Last month a journalist from the Guardian was invited over by Genuine Jersey to experience the food of our fair Isle. You can read it here. It turns out there was little but prior critical media coverage of Jersey that impressed Oliver Thring. Here was our response;
Before I cast judgement on this antagonistic, poorly researched and altogether naive article I thought it only fair to read back and familiarise myself with Mr Thring’s previous work.
It appears that grasping at disparaging whisps of popular culture in order to beef up a hollow and empty supposed editorial on food seems to be a new foray for the strong jawed young author. The lion’s share of Oliver’s body of work for the Guardian seems to be the ‘consider’ series of features that entice us to ‘consider the egg‘, ‘consider baked beans’, ‘consider lard‘ and, most recently ‘consider the hot cross bun’. I mean, what DO you make of the chocolate chip variety?!
It comes as no surprise that when Oli was invited to Jersey, a contentious hot Jersey Royal potato of economic, political and tabloid unrest he felt the need to vent his thesaurus. In doing so he seems to have overlooked what is, in fact, a fantastic foodie Island with a great deal to offer.
I consider myself amongst the most cynical and critical of island residents. I’ve not been here long but besides it’s nepotistic shortcomings, the standard to which most things are done in Jersey is far superior to any comparatively sized town or tourist destination in the UK or beyond. The variety and standard of food offerings, both through the farm shop network that Oliver seems to overlooked or missed during the taxi ride around Haut de la Garenne and through it’s throng of varied and generally pleasing restaurants. It’s ironic that his food review got so distracted by the press field day that resulted in the discovery of a coconut shard.
Yes, the seafood is largely shellfish based but I would happily do the Pepsi challenge with a Northern French Fruit de Mer. We’re not on the Cape or watching the fishermen in Natal provide straight to plate catches but, as far as British seafood goes, Jersey fairs well. With a declining tourism industry I can’t see Jamie opening a restaurant and Rick Stein doesn’t live here but, to be honest, the property is expensive enough already.
I hope that the critical tastebuds with which Oliver degraded the local offering were honed in his wide experience of seafood. It is a shame then that despite cutting his teeth ‘considering’ the culinary masterpieces; mustard, scotch eggs, the biscuit, the 99 flake, ice lollies (the list goes on) that the only seafood related subject matter Oliver has covered in his whole visible Guardian editorial career was the seminal ‘consider the anchovy’ back in January. We all know that L’andoners love their cockles and mussels. With such a scathing review of what is essentially fresh seafood from the English Channel you would hope that his backcatalogue would in some way reassure. Sampling Lobster as a child is simply not enough.
Oliver’s obviously a bright chap but I can’t help feeling he got lost with this one. All those adjectives, all that prose, all that negativity. Perhaps the ‘consider’ series is coming to an end and he hopes for a move to a more incisive editorial arena. That would explain basing a food review on a veiled, bigoted bambasting of an Island constructed largely on hearsay during a fleeting PR freebee. A political poet lost in food reviewer’s brogues, an Oxford Liberal lost scrabbling to the left at the Guardian, casting out with a Gill-esque critique he hopes will be noticed and guffawed over.
There are many bad things about the Island of Jersey, thankfully outweighed by the good. Sure, you wont find as many wood burning ovens per capita as a South West London Suburb or pubs selling ironic British menus full of corn fed jellied eels. You can’t go out at midnight for baklava either. However, if you judge either the food or the Island on Oliver’s review you’re missing something.
Jersey has a disproportionately good variety of eateries, whether sublime seafood at the Oysterbox or Sumas, homemade pasta at La Cantina, characterful Pacific rim inspired dishes at Danny’s, Amuse bouches that entertain and impress at one of the excellent Michelin starred restaurants, Bohemia or Ocean. If you heed Oliver’s warnings and stay clear of the seafood then you could try the great Portuguese restaurants that caters to Jersey’s 10% Portuguese population, not to mention the bizarre trend for beachside thai BYOs that somehow befit many a relaxing Jersey sunset, just 45 minutes from London.
If only Oliver had gone beyond the petty Jersey bashing and dedicated more of his time sampling the local offering and more of his column inches to the subject at hand then maybe both he and the reader would have enjoyed more than his hilarious homecoming jam on toast finale.