On their first visit to the island, Johanna Payton and family travel to the Atlantic Hotel Jersey by fast ferry – and they can’t sing its praises highly enough
I may be showing my age, but the twinkly-eyed sleuth, Bergerac, was my only reference point for the Bailiwick of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. As well as those unnerving supernatural episodes, I remember being impressed by the beauty of the location and wanting to go. But Bergerac ended, and my only relationship with the island ever since has been sailing past it on the way to farther flung destinations.
The emergence of Henry “Superman” Cavill, who was born and raised in Jersey, piqued my interest again. And, just as Jersey came back on my radar, I received an intriguing invitation: to travel to Jersey via fast ferry and stay at a breathtakingly beautiful hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant. Yes please!
We could tell from the elevated and awe-inspiring views of St Ouens Bay, this was a very special place
The new, fast service to Jersey with Condor Ferries means you can take your car (very handy on an island with a sparse bus service and no train) and whizz across the Channel in a morning.
Our boat left Poole in Dorset at 9:15am, so we spent the night before in Bournemouth (any excuse to start the holiday early).
With club class seats, we were treated to very comfortable accommodation onboard, complimentary tea, coffee and soft drinks, free wi-fi in port, plug sockets at every seat for the obligatory device charging (much appreciated with our 12-year-old, Eliott, in tow) and table service throughout the journey. It felt like an incredibly easy ride, with VAT-free shopping to boot, and wonderful views of Sandbanks, Studland and Swanage as we set sail.
After a quick stop in Guernsey, we arrived in St Helier and followed the easy, 20-minute route to the Atlantic Hotel.
As we turned into Clos de l’Atlantique, before even getting our first glimpse of the hotel, we could tell from the elevated and awe-inspiring views across St Ouens Bay, this was a very special place.
When I launched Feet on the Ground, my primary aim was to find destinations with the luxurious sense of glamour I’d found – in my past life as a jet-setter – at opulent venues such as the all-suite Wynn Encore in Las Vegas: the minute we stepped into the lush lobby at the Atlantic, I experienced that same sensuous gratification.
From the bubbling indoor fish pool to the impeccably lit lounge – and the spectacular views out to the ocean – this hotel has glamour in abundance.
We were shown to our garden suite, perfect for families, where we had direct access to the outdoor pool, Sky TV on tap (a big hit with that 12-year-old) and a patio area to enjoy views of the lovely gardens and bay beyond.
Molton Brown toiletries were an added bonus – as was the tween-sized robe that my son was only too keen to wear on the short walk to and from the indoor leisure centre (complete with bijou swimming pool, mini gym and changing room saunas).
After a quick dip and costume change, we were ready for the main event: dinner for three in Ocean, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant – an accolade it has held for a decade.
Our experience there was beyond decadent. The service is faultless; attentive, never intrusive. We were treated like royalty, with good humour, a dash of theatre and lashings of class.
The food, conjured by the magical executive chef, Mark Jordan, is exquisite.
The menu changes daily and is genuinely populated by local produce. After a mouth-watering amuse-bouche of cod carpaccio with lemon gel, we savoured a la carte dishes including Jersey beef tartare with oyster ceviche and watercress mayonnaise, risotto of Jersey squid and cauliflower, and assiette of Jersey beef with Jersey lobster ravioli and Dauphinoise cappuccino. Eliott chose from the children’s menu and adored the freshly cut potato wedges with dips to start and roast chicken main course.
Dessert took us to a whole new level of bliss. After a cheeky pre-dessert (pre-dessert!) of coconut ice with white chocolate and raspberry, my partner sampled the pistachio and olive oil cake, Eliott devoured the glazed banana, vanilla cream, toffee popcorn and caramel ice cream, while I kept it local with a delectable pudding based around vanilla set Jersey cream.
Each course was served with a glass of wine expertly selected by head sommelier Richard Burton, and we were invited to enjoy our after dinner coffees (served with a selection of sweet treats, just to tip us over the edge) in the lounge.
Eliott went back to enjoy the Sky TV – in his robe, 5-star-stylee.
After a peaceful night’s sleep – and a fine, full Jersey breakfast – we were off to explore the island, which boasts sandy beaches, rural charm and quiet roads.
Henry Cavill, a great supporter of Jersey’s Durrell wildlife park, adopted a bat and named it Ben – after his co-star
If you’re in Jersey, you must make time to visit Durrell wildlife park.
Established in the 60s by the author Gerald Durrell, the park is still the biggest attraction in Jersey: but don’t rock up expecting a “zoo”. This really is so much more: a conservation centre, with the wellbeing of its animals at the core of everything it does. The site feels more organic than most wildlife centres you’ll visit, and there’s emphasis on species that are endangered, yet overlooked.
It’s fitting, given the park’s location, that there is a focus on islands, where animals are particularly under pressure.
Of course, Eliott loved the bear cub (yet to be named, but we have entered the competition), the gorillas and the orangutans, but the fruit bat enclosure provided the most excitement for a young superhero fan: Henry Cavill, a great Durrell supporter, adopted a bat and named it Ben (read: Affleck/Batfleck).
After saying goodbye to the animals, we dashed down to the beach near St Aubin’s Harbour, where Mark Jordan had another rabbit to pull out of his culinary hat: well, not actually rabbit, but a scrumptious lunch of crab bonbons, Jersey scallops, free range Scotch eggs, beer-battered fish and chips and organic pork loin.
Mark Jordan at the Beach is the relaxed sister restaurant to the Ocean, and although you can sit back and watch the beach go by, the (very affordable) food is of the same staggering quality as its older sibling – which may explain why it’s the proud owner of a Michelin Bib Gourmand.
Affordability is a real theme in Jersey.
After the amazing value of the £24.50 per-head, three-course lunch at Mark Jordan at the Beach, VAT-free shopping was on the menu in bustling St Helier and, on our last day, we had change from £20 for family admission to Aquasplash, right next to the ferry terminal. Throw in some treats from Jersey Lavender and hand-dug Jersey Royals from a farm shop, and you’re ready to go home telling everyone you know that they must visit this beguiling Channel paradise.
Even at The Atlantic, a hotel I would wholeheartedly recommend for families or couples who long for luxury, the offers and packages represent great value for money – the Michelin Experience, in particular, is a well-priced yet incredible holiday (the seven night experience, taking in all three of the island’s Michelin-starred restaurants, plus dinner at Mark Jordan at the Beach, starts from just £725 per person, excluding flights/ferry).
Seven sumptuous nights at the Atlantic and a bounty of Michelin-starred food to indulge in? I’m saving up already.
How to get to the Atlantic Hotel Jersey by fast ferry:
Fast ferry crossings with Condor ferries take 4.5hrs from Poole to St. Helier, stopping in Guernsey. Times vary according to tides and dates.
For more information visit condorferries.co.uk.
Words: Johanna Payton for Feet on the Ground
Images: Johanna Payton