As I approach Banjo, I already have a clear vision in my mind. A vision of grandeur, opulence and effortless style. And I’m not wrong. This unique venue is all if not more, yet with a slight twist. Unlike the majority of stately restaurants, Banjo boasts a sophisticated vibe and one that’s more in tune with a European city.
On entering the remarkable tiled hallway, a friendly gentleman leads me past the main brasserie and into the back Café Bar – a room I haven’t yet been to. I’m instantly transported to another world and for a second, I forget that I’m in the heart of Jersey.
The first thing I notice is the décor. In this room, Banjo Café Bar has truly brought the outdoors in and on a day like today, the entire space appears drenched in sunlight. Interior pieces have been handpicked from all corners of the globe. From the exquisite wallpaper that flows freely from one design to another, to the hovering clouds that hang daintily from the ceiling – everything about this venue screams unique, and the kitsch backdrop creates a refreshing ambience unlike like anything else on the island.
As I’m busy drinking up the impressive surroundings, one of the Jones’ brothers strolls directly up to me, and not just any Jones’ brother – a relation to the illustrious banjoist Ernest Jones. This is of course where the name ‘Banjo’ comes from. This historic reference is further reflected in each of the distinctively dressed bedrooms, all of which have been named after a band member – Edith, Ernest, Leslie and Percy.
When the owners of Jersey Pottery first bought into this magnificent building, once a successful gentleman’s club, is was in need of renovation. 34 contractors later and a great deal of hard work and Banjo was born. Where possible, all of the original features are intact, including the characterful period plaster ceilings and the artistic banisters. A meander down to the famous ‘loo lobby’ reveals an insight into Ernest’s fascinating past, whilst the main bathroom foyer showcases a mesmerising display of colour-changing wallpaper.
Back at the table I’m served several plates of tantalising treats from the lighter bar menu, whilst both the chef and my new acquaintance chat freely about the tastes and flavours before me. This is a venue where effort is of the essence and nothing is finalised until perfected! Even the annual 1000 litres of olive oil come directly from a family friend in Tuscany. The soon to be released new bar menu is light, delicate and cultured. A concoction of fresh tagliatelle, artichoke and thyme literally melts in my mouth, whilst the Cumin Roast Carrots, Orange, Avocado and Watercress salad poses as the perfect lunchtime delicacy. Small plates are ideal for sharing, whilst the lighter brasserie dishes offer a vision of the main dining experience – all part of the new Café Bar menu Banjo has in store. Everything tastes different!
As another exquisitely presented plateful arrives at the table, the chef launches into an animated explanation of the dish I’m dying to try – Chilli Bolotti Bean Bruschetta with infusions of white wine, extra virgin olive oil and shallots. Although on a smaller scale, each and every offering is of the same caliber as the brasserie.
Despite what many may perceive, the lunch and dinner price tag is a far cry from what the lavish surroundings would suggest. Price doesn’t however comprise on quality and each and every dish captures elements of sophisticated flavour, colour and crispness. I was informed that all ingredients are sourced locally where possible and a quick trip to the kitchen revealed some of the freshest bass I’ve ever set eyes on.
As the sun beamed down on our table, I felt as if I was enjoying the sights and sounds of a quaint eatery in the French Riviera, and on a warm day like today, I welcomed the idea of Banjo’s back bar – with its organic, Mediterranean feel, this bright and cool room allowed me to enjoy the sunlight without the heat.
Come evening, the Café Bar takes on an entirely different vibe. One of the bartenders kindly illustrated this – the botanical paradise quickly evolves into a trendy cocktail bar as the ceiling shutters come together at the touch of a button. Blue lights illuminate the trees, whilst a soft green hue casts playful shadows across the walls.
I left feeling satisfied yet not so full that I was unable to return to work. My experience at Banjo was first-rate, and it’s certainly a venue I’ll be recommending to friends and family – not just for dinner, but for quick lunches and snacks in Banjo Café Bar too.
TEL (0)1534 850890 EAT@BANJOJERSEY.COM WWW.BANJOJERSEY.COM