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Thursday
Nov202014

The Island

The Island,

Those words together create a pattern of thought in the mind of a distant place, cut off from the world existing only in the realm of fantasy today. Tom Hanks, and his adventures stranded alone with only a football for company in the movie ‘Castaway’ may be the image that would be brought forth with those 2 words. Yet I am not stranded on a beach with perfect weather all year round with only coconuts for my evening dining pleasures. I am stranded for the week on the island of Jersey.

    Jersey as a place is somewhere I hold fond memories of, my Grandfather and Father at one point in time managed and owned a hotel on this fair island. By proxy, as a child, we, (myself and family) have spent many a happy week here during the summer months. Time spent anywhere as a child seems to come automatically with an attachment to a place, even though it may at the time not be the place that the rest of the populous may consider attractive, a child will see wonder where isn’t any. So I am destined to return to Jersey with the eyes of an adult.

    This may set the premise for an extension to the disappointments of previous excursions but nothing could be further from the truth.

    Jersey, if you have never visited, I emplore you to do so. Positioned within spitting distance of the French coast it has some strange qualities. Looking out across the sea towards France and then taking a snapshot look behind yourself inland you may be mistaken for thinking you have been transported to the south coast of England. In a sense, maybe.

    Yet take some time to scratch the surface of this island and you will find something different, something more unique. Something that exists only here in Jersey.

    This Island. The island. Exists as an enigma to the rest of the British Isles. Make sure to get that correct. Jersey is part of the British isles, buts is not the UK. Shame on you to call anyone on this island part of the UK and subject to UK law. A common mistake I grant, and one you shall be forgiven for. Yet here lies the enigma.

    As a UK resident I can travel here without a passport. Yet there is no VAT. I can use the services of the NHS (with a quick trip to Southampton). Yet I cannot play the euromillons. I can use British pound notes. Yet I might get Jersey ones in return. Hire a car and there will be plates with J##### printed. Yet they are accepted without question on the mainland. Apart from one small modification, a H. The letter H, in bold on the plate. To mark the car as a hire car. Known to the locals (Jersey beans) as a ‘horror car’ because of the lack of local knowledge for how narrow roads can really be when you leave the confines of the capital of St Helier. I use the word capital loosely as for anywhere else in the British Isles you would call St Helier a large village and at a push, a small town.

    Yet being and island of only 90,000 people, situated on the coast of France allows Jersey to take the best of both worlds and weld them together in a fashion that would make other seaside towns green with envy. This comes to fruition with the food.

    My one pound notes in my back pocket (yes, notes, as in paper) proudly state ‘étates de Jersey’ ‘Une Livre’ on one side and a picture of queen Lizzy on the other. This more than anything shows what Jersey is all about. Here you land in a place that preserves everything British the rest of the world would consider British. Tea, cakes, scones and a love of a breakfast consisting of bacon, sausages and beans. Slapped haphazardly on a plate with a per person charge less than that of a Starbucks coffee.  Yet they can take from France a love of food embedded in the inner workings of a resident of the island.

    The Pomme D’or has been here for years out of memory, even acquired during the time of occupation (no tactual importance, during the war the armies of Hitler were allowed to overrun this island) for the headquarters of the local Nazi government. This is where I am destined to stay for the next five nights.

    Destined may not be the correct word. Privileged may be the better adjective to use in this occasion.

    Something every traveler to this Island should know ahead of time is this. On the island of Jersey, it is 1972, it will always be 1972. You may see things advertised like mobile phones and computers but this is simply a thing that islanders have been force to accept. The Pomme D’or hotel is the distillation of this fact.

    Sunday night and venturing down to the restaurant brought me some cause for concern. Wood everywhere, pictures on the wall in black and white and not of something slightly arty, but of old boats. At the bar carbonated water dispensers, straight from the filmset of 1930s Hollywood.

Oh dear. 1970s hotel 1970s food. I don’t know if I can cope with this after Wigan.

    Taken to my seat for the evening by a German dame, I find myself with a wine list and no menu….
    
    No menu, this can only mean one thing, that island in the middle of the restaurant, that island, it’s a buffet.

    Flashbacks to Chinese and indian buffets in Birmingham and many other places. Dry, tasteless, days old, depressing beyond me sure.

Fuck it. I’m hungry again, traveling will do that to you.

    Well…..

Red Snapper, Braised oxtail, fresh prawns, crab. My god.

    How many times does this happen. I took to this buffet like a duck to water, like Tom Hanks in in role in castaway to the sight of McDonalds. I ate the lot. I went back for seconds and desert.

    And now I’m fat.

Who cares. Here on an Island of 90,000 people you an get the best of Europe and the best of the UK. Your tea is hot and strong. Your breakfasts are fattening and full of cooked meat. Yet your evening meals are cooked by people who care about food even when its just a buffet.

    Visit Jersey, 4 Michelin star restaurants between 90,000 people should be enough to peak your curiosity. When it does, stay at the Pomme D’or and for a night, just try the buffet. I can provide my personal assurance that you will go back for seconds, and thirds, and to finish you will feel guilty. Guilty and fat but satisfied with a grin.

 

 

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