Take a long weekend at the Grand Hotel, Jersey
The weekend: The Bailiwick of Jersey (Bailiwick being the term for British Crown dependencies of the Channel Islands, administration fans) has been a summer holiday staple for decades, boasting beautiful beaches, quaint villages, amazing seafood and a genuinely relaxed, welcoming vibe.
The small island boasts a wealth of tourist attractions, but curious visitors who set out to escape the masses are rewarded with secluded bays and bracing country walks. There are also cows and potatoes.
Where: the Grand Hotel is a just a ten minute drive from Jersey airport, making it perfectly placed for a quick but indulgent island getaway.
Originally opened in 1890, its gabled exterior is now rather quaint and unimposing beside the gargantuan financial buildings that have sprung up around it in the last decade. Situated right on the St Helier seafront with dramatic views of Elizabeth castle, it’s a short walk to the town centre, where there’s plenty to do and see.
The stay: the boutique hotel chain Handpicked Hotels brought the Grand in 2014 and has been gradually renovating the old building ever since, initially concentrating on the rooms themselves.
Although not luxuriously appointed, they are incredibly comfortable with huge beds, good-sized LCD television sets and excellent tea and coffee facilities, including fresh milk and – importantly – really nice biscuits. There was no bath in our room but the shower, toiletries and towels were all superb.
There’s a stylish Champagne bar overlooking the sea, and two restaurants: Tassili, for fine dining and the more relaxed Victoria’s, which is very good, but with its rather tired-looking burgundy crush-velvet booths should perhaps be next on the chain’s refurbishment diary.
The building even has its own small cinema, which is available to guests for private use, along with an array of movies to watch.
A key draw, of course, is the hotel’s spa features. The Grand offers a small heated pool as well as a sauna and steam room, which are all scrupulously clean and comfortable.
There is a full range of beauty, message and relaxation treatments, costing between £45 for a truly wonderful back, neck and shoulder massage to £113 for a “deeper than deep” hot stone message. A well-stocked gym offers free weights and a selection of modern machines, some with screens and internet access.
The food: We ate in Victoria’s, which offers a modern brasserie-style menu with both British and French touches, befitting the cultural heritage of the island.
The starter menu concentrates on seafood, with gorgeous plump scallops, a classic Jersey crab cocktail, and Jersey La Manche smoked salmon, all fresh and beautifully presented.
Fish also featured heavily on the main menu, with bass fillet, fisherman’s pie and traditional fish and chips all figuring. Alternatively, gastro pub staples like roast rack of lamb and a devilishly gooey slow cooked pork belly in sweet soya accompanied a grill selection of dry-aged Aberdeen Scottish beef steaks.
Deserts are on the lighter end of the scale, with a svelte tiramisu and lavender crème brulee. The interesting cheese selection includes local varieties served with biscuits and a zingy chutney.
On our second evening, we visited Handpicked Hotels’ other Jersey property, L’Horizon, eating at the immaculate Grill restaurant which faces out onto the picturesque St Brelade’s Bay.
If you want traditional fish and chips to scoff while wandering the harbour, The Seafish Cafe is a must
Again, the seafood was wonderful, starters including a delicate prawn cocktail and a crab gateau with wasabi mayonnaise that have been the best thing we ate on the island.
The rest of the restrained and thoughtful menu offered plaice, turbot and monkfish all expertly prepared, and of course a full grill selection with 35-day aged sirloins, fillet and ribeye.
Another neat, subtle selection of desserts included a raspberry soufflé with warm white chocolate sauce, and a light-as-air honeycomb parfait.
Ask about: St Helier is worth exploring, its bustling streets crammed with big name stores, excellent independent coffee houses and plenty of decent pubs.
If you want traditional fish and chips to scoff while wandering the harbour, The Seafish Cafe is a must. The Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, and the Maritime Museum are both excellent for families, the latter particularly offering lots of interactive exhibits.
And after that: It’s easy to explore the nearby bays and beaches, either on foot, bike or via the island’s reliable bus network.
You have to walk down a long stone staircase to get to nearby Portelet Bay, but the secluded beach with its eighteenth century tower is well worth it. Beauport beach near St Brelades is a favourite sun trap for locals, but is rarely overcrowded. Surfers head to St Ouen's Bay in the west.
Need to know: Hand Picked Hotels (handpickedhotels.co.uk) is offering an Ocean View stay at Grand Jersey from £205 per night based on accommodation in an Ocean View room and traditional breakfast, based on two sharing, with availability from July-September.