With some of the finest fishing grounds in the Atlantic and the English Channel, cappuccino-colored cows legendary for the richness of their milk, and a breed of potato so special it’s known as Royal, it’s no wonder the island of Jersey has been named a gastronomic hotspot by Britain’s prestigious dining-out bible, The Good Food Guide.
Jersey, like its neighboring channel island of Guernsey, is a British Crown Dependency but geographically lies far closer to France, off whose northwest coast it’s perched. Part of the Kingdom of Normandy until 1204, the island’s French heritage can still be seen in its place names, château-style homes, and delicious fare (think, croissants baked with pure Jersey butter).
Eat Like a Local
Life on Jersey, however, is slower than in both France and England, which is what drew Will Holland, chef at the Ocean restaurant in The Atlantic Hotel, to move here four years ago. “Jersey offers great work-life balance,” he explains, “not to mention that Channel Island produce is a dream for any chef.”
At Ocean, Holland is famed for his hand-churned seaweed butter (straight from those Jersey cows, of course) served with homemade sourdough, which has island-brewed ale in the starter. Other highlights include locally caught sea bass—“the finest I’ve ever tasted,” he says—accompanied by a vanilla sauce, and miniature crab cakes to go along with the Jersey crab salad, a favorite summer starter at the restaurant.
Jersey offers great work-life balance, not to mention produce that’s a dream for any chef—Will Holland
When it’s time to enjoy the “life” part of that work-life balance, Holland recommends exploring St. Helier. The capital of the island, and its only real town, is worth a daytime visit for its colorful covered market packed with local produce and fish halls.
If you’re in the mood for casual eats, Holland points to The Hungry Man—a food stall that’s a firm favorite with locals, and which few visitors discover. A fixture on the island since 1947, here you’ll find fresh crab sandwiches to enjoy at one of a handful of rustic tables overlooking picturesque Rozel Bay on the northeastern tip of the island.
Rozel sits on a diagonal from beautiful St. Brelade, the south-westernmost island parish. According to Steven Hunt, director of Hunt Estates, the most desirable properties in Jersey can be found between these two bays—in the countryside that’s dotted with pink granite farmhouses, as well as along the Channel Island’s coastal perimeter.
“Demand is very high for both oceanfront property and the hidden-away inland estates valued for their extreme privacy,” says the Jersey native, as we step into one such estate with lavish grounds, including a lawned amphitheater that is perfectly placed for guests to enjoy an intimate concert on the wraparound terrace overlooking the sea.
Jersey is particularly sought after by high-net-worth individuals, not only for its flower-bedecked beauty and plethora of vast mansions with gardens the size of parks, but also its generous tax structure, explains Hunt. There is no capital gains or inheritance tax and income tax is fixed at 20 percent.
However, residency qualifications for the Channel Island are strict, requiring proof of annual income of at least £725,000 (just over $ 1million) or a license granted to those with essential skills that are in short supply in Jersey, including lawyers, bankers, and medical or health service professionals. And investment potential is limited by a share-transfer process designed to prioritize housing for locals, Hunt adds.
Demand is very high for both oceanfront property, and the hidden-away inland estates valued for their extreme privacy—Steven Hunt
Jersey’s luxury property market has a fine-dining scene to match, with Sumas, known for its turbot and seafood, located in the village of Gorey on the east coast, which boasts the brooding 13th-century Mont Orgueil Castle as its backdrop.
But it’s Bohemia—an elegant, modern restaurant within St. Helier’s Club Hotel, which has held a Michelin star for 17 years—that is the crown of the island’s eateries. The kind of place where fund managers and their clients fly in for a lavish lunch before returning to the mainland, Bohemia offers a level of finesse and sophistication enriched by current chef Callum Graham’s stints at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris and Geneva, as well as a five-star London hotel.
Dinner is a seven-course tasting experience, with special menus for pescatarians and vegetarians. Those without dietary restrictions get the chance to taste the richly flavored Jersey beef rarely seen on Channel Island menus. “It has a great flavor, but is often overlooked by island chefs,” points out Graham, who originally hails from Scotland.
Graham also rates the incredible freshness of local fish and seafood. “I’ll get a call from my supplier who’s on the phone to a skipper, and if I say I want it, that fresh catch will be with me within the hour.” The chef uses local produce wherever he can, showcasing local goats’ cheese in an amuse-bouche selection, and elevating Jersey Royals to a course of their own in a potato mille-feuille.
Another local product that intrigues Graham is Jersey black butter—a Christmassy-tasting jam made from caramelized apples and spices, harking back to the days when cider accounted for two-thirds of the island’s agricultural production.
Today, the island’s only vineyard, La Mare Wine Estate, still makes and sells local cider, as well as black butter made with excess apples. Here, you’ll also find the excellent Royal Gin based on spirit made from the king of potatoes. These treats, as well as non-edible island souvenirs and ceramics, can be enjoyed in the vineyard shop and at an outdoor restaurant set in beautiful gardens.
For an elevated experience, Jersey black butter is served on scones with Jersey cream as part of the year-round afternoon tea at the Somerville, a Victorian seaside hotel high above St. Aubin’s bay—one of Hunt’s favorite dining spots. “We also enjoy coming here for lobster with a fabulous view of the harbor,” he explains.
Hunt recently sold a large waterfront villa in St. Aubin’s for £3.5 million ($5 million), par for the course on an island where houses with four bedrooms in any location go for more than £1 million ($1.4 million), and even a one-bedroom apartment starts at £350,000 ($500,000).
The pretty village is also home to Jersey’s art and crafts hub, the Harbor Gallery, with wonderful jewelry and wall-hangings made from sea glass, shells, and other beachcombing finds, as well as paintings inspired by the ocean. Steps away, lobster with a harbor view is also available at The Old Court House Inn, a popular island eatery that also serves Jersey’s excellent rock oysters.
Nearby St. Brelade’s Bay is the place for beach holidays. Here, too, clifftop property overlooking the fabulous crescent of broad sands is highly sought-after, says Hunt, whose favorite dining haunts include the Oyster Box, one of several beach restaurants sitting right on the promenade beside beautiful landscaped gardens.
With an enviable array of places to sample fine fare and local produce, Jersey has something to please every palate—and, as Hunt points out, there’s a wealth of luxury properties on offer from which to savor them all.
Banner image: Sumas restaurant in the village of Gorey. Courtesy of Visit Jersey