Monday, 21 November 2016

CHANNEL ISLANDS: Review of The Jersey Michelin Experience with The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey

St Ouen's Bay, Jersey

The Jersey Michelin Experience with The Atlantic Hotel

Making decisions is always a pain, and a thing reserved for grown ups (a group within society I'm pretty sure I'm yet to become a member of). Someone else sorting dinner plans when visiting a new part of the world is always handy, and if you intend on staying at the resplendent The Atlantic Hotel in Jersey before Christmas this year, they've got a great package going on.

They've collaborated with the island's Michelin starred restaurants to offer The Jersey Michelin Experience: that's Ocean Restaurant at The Atlantic Hotel, Bohemia at The Club Hotel & Spa, and Ormer Restaurant by Shaun Rankin. Three, four and seven night breaks are available, with meals included at these restaurants, to celebrate the fine dining and fabulous produce to be found on an island that is just nine miles by five.

Surprisingly for any restaurant, let alone one with a star, Bohemia were unable to accommodate a dietary requirement of no alcohol in the food for my partner (he's allergic to it), despite being told well in advance, so we didn't get to dine there. Instead, a fine lunch at Mark Jordan at the Beach, under some spectacular Jersey sunshine was enjoyed, an additional restaurant included for guests that opt for the seven-night package.

rooms views from The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey

Ocean Restaurant at The Atlantic Hotel

Executive Head Chef Mark Jordan has succeeded at retaining a Michelin star here for the past 10 years, and is renowned for his carefully crafted dishes that shout the praises of local Jersey produce. From spanking fresh seafood hauled from the surrounding waters, to tender Jersey beef, Mark's food is innovative but still relatable in its honesty.

Ocean’s design is influenced by its coastal setting. Expect the soothing tones of blues, whites and beiges to create a modern classic look, with hand-crafted furniture and specially commissioned artwork punctuating the space. White American-style shutters frame stunning views over the gardens to the ocean beyond, and help create shade when the glorious Jersey sunshine is a'shining.

Mark’s seven course tasting menu uses many products which already have international recognition and sport the distinctive Genuine Jersey logo. It's an ode to all things Jersey - see here for a sample menu of this season's offering.

Ocean Restaurant at The Atlantic Hotel, Le Mont de la Pulente, Saint Brelade, Jersey JE3 8HE

dinner at Ocean Restaurant at The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey


Local produce is king at this trendy St. Helier restaurant, where renowened chef Shaun Rankin was awarded a Michelin star just four months after it opened in 2013. He's spent 18 years on the island honing the supply chain and promoting Jersey's gastronomy, and via Ormer's open kitchen is a great way to experience this.

Perhaps island life is a little slower compared to the chaos of London, but it took a leisurely half an hour for our order to be taken. But once the food did start to arrive, little could be faulted. 

Duck was rich and full of iron with a fabulous texture, there was a delicate but vibrant crab canneloni, and scallops were small, sweet and plump. But it was the main of lamb with black garlic, sweetbreads and little pasta parcels stuffed with goat's cheese and honey, that won the show. A treacle tart with local clotted cream ice cream was deep brown in its caramel offering, and little Jersey royals as a side with the mains was a given.

Ormer, 7-11 Don Street, St, Helier, Jersey JE2 4TQ

dinner at Ormer, Jersey

Mark Jordan at the Beach

There are probably few better places to dine for lunch on the whole island than Mark Jordan at the Beach when the sun is shining in Jersey. Which it very much was during my visit. Full throttle UV, and it was glorious. The beachside bistro from The Atlantic Hotel’s Executive Head Chef Mark Jordan, boasts Jersey’s only Michelin Bib Gourmand, a mark of good quality and good value food.

You'll find it on the south coast of Jersey, close to the capital of St Helier, and just a stone's throw from St Aubin's Harbour. There's seating both inside and out with unrivalled views of the bay, and from the menu you can expect quality produce cooked simply, served in a competent but relaxed and casual setting, with really commendable service. 

