October 09 2012
At the north end of St Ouen’s Bay, on Jersey’s west coast, is an old German gun emplacement. Its proud proprietor, Sean Faulkner, showed me its concrete-walled chambers: two for live ammunition, one for shell casings, one for the main gun. The only live shells nowadays, I am happy to report, belong to lobsters, crabs and other molluscs and crustaceans: Faulkner converted the old bunker in 1980 and it now houses several viviers, tanks for live seafood. He will happily sell visitors a crab sandwich or chuck a lobster on the barbecue – bring your own wine – but his main business is supplying the live catch to both the French mainland and local restaurants.
These include Ocean, at the other end of the bay, where his friend Mark Jordan is the executive head chef: from phone call to delivery, Faulkner’s record for a lobster is eight minutes. The newly Michelin-starred Ocean occupies a smart dining room within the Atlantic Hotel, perched in several acres of clifftop gardens next to the testing La Moye Championship links (it’s a private club, but the staff at the Atlantic will sort you out with a tee time if you ask them nicely).
Jordan, a hugely talented but disarmingly modest Midlander, has an impressive CV that includes stints at Gilpin Lodge and Llangoed Hall – he even survived several years cooking for Keith Floyd. His menu is complex without being fussy: a perfect little tangle of linguini, for example, with poached oyster, caviar and a light, lemony sauce or a roasted fillet of halibut with local asparagus, little golden chanterelles and a truffled beurre blanc. A dish of local beef is daringly paired with a raviolo of lobster and a consummate consommé. On an island where the quality of local produce is rarely reflected on restaurant menus, Ocean stands out as brightly as the nearby Corbière lighthouse.
Jordan’s other venture, Mark Jordan at the Beach, is in nearby St Aubin’s Bay. The menu is simpler, but just as enticing: I sampled a molten-yolked Scotch egg made with local pork and perked up with piccalilli, then a grilled plaice dressed with capers, king prawns and cockles. The restaurant attracts a loyal clientele that enjoys simple, beautiful dishes served in an equally simple and beautiful room.
The Oyster Box, a friendly, spacious restaurant with views of the headland in St Brelade’s Bay, is another beacon in the seascape of Jersey cuisine. I had a fine black bream: baked, then boned and scattered with black olives, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts and roasted prawns. A sublime lunch in a lovely beachside setting – and proof that the cream of Jersey’s produce doesn’t have to come from a cow.