Voyage of discovery
Tom Flint heads to Guernsey for a gastronomic journey.
When you think of great food destinations Guernsey might not be at the top your list.
However, with more and more of us looking at domestic holiday destinations, this little island has a lot to offer the food-focused traveller.
I spent two days experiencing some of the best restaurants, produce and venues on the island and what I found was quite an eye opener.
Having never visited any of the Channel Islands this was a real voyage of discovery and intrigue.
Following the extremely short flight – just 50 minutes from Gatwick – we touched down and I got my first glimpse of Guernsey.
My initial impression was that it was a mix of a Cornish village, with a hint of Normandy and southern British countryside all rolled into one
Tiny winding roads with French names criss-cross the landscape and I am struck by the beauty of the scenery.
Quaint cottages are intermingled with grand houses and there is a wealth of greenery.
Regular glimpses of the sea remind you of the size of the island and that you are close to the coast at all times.
Seafood is one of the island’s greatest assets and it boasts one of the most sustainable fishing industries in the world.
With deep oceans and a tidal shift that is one of the widest in the world there is a plethora of seafood on offer.
With huge varieties of both flat and non-flat fish to choose from and beautiful oysters, mussels and scallops, this is a serious paradise for those who favour their protein from the sea.
The dairy cows and golden goats provide some of the most luxurious milks and creams you can imagine.
Horticulturalists across the island are producing herbs, fruit, vegetables and mushrooms year round and the rocks and fields provide foragers with a vast array of herbs and sea vegetables.
With such a wealth of produce to choose from here are some of my top picks for where to eat, sleep, drink and visit.
Where to stay
Hotel Bella Luce offers travellers ‘luxury with the shoes kicked off’.
This 4* hotel situated in a Norman manor not only houses an excellent restaurant but is also the home of Wheadon’s gin.
The superbly elegant hotel is stylish and comforting all at once and its restaurant is certainly worth spending an evening meal in. Try the fruits de mer or any of the steak it butchers and hangs on site.
No stay at the Bella Luce would be complete without enjoying the gin experience with owner Luke Wheadon who distils his own gin on the premises. His pink grapefruit and rock samphire gin is a thing of beauty.
For something a little different hotel Ziggurat is a hotel with a North African feel in the centre of St Peters Port.
Situated on a winding staircase, the hotel rewards visitors with fantastic views over the bay and of neighbouring islands.
Its terraced garden with colourful dining huts is the sort of place I could easily while away many hours and is well worth a visit.
It prides itself on being at odds with the faceless corporate world and welcoming guests as you would in your home.
The Persian and North African food is fantastic and it has an excellent cocktail list.
I would highly recommend the Phantom Violet cocktail and the baked seabass.
Where to eat
Simon McKenzie of the 5* Old Government House has been awarded Channel Islands chef of the year 2016 and it is easy to see why.
Utilising the fantastic island produce and modern techniques, Simon is a chef whose food cannot be missed.
The OGH is an impressive building that harks back to colonial Britain and spending an afternoon on the terrace with a G&T or three is highly recommended as is their wonderful afternoon tea.
Le Petit Bistro is a taste of Paris in St Peters Port.
Serving up classic French cuisine in appropriately decked-out surroundings, owners Michael and Delphine have the honour of being the restaurant the other chefs on the island choose to eat at.
With the adjoining petit café and a new venue called Octopus along the coast there are plenty of opportunities to sample their fantastic French fare.
The escargots are the best this side of the border and well worth a try.
Head chef at the Pavilion, Tony Leck, came to the island for a weekend away 25 years ago and never left.
He is a champion of Guernsey produce and has written a book based on the food at his restaurant.
Simple classic cookery is at the forefront of Tony’s food and his restaurant is certainly worth a visit.
Where to drink
White Rock brewery is new to Guernsey but is taking the island by storm.
Sensing a gap in the market for a local brewery, Ross Gledhill started the brewery after moving to the island from Essex and now produces some of the islands best ales.
Head over to the Golden Lion or Cornerstone pubs to sample his
wares and keep an eye out for the islands Oktoberfest weekender on October 1-2.
If you are looking for something a little different check out the island’s only mobile cocktail Aperitif Co.
Owner James Le Gallez is available to hire throughout the island for events or private parties and he creates cocktails with a Guernsey influence.
James is also heading up Guernsey cocktail week (cocktailweek.gg) that takes place between September 16 and 24.
What to do
For the food-minded traveller the best time to visit the island would be between September 23 and October 2 when the second annual Guernsey Food and Drink Festival takes place.
With a full list of events taking place across the island, visit www.visitguernsey.com/food-festival for full details.
Do not miss the International Chef Exchange with Simon McKenzie teaming up with chef Craig Jones of Cap Maison in St Lucia on September 29 at the OGH.
No visit to Guernsey would be complete without visiting the Guernsey Golden Goats
These lovely mild mannered goats are native to the island and the milk, cream and cheese they produce is fantastic.
If beaches are your thing then Cobo Bay and Vazon Bay are some of the most stunning beaches in the British Isles.
Finally if you are looking for a memento of your trip, Haut Maison spirits are the perfect gift.
Available across the island, these fruit liqueurs and flavoured gin and vodka are produced by Stephen and Katherine Paine from their home in St Sampson.
How to get there
Flights to Guernsey from London Gatwick take only 45 minutes, with those from regional airports taking upwards of 30 minutes.
Regular flights operate from major UK airports all year round,
Ferries to Guernsey from the UK cross from Poole, take around three hours.
A traditional ferry operates in all weathers, all-year-round, from Portsmouth.
Visit www.visitguernsey.com for information.