As I chatted to the waiter, they mentioned Mark goes to the food markets in Paris at 3.30am to get the ingredients for both his restaurants, and I really like how he's active on social media, showing the behind the scenes of the day's prep and development of menus.

Whilst the burger pattie was a little tough and too compact for me, mackerel and its glorious crispy skin was a fantastic pairing with young beets and Jersey Royals. I also loved the 70's throwback that was a delightful prawn cocktail. And top marks for bringing up the no alcohol dietary requirement before we had to remind them, putting us at ease straight away. See, it's not that difficult Bohemia *rolls eyes*.

Mark Jordan at the Beach, La Plage, La Route de la Haule, St Peter, Jersey JE3 7YD

lunch at Mark Jordan at the Beach, Jersey

A three night dinner, bed and breakfast break at The Atlantic Hotel, as part of the The Jersey Michelin Experience, starts from £390 per person excluding flights, and is available for travel until Friday 23rd December 2016.

Note: I stayed as a guest of this hotel as part of a media package. All views remain my own, as always.

Related links
CHANNEL ISLANDS: Review of The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey

Sunday, 20 November 2016

CHANNEL ISLANDS: Review of The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey

Ocean View room at The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey
In a nutshell

One of the finest luxury hotels in Jersey, The Atlantic Hotel has been in local family ownership since it opened in 1970, and was even featured as the reward one week on the BBC's The Apprentice, when the winning team was flown to the island by private jet to spend the day as their guests. 

Where is it?

Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands (that also includes Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, and Brecqhou) and is in fact a lot closer to France than mainland Britain. As the most southerly island in the British Isles, it is only 14 miles from France, and around 100 miles from Britain. 

The island's proximity to Brittany and Normandy, along with its historical links with France, mean this little jewel in the English Channel has a profoundly French influence, yet the island is also very British in character.

The hotel itself is found in the parish of St Brelade on the west coast of Jersey. You can expect spectacular views over the golden sands of St Ouen's Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, and I'd say it was one of the best room views I've enjoyed in a hotel - check out the sunset snap top right of the final collage below. 

The property also adjoins La Moye championship golf course, and overlooks the unspoilt conservation area of Les Mielles.

The Atlantic Hotel's immediate surroundings of St Ouen's Bay, Jersey

Style and character

The Atlantic Hotel boasts the accolade of the sole Jersey member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, an exclusive collection of the very best independent hotels around the world. To get in this concise list of 500 or so, a property needs to have oodles of style and sophistication.

Within the rooms, you can expect elegant and understated colours, lavish marble bathrooms with stylish Hans Grohe fittings, light oak and satin-polished chrome, full height windows, and balconies offering those fab views. There was a nicely packaged desk and small reception area, Sky HD on the box, and Molton Brown toiletries.

Ocean View room at The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey

What's unique?

Give me a swish hotel and locate it next to a premier wildlife site, and I'm smitten. The property occupies a prominent headland position overlooking Les Mielles (here's a very lovely walk you can do), a conservation area of international significance and heaps of natural beauty. 

Then there's the striking St Ouen's Bay just in front of the hotel, with its dune system known as Les Blanches Banques, designated a 'Special Site' or SSI. Some of the more stable parts of the dunes are between 3,000 and 4,000 years old - that's damn impressive.

Who goes?

I got the impression many visitors were return customers, which is totally understandable; I'll likely end up being one of them myself. Lolling about on the sun loungers, wandering through the beautiful grounds and towards the bay. I'd say most were couples, middle-aged and upwards, with a few families too. It's an altogether exceedingly relaxing and peaceful place to unwind, for anyone.


Breakfast is held in the Michelin-starred Ocean Restaurant within the hotel, where you'll be presented with a menu from which to order your hot option. The Full Jersey breakfast is included in your room price, anything else is a supplement. It was lovely and showcased local ingredients - bacon, black pudding, sausage, eggs, mushrooms. I could have also done with the option of baked beans, but I understand that's not part of a classic island breakfast! 

