The Channel Islands offer some of the best value gourmet food and gastronomic experiences in the world.
From 1st October to 11th November Jersey’s “Tennerfest” (it’s the 25th anniversary this year) offers menus from £10 to £20.
Many award-winning restaurants participate, including Andrew Baird’s Longueville Manor with its Victorian garden in St Saviour, El Tico Beach Cantina on Le Grand Route des Mielles overlooking St Ouen’s Bay and The Atlantic Hotel on La Mont de la Pulente, St Brelade next to La Moye Golf Club looking across St Ouen’s Bay.
Its Ocean Restaurant has a market menu and Executive Chef Will Holland’s showcase 7-course, “Tasting Room” menu last year featured Jersey dairy cow tartare.
Holland is worth sampling. He was awarded his Michelin star before he was 30 years old. At thirteen, he worked at a local butcher’s shop after school and at weekends.
If you are lucky, you might be cooked traditional dishes like bean crock (dried beans with pigs’ trotters), “la soupe d’anguilles” (conger eel soup) or “fiottes” (sugared flour and eggs). A word of warning: “Jersey Cabbage Loaf” is very musical.
Crash a local event, community or fete and you may also be propositioned with some “Jersey Wonders” (“Des Mervelles”).
Traditionally, Jersey housewives cooked their Wonders as the tide went out. If they cooked them on an incoming tide, the fat in which the Wonders were cooked would invariably overflow the pan. The nearest equivalent is the doughnut, although Wonders are never coated in sugar or filled with jam.
The more weight-conscious and less sweet-toothed, just settle for a half pint of shrimps or prawns.
Very good restaurants include the Seymour Inn, Bass & Lobster, The Boathouse and Oyster Box. The best crab sandwiches are found at “The Hungry Man” in Rozel Bay.
Perhaps the most unusual snack is biltong. There are over two thousand South Africans on the island. Le Hocq Inn at St Clement is the hub of consumption and very moreish dried meat worship.
Boasting the most millionaires per square mile in the British Isles, the Crown Dependency of Jersey is considered one of the best places to eat in the U.K.
When you think of Jersey your gastric juices make you instantly think of its royal potatoes, “heritage” tomatoes (and carrots), Royal Bay oysters, lobsters, spider and chancre crabs, hand-dived scallops, bi-valve mussels and its beef. And your palate swoons.
But black butter may not come so quickly to mind.
Jersey cider butter is an ancient hangover from the times when the Channel Island was covered in apple orchards and cider drinkers.
Every autumn, St. Lawrence’s “La Faisie d’Cidre” celebrate Jersey’s rich heritage of growing apples and making cider. The highlight is traditional cider making using horsepower to pulverize apples, then building layers of pulp on a press to extract juice. There is a crush to see ye olde apple crushing skills being demonstrated. And every other person seems to be an apple expert. Or ardent black butter enthusiast.
The traditional farmhouse delicacy called “Beurre Nier” in Jerrais (the local Norman-French dialect) is spread on bread and toast or can be paired with cold meats or curry.
Cider has been made on Jersey since the sixteenth century. The eighteenth century saw its glory days. Cider supplemented wages. So as not to waste the apple harvest, Black Butter making co-operatives were common and making the conserve was an excuse for a party (‘Un Séthée de Beurre Nièr’, Un soir de beurre noir or Black Butter Night.
Every October the “National Trust Jersey” holds a three-day black butter festival at its headquarters at The Elms, St Mary, an eighteenth-century farmhouse at the head of the island’s St Peter’s Valley. Everyone is free to peel apples and stir the brass cauldron (“bachin”) with a traditional paddle or “rabot”. In the old days the butter was made over two days over a giant fire.
Peeled and cored apples are traditionally cooked with black treacle, liquorice, cider, brown sugar and spices like cinnamon.
It is available from “La Mare Estate” which also makes Jersey Black Butter Chocolates, Black Butter Fudge, Black Butter Salted Caramel, Black Butter Biscuits as well as, of course, cider. And a great brandy. Plus a range of Maison de Jersey fine wines including sparkling Perguage, Santa Marie white, Bailiwick red and a sparkling La Murier.
Jersey also has its own rums. Tidal Rum made at the island’s Shorts Boy Distillery, is infused with the truffle of the sea ‘pepper dulce’. Its distillers are Harry Coultard from St Cyrus in Scotland who previously produced video content for companies including Adidas and Liverpool FC and investment professional, Benjamin Clyde-Smith. They met at Manchester University.
Tidal Rum is a blend of four cask-aged rums from Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic infused with ‘lightly oak smoked’ pepper dulse seaweed foraged at full tides around Jersey.
Jersey also has a royal Michelin premium vodka. Royal Mash is made from the world’s finest potatoes by Michelin-trained chef Rachel de Caen and Peter Le Fol du Taillis. The logo is the crest of the Le Fol family, ennobled by Henry IV in 1594.
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.