Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jersey: a foodie's delight

Well, I didn’t change my hat for a horsey one after all, I changed it for my foodie one. Natalie… Helen … Matt … Ryan ... Nerole … this is for you!

Jersey, I am discovering, is a rather exceptional place to be, if you like to eat. And I don’t mean eat just as in fill your stomach to stay alive, rather, to enjoy the experience of eating.

I’ve been here for nine days – and nine dinners (well, eight dinners and one 3-hour late lunch) – I’ve eaten in four different places, and everywhere I have had an enjoyable to outstanding meal, at prices ranging from 22 pounds to 100 pounds a head.

The Dockyard I have already told you about. Five nights I’ve dined Chez Rogerio and Chris, across the road, and I see no reason to modify my first impressions. Good, well-made, tasty food that would not be out of place at a much more pretentious establishment. On night four, I told Chris to go for broke, and make me a meal I would like, the way he would like to, and damn the expense. Well, he’d sussed me, all right. But slightly overestimated my capacity. I started with his impeccable cheese-herby soufflé, but had to skip the delicious-looking champagne sorbet … because I knew what was coming next. A de luxe version of his fish stew, dripping with New Zealand-sized prawns. Like! Cost (with, of course, campari and Guinness): 45 pounds.

After the concert on Friday, my friend Alex-the-violin was free from week-day work and rehearsals. So, Saturday, we decided to repeat our world-beating foodie experience of 2010 and re-visit Bohemia (see blog). Was I worried? Of course, I didn’t want my marvellous memories of my best meal for years to be spoiled. So often, love isn’t better the second time around. Well, I am here to report that Bohemia is still Bohemia with cowbells on. Alex, Katie his partner, and I had another wonderful meal ... and I mean Wonderful … and those who know me, and my food (and music) judgements, know I say that once in a decennie …

I should have taken pictures, because the meal has somehow merged into one delicious blur for me but I felt it was tempting fate to take the camera…
After my extra dry sherry (at last!), I began with an extraordinary beetroot salad with goat’s cheese ice cream! I love beetroot, this was the tastiest maroon-and-white beetroot dish ever, and there was olive and something else there too, and, oh, bugger analysis … I hasten on. Main course: sea bass with asparagus. Ordinary? Oh no. The chef had put something ... oh, hell, I was eating in tiny sips and nibbles, I was enjoying that thing that looked like green rice soooooo much. Was it asparagus tip deconstructed? Anyway, it was ‘deevy’ as we used to say in the fifties, and I took an age to delicatesse it.
I’ve utterly forgotten what Alex and Katie had (they started with crab linguini) because I was deep in my plate, sybariting.

They had the cheese, but I didn’t dare, because I knew I was going to have a dessert. Yes! Me! But this is The Dessert of my Planet. A little bit of everything from the menu, from the chef’s famous treacle tart to marvellous things made of ice-cream to a devilish choc brownie. Which required the accompaniment, of course, of a ’91 port.

It was a meal from my dreams – again – and it took us (with a delicious bottle of Janasse) three hours to complete, in the most agreeable surroundings with the most perfect service … can I take the maïtresse de la salle home please!
OK, cost? 280 pounds (of which 100 plus was drinks) for three. A lot? No. I don’t think so at all. Wholly justified and … of course, I’m going again. When I shall write a great deal more – and more coherent -- about the Art of Bohemia, from amid a less joyous haze!

Have I said ‘wonderful’ and ‘marvellous’ too much? Well, so did Cole Porter.

Bohemia is a hard act to follow, but when I gushed my praises to some locals they actually suggested that there was equally good or (pardon my snigger) better on the Island. Well, the challenge is taken up. I have 2 ½ weeks left, and we are going… and if they aren’t as good … those folk can take me back to Bohemia. Twice!

Monday night, Alex and Katie took me out (and I remembered the camera). We went out to lovely Gorey, where my previous eating experiences, along the wharf, had ranged from ghastly to grim. That was about to change. I negotiated the steep stairs (no stick!) to Sumas restaurant, on the other leg of the harbour, and found myself in the prettiest little room: all white tablecloths and yellow tulips. On a nice day, the view would have been lovely, but I soon forgot about the view, as we started to eat.

The starters list looked like a meal in itself (I actually did that at the Dockyard on Friday .. had a ‘light supper’ consisting of all the starters, one after the other), but I went for soup of the day. Asparagus. It was very nice, but I kept thinking, poor delicious asparagus, why make soup out of you? Because it is so nice, suppose.
Main course: well, I hadn’t eaten meat since Sydney, and they offered braised shin – a dish which has (as ‘jarret’) happy, half-century old memories for me. It must be awfully hard to cook in a restaurant: how keep it perfect until someone orders it … well, Mr Suma did it, just fine, and my welcome back to carnivorosity was decidedly delicious. I photographed the photogenic beast, his courgettes, tatie, and trimmings, before I ate him.

But the triumph was to come. Dessert time. Oh no, not again. Cheese, please. And the cheese board included époisses. Once again, my memories were not wrong. This IS the best cheese in the world. And, of course, being a talky chap, I said so. Well, I guess you might say I burst into lyricism …

And then, in an act of restaurant generosity which I have only experienced once before in my life (when the man in Lille put the whole bottle of fine whisky in front of us at the end of his meal), Sumas won a place in my heart forever. The lady brought the packet of êpoisses back, and left us the whole lot. You could go to heaven for less.

Anyway, another wholly successful evening (give or take the weather, which smiled a little, later on) of which I can’t tell you the cost as Alex and Katie paid. But, like the pretensions of Sumas, it would be somewhere between the Dockyard and Bohemia.

And so we come to tonight. Tonight I am eating at the Garden Flat, Bayview. Chez moi. I’m not cooking – don’t be silly, like most critics, I’m ‘do as I say, not as I do’ – I just have my Jersey habits. Arrived in Jersey, one heads for ‘Relish’, the deli in the fish-market. I see it advertises itself as ‘the best deli in Jersey’ now, and I won’t gainsay that. The staff has changed since I first met Relish, but the place’s style and quality has not.
I purchased one piece of Tomme de Savoie, a little chêvre from Romilly du Perche, a saucisse d’Auvergne, a fat slice of pâté de sanglier, some black garlicked olives, a loaf, and a bottle of Amontillado (37 pounds). A nice picnic for my little garden flat?

Its now 5.41pm and I’m afraid I’ve had my dinner. It looked so dying-to-be-eaten when I photographed it, I ate it. Oh, not the lot. But I have to admit the pâté is all gone (9/10, I’d have liked it stronger), as are most of the two cheeses, which were lovely but would have benefitted if I’d been less greedy and left them a while. The olives were a 10/10 and will all go before my early bed. The saucisse, my fault, was too hard for the nowadays me, and much of the bread – perfectly nice – will go to the birds, for the same reason. I must learn to adapt.

And so, tomorrow night? Bohemia (on my own? naaah), Dockyard, picnic … or something else. I wouldn’t like to spoil my average …
well, we’ll see.

PS why has Bohemia only one Michelin star? It makes one – especially after the Hamborough experience – suspicious of the whole starry system.


sniperKE said...

Yummy :)


Hehe .. we'll have to find some more like that ... or maybe do Jersey again in August? :-)))))