A basket of toast and pastries is delivered along with your hot drink. There are white linen tablecloths, and cutlery engraved with the restaurants name add a classy touch. If the weather is good, reserve the table next to the small courtyard at the back of the room, the doors of which they'll have open.

There are limited amounts of self-serve cold goods, which is probably a good thing as it means it doesn't sit out and go stale. But you'll find some fruit and cereal there. If you need anything else, just ask.

the Full Jersey Breakfast at The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey


During my stay, I experienced The Jersey Michelin Experience with The Atlantic Hotel, which included dining at Ocean at The Atlantic, Mark Jordan at The Beach, and Ormer. A separate blog post on that can be found here.


All the staff members were wonderful, and service was of the highest order, as you would expect from such a well-regarded establishment with a great reputation.

joyous scenes from Jersey

Liked lots / liked less

Liked lots - The property's compact size is very attractive. There aren't endless corridors - everything was accessible from everything else. Which is why boutique hotels are often so much more preferable to big chains. The fact you could reach the bay from a short walk from the grounds was idyllic - the location is really quite fantastic. And there was a bottle of fresh Jersey milk in the fridge - win.

Liked less - A coffee pod machine and an ironing board with iron, in the room, would have been good. I would have also liked a lighter and healthier hot breakfast option, rather than just the Full Jersey, to be included in the room price. Otherwise you'll likely end up eating a fry-up every morning, which can get a bit much if you're staying for longer than a weekend.

Price point

A three night dinner, bed and breakfast break, as part of the The Jersey Michelin Experience, starts from £390 per person excluding flights, and is available for travel until Friday 23rd December 2016.


The Atlantic Hotel & Ocean Restaurant
Le Mont de la Pulente,
St Brelade,
Jersey JE3 8HE
Channel Islands

Telephone +44 (0)1534 744101
Fax +44 (0)1534 744102

Note: I stayed as a guest of this hotel as part of a media package. All views remain my own, as always.

Related links
CHANNEL ISLANDS: Review of The Jersey Michelin Experience with The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey

Saturday, 5 November 2016

FINLAND | 8 ways to summer like the Finns in the Turku Archipelago

my tree hut dwelling at The Forest Village in Storfinnhova Gård, Finland

A question I get asked a lot is, "What's been your favourite trip this year?". Over the past few months, I've been fortunate enough to pop over to Sri Lanka, China, Florida, Sydney, and Canada, to name a few. But my answer has remained the same since I visited the Turku Archipelago in the height of summer in June: Finland.

The usual response, "Really? I've never even considered Finland for a summer holiday." Which is understandable. And that's why I'm here. Because listen up people, it's the stuff of dreams.

If, like me, you love nature, being outdoors, great weather, fantastic people, foraging, forests, holidaying with friends, great food, few crowds, and beautiful scenery, then you need to make visiting Finland in the summer a high priority.

Apart from all of that (I'd be sold already), it's got a heap of other stuff going for it too. It has a very low crime rate, almost everyone can speak English (I guess because no one else speaks Finnish), and I noticed there are a lot of parallels with my favourite country I've ever visited: Japan.

There's that low crime rate thing. Plus their affinity with nature and water. Also, their reservedness, except when naked in a sauna or onsen (communal bath in Japan) - something about breaking down all barriers and not being able to hide anything. A lot of business in Finland is settled in a sauna, and the same goes for an onsen in Japan (here's a post I wrote on onsen etiquette and how to do communal bathing in Japan). And one of the favourite pastimes of Finns is karaoke, which originated in Japan.

As I was creating this post, I noticed all my images have either a green or blue tone. Reflecting the blue skies, blue water, and green forests. That basically sums up my ideal holiday destination for me. I'd love to know what you think after reading the rest of this post - feel free to leave a comment!

