Is Jersey the next San Sebastian? Why this Channel Island is the perfect gourmet break for 2016

Less than hour after taking off from London we are cruising past the sweeping golden sands of St Ouen’s Bay, windows down and salt air licking our faces.

While other weekend-break seekers are wasting precious time on a three- or four-hour flight to Europe we are already winging our way to lunch on the beach.

Even in October, Jersey is bathed in warm sunshine and locals are quick to attest that even the midst of winter you can get gloriously sunny days here (why thank you, Gulf Stream).

Jersey’s trump card

Local seafood is to die for
Local seafood is to die for

Less than two hours after leaving London, we are seated at a sea view table at Mark Jordan at the Beach on Jersey’s southern shore. By 1.15pm we’re devouring delectable anchovy toast starters and sometime after 2.30 we recline filled to the brim with baked oysters in a cream sauce and the freshest seafood caught in the very bay we gaze upon.

See for yourself: Jersey on social media:

Jersey’s best-kept secrets

Travel. Jersey. The Atlantic. Boullabaisse
Boullabaisse at the Michelin starred Ocean Restaurant at the Atlantic

It is this easy, breezy lifestyle that is Jersey’s trump card. The island’s plentiful produce has electrified the Jersey dining scene; its turquoise coves hold an endless treasure trove of local seafood, oozing cheeses are just a nine-mile boat ride away in France, Jersey’s beef is first rate and it does a rather nice new potato to boot.

The whole place has the kind of foodie buzz San Sebastian had five or ten years ago, without being overrun.

Grève de Lecq on the north coast
Grève de Lecq on the north coast

After a brief mooch around St Helier, we walk the promenade at St Aubin and stop for something chilled overlooking the harbour as the sun sets.

If we were in a rush we could easily take in a few more beaches and villages (the island is just 9miles by 5miles long), but Jersey doesn’t do rushing, it does relaxed beach chic.

The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey

Travel. Jersey. The Atlantic. View Down To The Bay
The view down to the bay from The Atlantic Hotel

Five minutes down the road from St Helier is our base for the weekend, The Atlantic hotel. Overlooking the jaw-dropping west coast with views out across St Ouen’s Bay, the Atlantic is a Jersey institution.

Our room is comfortable and a mix of cool creams and Breton blues. The cosy settee next to the balcony is a nice touch and perfect for watching the shifting sands with Sunday papers and fresh coffee.

Travel. Jersey. The Atlantic Hotel. Panorama
Rooms overlook the rugged west coast, gardens or the undulating links golf course

The hotel and restaurant are elegant without being overly ostentatious, and despite the Michelin status the dining room feels welcoming, special and relaxed.

Ocean Restaurant

Travel. Jersey. The Atlantic. Jersey Beef
Mark Jordan’s Jersey Beef is fresh, local and delicious

The hotel’s Michelin-star Ocean Restaurant is Mark Jordan’s main residence and his menu showcases the best of British and Jersey produce.

It’s a multi-sensory experience with each course a work of art. The fish is (predictably) exquisite, but the Jersey beef is also a winner. Even the petit fours arrive with flair, presented in an ornate wooden gift box.

Jersey: walks and beaches

Travel. Jersey. Bouley Bay
Walk along the coastline path to Bouley Bay. Tides changes by up to 40ft in Jersey

The following morning we head out the front door and along the coastal path to the Corbiere lighthouse, the low tide revealing a maze of gullies and rock pools that will be enveloped by the cobalt Atlantic in a matter of hours.

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The Jersey gourmet scene is one of the best-kept secrets in travel

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Even the most reticent walkers get the hiking bug here – firstly, the cliff top views are mesmerising (Bouley Bay and the Devil’s Hole in the north are top tips) and secondly, every walk begins or ends at a tea shop or hop-clad local inn.

The French house names and ‘rues’ provide a foreign holiday vibe, while the little ports feel more Cornish in character.

Travel. Jersey. Gorey Harbour Flickr
Colourful Gorey Harbour is like stepping back in time and the harbour is lined with restaurants

Top beaches in Jersey

  • St Brelade for dining options, clarity of water and exclusive hotels
  • St Ouen for surfing, kite surfing, wind surfing and good brunch spots
  • St Aubin for walking with great bars/restaurants
  • Green Island for family friendly beach days. Check out the rock pools
  • Grève de Lecq for a smaller, secluded beach
  • Plemont at low tide for great caves to explore
  • Portelet – this beach has an island accessible at low tide and a hospitable pub at the top of the steps that wind down to the sand.

The best weekend break for 2016?

Travel. Jersey. La-Rocco-sunset
Sunset on La Rocco Tower, St Ouen’s Bay

The best weekends away are quite simply, the easiest. And Jersey is a cinch.

It’s less than an hour from London (35 minutes from southern airports such as Bournemouth), flights can be as little as £30 return, its micro climate means its almost always warmer than the mainland, the island is small enough to drive around in around an hour but has lots to do and it’s quieter than the usual weekend suspects of Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Paris.

Plus, the gourmet scene is one of the best-kept secrets in travel.

Where to eat

Travel. Jersey. Oyster Box. Asparagus
Asparagus with morel mushrooms at The Oyster Box

Visit St Brelade’s beach, recently named one of TripAdvisor’s top 5 UK beaches, and stop by the Oyster Box, which has panoramic views of the bay.

Mark Jordan at the Beach – don’t let the understated exterior fool you, this bistro (awarded the Bib Gourmand in 2015) has the flavour of Mark Jordan’s Michelin dining up at the road at The Atlantic, but is more relaxed (and very reasonably priced) and the oysters in cream sauce proved the standout dish on the entire trip.

For special occasions head for The Ocean restaurant at the Atlantic for some of the best views on the island.

Bohemia, another Michelin star venue on the island was also rated the 21st best restaurant in the UK by the Good Food Guide 2016.

Pick up a bag of just-dug-up Jersey Royals from one of the honesty stalls along the country roads.

When to visit Jersey

Spring promises beautiful weather and there is a jam-packed calendar of events throughout the year. Avoid late July and August if you’re looking for quieter beaches. The Eat Jersey Food Festival runs in November and the island also runs a fixed menu festival during October and November called Tennerfest, where diners can visit some of the top restaurants from £10.

Booking info

Prestige Holidays operates holidays to Jersey staying at The Atlantic Hotel. EasyJet flies direct from Southampton and London airports and regional UK airports throughout the year. Airport Parking and Hotels offers parking at major UK airports and meet and greet options for easy travel.

Chantal Borciani is travel editor at High50. She reports on destinations, foods, hotels and wellness, and specialises in over 50s travel trends. Twitter: @ChantalBorch