Our first new feature for 2023, MyJersey, sees us interview the island’s most interesting inhabitants about what they love most about living on (probably) the world’s best island; from where to get the best brunch, to the shops they can’t live without and where they go to let their hair down. Who better to start the series off than the UK’s number one bestselling author, Peter James. He shares with us his favourite coffee haunt, which also neatly ties into the most important thing he’s learnt about policemen (you’ll have to read on for more!), plus where to go for a really great cocktail and the restaurant everyone should have on their radar…
A granite house dating back to 1450, in St Saviour, which my wife, Lara and I share with our menagerie of animals which include a labradoodle, golden doodle, Burmese cats, pygmy goats, guinea fowl, quail, Kakariki parrots, budgerigars, an assortment of different hens, Indian Runner and Crested ducks and four rabbits. If we walk out of our property in one direction, we can walk across fields for over an hour without going on a road. In another direction, I can jump on my bike and be in town in seven minutes. Lara and I were constantly amused by the “East-West” arguments when we first moved here four and half years ago. Our first home was a rented house in St Lawrence, and we loved that area too. We used to walk our dogs at St Aubin early every morning and loved that beach more and more. Whenever I drive past the bay and whatever the weather, I always feel how lucky I am to live here in Jersey. Some people say it is the worst beach on the island. Well if it is the worst, wow!
My weekend ritual involves…
Feeding the menagerie first thing and walking the dogs – as every day – very often accompanied by our cats who think they are dogs! I read the JEP and some of the national newspapers cover to cover. Playing tennis singles or doubles on Saturday morning, and an 8-mile run on Sunday. I love to cook simple dishes and in winter make a curried root vegetable stew on a Sunday evening that will last several days. I write six days a week, breaking on Sundays, so on Saturdays I will normally work for several hours, while Lara works on editing my books, and writes up her case notes on dogs she has treated during the week in her work as a canine myotherapist.
The best brunch on the island?
The Good Egg. It is in a great location and provides simple modern food cooked to perfection and always served with a smile.
And to walk that off, what would you say is the best island walk?
I love the sense of beauty and sheer space walking across the dunes at St Ouen, and always with the most stunning views. There are also some gorgeous reservoir walks, Val de la Mare is one of our favourites. For those seeking a faster pace, a running friend took us off the beaten track a little and told us part of the history of Le Pinacle. I always look out for it from the land or the sea.
What about a really good coffee?
In my years of going out regularly with police, around the world, in my research for my Roy Grace novels I’ve learned one important thing about police officers. They always know the best coffee place! And so it was when we moved to Jersey. I was taken by a young police sergeant to Lockes and it was a revelation. And as proof he knew what he was doing, he has now been promoted to Inspector!
What shops you couldn’t live without?
Gorey Wine Cellar. Wine is one of our passions and I find Matt Barnes enormously knowledgeable and helpful. Midland Stores is another. Rupert Dawson is the consummate grocer – and his shop, whilst stocking so many good quality essentials, is also an Aladdin’s cave of rarely found items that make great presents – and even greater treats for oneself! Finally Animal Kingdom, our animals certainly could not live without them! They are always helpful and pleasant and their deliveries are reliable.
Where do you take friends when they visit?
In fine weather, a rib trip to the Minkies or the Ecrehous or exploring the caves of the North coast is a hard to beat experience for visitors. But we also love to simply cycle with them around the island and see all its extraordinary contrasts of stunning scenery. A walk along the dunes at St Ouen and lunch at El Tico or La Braye is another thing we love to show people, along with the lighthouse at Corbieres – which I almost described with an incorrect colour in my Jersey-located novel, I Follow You!
Tell us about the best meal you’ve had in Jersey?
My most recent birthday dinner, which we had at home for a dozen friends. Because we are doing major building work in our house we converted a greenhouse into a temporary dining room, to be away from the dust, and it was magical, eating in darkness by candlelight. It was catered by Binney and Boarder who know exactly what my (pescatarian) wife and I love. Hot and cold oysters. Lobster. Beef or Mushroom Wellington. Cheese platter and a cake to die for made of different profiteroles.