1) Get on your bike

Finns like to be outdoors in the summer in general, and that's very understandable, considering their great weather, very long daylight hours, and the fact 70% of the country is beautiful forest. Not jealous, not jealous at all... Exploring the countryside on two wheels is a favourite way to do this.

summer cycling in Kimitoon, Finland

The Kimito Islands can be found in the midst of the world's largest archipelago, in the Archipelago Sea, with a mind boggling 50,000 islands, skerries and rocks. This collective shrapnel makes up part of southwest Finland.

The region has a scenic 100km-long coastal cycling route, which takes you from the city of Salo on the mainland, all the way to the beautiful islands of Rosala, Hitis, Högsåra, Örö and Kasnäs. Think small country roads, forest paths, national parks, lakes, beaches, villages, campsites, and idyllic scenery.

What I thought would be a leisurely cruise, turned out to be a hilly 11km power-cycle in some very warm sunshine - I should have realised what was coming when I was given a mountain bike. But it was stunning. You could smell the pine forests before you could see them, and swathes of lupins carpeted the grassy banks.

2) Lunch in a Finnish country garden

Embrace the Finns' affinity with nature by lunching amongst the flora and fauna of a Finnish country garden. You'll find The Westers Garden on the beautiful Kimito Island in the Turku Archipelago - the largest coastal island in Finland. 

Its roots lie in the old kitchen plots of the farmers and seafarers, and today the garden is under complete ecological cultivation. Flowers, herbs, and vegetables grow side by side in blissful harmony, you can buy herbs to take home and plant up, or fill your basket with a colourful harvest.

An old atmospheric cow shed is where you'll find the café, serving the likes of homemade pastries, fish soup, salad from the garden, and delightfully dense Finnish bread. It's a beautiful bucolic spot to unwind, recharge the batteries, and get a little closer to nature.

lunch in the idyllic surroundings of The Westers Garden, Kimito Island

3) Sleep in a tree house in the forest

This was very special. 

We spent a night in a basic wooden hut on stilts in the middle of a Finnish forest. There was no electricity, and no flush toilets. But they did have a smoke granite sauna, a cold creek to dunk in after, and a Knight's Hall for grand feasting. That's how the Finnish prioritise, and I approve. 

The Forest Village in Storfinnhova Gård, Finland
The 10pm light was something else, with a sun that was very low, but not yet ready to set. Fern and moss blanketed the floor, dappled rays back-lit the softly swaying leaves, and flitting moths were emerging for dusk. There were just the sounds of the forest against a backdrop of silence. It felt like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Entirely magical.

The Forest Village can be found in Storfinnhova Gård, on Kemiö Island, around 900 metres from the main estate. It's intended as a place where "adults can reconnect and experience their creative inner child in an atmosphere of immediate joy". If that doesn't sell it, nothing will.

4) Dine in a lighthouse

The archipelago's dizzying number of islands means lighthouses are an integral part of the landscape. Twenty-five kilometers southwest of Hanko, at the entrance of the Gulf of Finland, you'll find the country's southernmost inhabitable place, and Scandinavia's tallest lighthouse. Towering 52 meters above the sea, Bengtskär is the region's most imposing and impressive monument.

What's particularly cool is you can not only dine here, but also stay the night. We didn't do the latter, but I can vouch that the former was a tasty experience. A choppy boat ride got us out to the lighthouse for dinner; it was WINDY. It was windy on land too, the bracing elements of the Baltic Sea blasting away the cobwebs, whilst clambering over rocks to observe the ground-nesting Eider ducks that call the island home, being careful not to disturb them or their eggs.

Be sure to climb to the top of the tower for spectabular views, all 256 steps. You'll have worked up an appetite by the time you come back down; expect a fortifying and traditional lighthouse dinner of potatoes, beef, salmon, fried seabass, mushroom sauce, and more of that great bread.
Bengtskär Lighthouse, Turku Archipalego

5) Sauna, lake, sauna, lake

It's no secret the Scandinavians (Denmark, Sweden, Norway) enjoy a sauna - it's an intrinsic part of their culture and how they socialise. It's no different in neighbouring Finland, where there is one sauna for every three people, and where you'll even find a sauna in the Burger King in Helsinki. Yep. Taking meat sweats to new heights.

