As a member of the local media it’s always a privilege to get an invite to a fantastic event. Since having children I’ve found less time to take advantage of these generous invites and watched in envy as we sent writers out on amazing assignments. However, some offers are worth making time for. When I arrived at The Atlantic Hotel last month, after an invite to see their new ‘Tasting Room’, I have to admit I was a bit out of practice and hadn’t not properly read the brief.
As it was the launch event, I’d anticipated a few drinks, a few words and some canapes; an opportunity to view the new string to the bow of the hotel’s suave Ocean Restaurant. On arrival, it became clear that the evening was more of an experience than I’d anticipated with just two local media invited, along with a variety of UK and international press as well as representatives of Small Luxury Hotels, an organisation of which the hotel is a member. This high calibre crowd had come to the island to experience the best of Jersey produce, packed into perfect morsels in a brand new setting. The Tasting Room concept has been devised by new Executive Chef Will Holland, who joined the Atlantic last year. He describes the menu as ‘a modern adventure in food and wine’.
Whilst this approach is applicable to Will’s overall governance of Ocean Restaurant, it is within the cosy confines of the Tasting Room that guests will be able to experience the most concentrated representation of his skills; the room is intimate, serving just 14 covers. Ordinarily the space is divided into tables of two or four. For our visit it was arranged as one central table, accentuating its application as a fantastic private dining room for a larger group. This group, assembled for the evening, were introduced and the first course, Crispy Jersey cockles with vinegar, chilli and sea vegetables was presented. I’m not sure some of the table quite knew how to take it. The dish was pretty but looked more like an artistic arrangement than a first course. Served alongside were canapés of Warm gougères with cave-aged Jersey cheddar, a hit of Worcestershire sauce and mushroom and the delicious smoked ham hock nuggets, made with Jersey black butter, mustard and apple. This little ensemble of dishes was a multi-disciplinary tour de force as a starter. Even the bread and butter(s) were on point.
At the end of the meal the hotel’s Managing Director, Patrick Burke asked for a vote on the favourite dish of the evening. Despite having had seven plates by that point, the first plate, Jersey scallop carpaccio, served with avocado, passion fruit and shiso, came out on top. The tender scallop, slight of citrus and sharp yet sweet flavour couldn’t fail to satisfy. It was light and tasted incredibly healthy. The next course; Retired Jersey dairy cow tartare offered, contrastingly, the turf to the scallop’s surf, rich with flavour. The name sounds a little confusing but retirement for a cow certainly doesn’t mean the meat is at the end of its life. If you enjoy beef tartare, this dish alone would draw you to the menu. It’s a menu that definitely makes some brave and punchy choices; a perfect example of a chef pushing his boundaries and setting out his stall, all while harnessing the best of what is available with local provenance.
Ocean Restaurant seems like the perfect home for Will Holland. Before being tempted across to Jersey, he went from a career in traditional fine-dining restaurants to opening his own widely respected relaxed ‘Coast’ in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Having worked in Michelin-starred restaurants since the age of 18, he was awarded a Michelin star before he was 30 and the Good Food Guide has pegged him as one of its predicted 10 most influential chefs for the next decade. The tasting menu seems to communicate his varied experience, marrying the quality you’d expect of a Michelin starred restaurant with an approachability. The dishes are simple, but simply very well put together.
It’s a tasting menu that seeks to gain notoriety and the sort of reputation that would make someone travel, in this case to an island, to sample a must-have star dish. After all, the whole idea of holding a Michelin star is that your customers would be willing to burn a lot of rubber to get to your door. Considering our location you’d think that the logical choice would be a seafood dish and the Turbot fillet with yoghurt, coriander and teriyaki was actually my favourite. But that’s not quite it. The dish I think will get most tongues wagging, and wider coverage for The Tasting Room, in pages beyond these is the middle course; Salt-baked Jersey Royal potato with onions, caper and comte. Yes, the potato course; it was delicious. I’m not usually a great potato fan but this singular island star shone bright in its earthenware bowl; the mixture of accompanying flavours and squishy Jersey Royal goodness was heaven and a mouthful I think will gain some strong word of mouth.
By the time our final savoury course, The Confit Jersey pork neck with squid, celeriac and preserved lemon arrived I’d begun to realise that if you’re coming to the Atlantic for a tasting menu, the only sensible choice is to push the boat out and accept that it’s a Carback night. The wine pairing and the enthusiasm with which it was delivered by Food and Beverage Manager, Jaroslav Sedlacek, is too good to miss. Palates were cleansed with the bracing Citrus sorbet before the dessert, which claimed the second most ‘favourite dish’ votes, the ‘Mojito’; bitter chocolate, mint and kalamansi was served. When I scan the dessert section of a menu, it’s usually the chocolate option that gets my vote and this one didn’t fail to impress. The little kick of bitter and sweet to top off the meal was perfect. Tasting menus have the potential to leave you feeling a little over indulgent but despite a full seven courses, I still had room for a gin and tonic at the bar while I waited for my lift.
During our meal the Hotel Manager, Nick Walley told us about what brought he and his wife to Jersey. After an illustrious career that took him on a journey of five star properties, including some enlightening experiences at The Ritz, he found himself visiting and standing on the lawn at the Atlantic, admiring the view – only to be told that with a Manager role at The Atlantic his accomodation would be pretty much in the grounds. He was sold. I think once you’ve seen that view and thought about waking up to a view of St Ouen sweeping out in front of you each day, it would be hard to resist. As you’re at a hotel with one of the best views in Jersey, if you’re considering sampling the island’s newest tasting menu in the Tasting Room, there’s a pretty strong case for booking another room, for the night, and treating yourself to sleep off your meal with that view to look forward to in the morning.