Which restaurant would you recommend to someone visiting Jersey for the first time?
Lara and I have always loved Green Island, with Alan being a brilliant host, and for much the same reason Quayside with Martin and his great team, and the Moorings. We love the Oyster Box for its location, Anna’s for its great food and Upstairs at Anley Street for its Sunday Roast. There’s a new kid on the block, Tresor, run by Cosmon, the former Maitre D’ at Quayside, which I strongly suspect will be one to watch.
And for an after dinner drink?
I spent many of my formative years living and working in Canada and America, where I lost my taste for English beers but never took to American ones – so instead I developed a love of cocktails. So when we were taken to the speakeasy, The Blind Pig, for the first time, I felt, wow, now this is my kind of place!
What was your first memory of Jersey?
My wife and I had exactly the same first impression of Jersey – that it was like England was years ago but with high tech and superfast internet! But there is one abiding memory that will forever distinguish Jersey from England, in my mind: We had only been here a few weeks, in April 2018 and were told we needed to get our cars registered. I found someone to help me and he rang me on a Friday morning to tell me he had my Range Rover booked in for Monday morning for its mandatory examination, but that I needed to have my Jersey driving licence for this process. I told him I hadn’t even applied for one yet. He told me to go along to the St Lawrence Parish Hall and they should be able to do it the same day – I might have to pay a small premium. So I dutifully did it, feeling very sceptical, knowing in England it would take weeks – at best! A very nice lady behind the counter said that if I paid £25.00 I would be able to pick my licence up from the Post Office in town after 4pm. Scarcely able to believe it, I arrived at the post office in St Helier at about 4.35 to see a barrier across the front entrance and a sign saying it was closed until Monday. I was just about to walk away when a lady waved at me from a window – a kind of “don’t go away” wave. Moments later she opened the front door and said, “I’m very sorry dear we are closed – is it anything urgent?” When I told her I had come to collect my licence she dashed off and a moment later reappeared with it! If this had been England I would probably have been given two fingers and told to sod off and come back in a month!
Describe your perfect day spent on the island?
My perfect day begins with a spicy omelette made from our own eggs, with chillies, onions, peppers, mushroom and cheese, then walking the dogs over the surrounding fields, and feeding the menagerie. It will be followed by a run of 5-8 miles, either around our home area, or down at Gorey. On my perfect day a lunch of Jersey oysters and a crab salad would be just the ticket, with a glass of Chablis. An afternoon spent lazing on a beach with a good book – I love finding a book that hooks me! Then at 6pm I make the perfect martini – with Grey Goose, Extra Dry Martini and, essential, four green Sicilian olives, put on my very eclectic music playlist and write a chapter of my new book. At 8.30pm Lara and I sit down to dinner, then I take the dogs out for their last walk of the day, check on the birds in our aviary, then we hunker down to watch a movie or something on Netflix, or else I read until my eyes close!
Where do you feel most inspired?
Ever since my teens when I read that one of my favourite poets, William Butler Yeats wrote at the top of a tower, I dreamed of writing in a tower! Our move to Jersey made that dream come true. My office is at the top of a large, 70-foot high granite tower. I have a 360 degree view – to the south across the sea to the French coast, to the west to the airport and the most stunning sunsets, to the east across gorgeous countryside and an urban landscape to the north. People ask me how I can get any writing done with all that to look at, but I find it immensely inspiring. And not many unwanted folk climb the 72 steps to bother me!
And what are you working on at the moment?
I’m working with the writers on the ITV series GRACE, on the next four adaptations of my novels, which start filming in April. And I’m flat out editing my new Roy Grace novel, titled, STOP THEM DEAD, which will be published on Sept 26th. It deals with the vast new illegal trade in puppies – breeding, importing and theft – which exploded during lockdown, and where organised crime gangs are making more money than out of drugs – with far more lenient sentences.
Finally, describe Jersey in 3 words…
Nicer than Guernsey!