Chef Steve Smith has settled on the beautiful island of Jersey where he has obtained another Michelin star for his simple yet stunning dishes. Emma Pearson fearlessly travelled to the island to sample his work, plus the delights of Jersey’s historic capital St Helier
You travel 400 miles from Preston for a weekend away on an island and who do you bump in to? Some bloke from Longridge.
The bloke in question is chef Steve Smith, who started out at Paul Heathcote’s now-defunct Heathcotes restaurant in Longridge. Since leaving, Steve seems to have done okay for himself, winning his first Michelin star at the tender age of 24, he has worked in Hampshire, Yorkshire and Australia and has now fetched up on the beautiful island of Jersey, where he has again persuaded the Michelin inspectors to part with a star for his simple, yet stunning dishes at Bohemia, restaurant at The Club Hotel and Spa.
Jersey has long been renowned for its fabulous produce, so seems a natural fit for Steve, whose ethos has always been about sourcing the best local, seasonal ingredients and working with them.
When we were there strong winds the previous few days meant few of the fishing boats had been able to go out, so the menu was rather lighter than usual on the fresh fish dishes that have become his signature.
You’d be hard put to describe that as a disappointment, however, when that meant the tasting menu included slow cooked langoustine, a quail egg and cep starter, beautiful belly pork and, my personal highlight, a foie gras mousse with pistachios and orange jelly that was simply out of this world.
Those with a sweet tooth won’t be disappointed either as pastry chef Ellen de Jager spun her magic with a milk ice cream with quince and a beautiful rhubarb pudding.
The sweet treats didn’t stop even as we sat in the bar with after-dinner espressos, two tiny yet insanely delicious eclairs, one with blackberry and one with salted caramel and nuts, turned up to accompany our coffees, plus a selection of handmade chocolates.
We were being served these delights in the newly-refurbished Bohemia restaurant, one of the star attractions of The Club, a discrete yet luxurious establishment in the centre of St Helier, Jersey’s capital.
Whether you’re getting treatments or just loitering by the pool, this is a place you can easily lose a whole morning in, as time seems to slow down and extreme relaxation sets in.
After a fantastic aromatic fusion full body massage, we proceeded to make our way through the pool, hydrotherapy bench, steam room, salt steam room and experience shower.
With the hotel’s spa, dining facilities and cocktail list thoroughly checked out (it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it) we set off to explore St Helier.
The hotel’s central location makes it perfect for exploring the city, which is compact enough to easily cover on foot.
We had a brisk walk up a lot of steps to the fortress that still looms over the town, but these days has been rather cleverly converted into a sports centre and a walk along the rather quaintly old-fashioned seafront to the harbour, which is fully working and includes a commercial port, a fishing port and a dizzying number of marinas for the many yachts that visit Jersey.
We stopped off for lunch at a tiny, rather unimpressive looking sandwich bar called Sol Mar, where we were served an octopus sandwich that stopped us in our tracks with its sheer delicious simplicity. Big chunks of tender octopus with a little olive oil and herbs served on a fresh white roll, it was sandwich heaven.
After lunch we headed into the city centre. A pleasant place for shopping, it has a lot of lovely independent shops, including deli Relish - a real treasure trove of foodie delights - and two beautiful covered markets, one for fish and one for everything else, which are a real pleasure to wander around, even if easyjet hand luggage restrictions rather limit the wine-buying opportunities.
However the thing that struck us most about St Helier was the incredible number of pubs - you could barely walk 30 yards without passing another pub. In the spirit of research, we popped in to a couple and discovered some old-school English delights. Jersey is part of the UK, but at only 40 miles away from France you might have expected a bit of cross cultural fertilisation - well not in the pubs.
Everything about Jersey seems set up for a pleasant relaxation, so it’s not surprising that many people retire here.
With flight times of just 50 minutes from Liverpool and budget airlines including easyjet, Flybe and Jet2 running services there, travel is both quick and affordable. Nervous fliers can also take advantage of ferry services from the south coast.
In fact, so relaxing is this lovely island that I barely even felt the pain of my 35th birthday, which this trip was to commemorate/commiserate.
Although that may have been the anaesthetic effect of all those pubs . . .
The Club hotel and spa
Green Street, St Helier, Jersey.
www.theclubjersey.com, Rooms from £120 per night. Tasting menu £79 per person
easyjet Liverpool to Jersey, £40 return, hand luggage only
Condor Ferries Poole to St Helier, £55 per foot passenger