the produce that’s grown, caught or reared that stands out; the people behind the food are what really make the place worth visiting. Mark and Steve both live and cook on Jersey, and their relationships with the local producers and suppliers mean they have access to the very best the island can offer. But after a quick visit to the market in St Helier, I realised that the same quality was on sale to the public, too; it appears there’s more than enough great produce to go around. One thing’s for sure – the island’s food scene is going from strength to strength, and I look forward to watching it grow (and, of course, returning next year for the second Eat Jersey dinner).