Sure, I'd been in a sauna before. In a gym, or a hotel, or something equally uninspiring. But I'd never had the full on, traditional Finnish / Scandi experience. Which is somewhere in the middle of a forest, with great company, intercepted with beer and awesome food, and dunking into an almost freezing lake after. And let me tell you, I LOVED IT.

Our last evening in Finland, staying at Kirjakkala Iron Mills Village, went something like this: sauna - jump in lake - eat great food - sauna - jump in lake - drink beer - repeat until midnight. I got it. I so got it. 

Also, no one told me that submerging into really cold water after roasting in a sauna was a natural high. Something to do with dilating and constricting blood vessels, the amount of oxygen to the brain etc. I mean, I might have got a bit addicted. I could have kept going for days...

You sneaky Scandis / Finns. Now it all makes sense! Where do I sign up?

sauna, lake, repeat, at Kirjakkala Iron Mills Village, Turku Archipalego

6) Marvel at the (almost) midnight sun

Where we were in southwest Finland wasn't quite north enough to experience the actual midnight sun - I believe you need to be in the Arctic Circle for that. It was also a week or so before the summer solstice. But it was close, and equally disorientating.

We came out of a restaurant in Helsinki after our evening meal, emerging from several courses and too much wine, only to step out into broad daylight at about 9.30pm - 10pm. 

My brain was already squiffy with booze and lack of sleep. For a moment, I thought perhaps I'd been in there all night, and this was in fact sunrise the next day. Anyway, you get used to it pretty quickly. And midnight dusk never gets boring.

Högsåra Island around midnight in mid-June, Finland

7) Get in and on the water

Water, water everywhere. Quite literally. After 70% of the country being forest, an impressive 10% is water. Finland has a staggering 187,000 lakes within its borders (and I'll bet each has at least one sauna on its banks), which explains why it also goes by the name of "The Land of a Thousand Lakes". Not forgetting the Finnish waters between its bazillions of islands.

Wherever you are in the country, you're going to be near water, so it makes sense to get in it, or on it. Be that a little boat with a skipper to ferry you around island hopping, taking a leisurely row on a lake (we did below in Teijo National Park), or skinny dipping after sweating it out in a sauna.

Connecting with the water is key to Finnish life - embrace it. And that's coming from someone who can't even swim.

island hopping, and rowing in Teijo National Park, Finland

8) Eat a lot of cake

You may well have heard of fika, the name given to the Swedish institution of taking a break to socially interact with friends, family or colleagues over coffee - a pastime that's taken very seriously (here's a post on my time in Stockholm, including more about fika).

Whilst the Swedes do drink a lot of coffee, it's actually the Finns that come out on top as the highest consumers of coffee per capita in the world. They routinely stop for several cups a day. And where there is coffee in Finland, there is also cake. Lots of excellent cake.

It was too difficult a task to say no to a slice every time we stopped for coffee. So much so, that I eventually gave in and ate cake like I was on commission. Plus, the Finns sure know how to bake.

My favourite cake stops from the trip were from Ada Tammi, the young and talented student behind the café Ada Bakes, in her family's Mathildedal Iron Works Village in the Teijo area. You can follow Ada on Instagram - she's one to watch.

A special mention must also go to the entirely idyllic Farmors Café on the island of Högsåra. We stayed the night at Villa Cecilia, run by the same owners as the café, and just a stone's throw away. We dined there twice, for both lunch and breakfast, and alongside the terrific baked goods, the rest of the food was actually quite exceptional. One of my favourite dining spots from the trip.

eating all of the Finnish cake. And when you're tired of cake, there's always ice cream

I feel like Finland is a country I made a real connection with, on some special, unchartered level. I am truly desperate to return.


Note: This trip and the flights were hosted by Finnair and the Visit Finland tourism board. Thank you to everyone involved for a wonderful experience. 

All views remain my own, as always.

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