Though the News item about Hand Picked Hotels, the mega hotelier, buying the Grand Jersey in Jersey Island on the Channel Islands had been in the media for quite some months, I wasn’t bothered much. It wasn’t my business; after all, business establishments are bought and sold for different reasons. However, when I read the statement by Mrs Julia Hands of Hand Picked Hotels, in one of the online news blogs, dated October 16, 2014, that “a rebrand for the Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa…”, I was downhearted. The news item didn’t say if the name was to be changed, but I know there would be some drastic changes being done when businesses change hands, and the ‘name of the business’ would also be one, at least, in most cases.
My worry about this news is because Grand Jersey & its Tassili restaurant with the Champaign Lounge are the settings where my wife and I experienced a great time on our Trip to Jersey Island, and the trip was very special because we celebrated our 2012 Wedding Anniversary there!
How it all happened:
While we were looking for a quiet, charming place with a decent hotel to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary in 2012, I short-listed some places depending on the flight availability and my work schedule, and to choose the best one from the short-list, we went for polls in a democratic way (matriarchal democratic way, to be precise). The winner was Grand Jersey Hotel in Jersey Island of the Channel Islands in the English Channel between England and France.
Reasons for choosing Grand Jersey were abound:
My wife chose it for its location, our budget and the brand image she was impressed with when she was browsing on the Net (and she is the one who does most of our shopping and she knows what to look for while buying or selecting something); my older daughter opted for it for its romantic atmosphere; my younger daughter thought it would be so Grand to be on an island (the word ‘grand’ might have sounded great or thought we would be the only people on the entire island, like in some stowaway story or movie); my dad wanted us to go there as there was this Gerald Durrell’s stationary Ark, a zoo-like home for the endangered, rare and exotic animals, and my mom seconded my wife’s decision as she knew her daughter-in-law was seldom wrong.
We made our plans, and landed on the islands and took a cab to our hotel, the Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa in St. Helier. As that particular trip was so special for us, we had very high expectations, and, fortunately, both Jersey Island and Grand Jersey were so up to the expectations that we were glad we chose this place and hotel for our special celebration.
Therefore, I thought it appropriate to write something as a tribute to this grand hotel… before it gets a complete over-haul, including its name by the hands of the HANDS!
Grand Jersey, the five star luxury hotel, is situated in St. Helier, one of the twelve parishes of Jersey Island. With the Michelin Starred restaurant ‘Tassili’; the much-talked about Champagne Lounge; Victorias, the dining room that’s open all days; the Terrace where guests can have great time in the open; besides the Spa are truly grand. The rooms were spacious and well-looked after and the staff, very attentive and efficient.
A stroll about the place:
After resting for a while and getting refreshed, we went out for a stroll to look-see the surroundings. The place was wonderful… surrounded by green trees, without noise or pollution and not crowded. The reception at the hotel and the walk in the parks really set us in the right mood for the next day’s grand event — our Wedding Anniversary.
We walked about the place. Just exploring, feeling elevated like those Victorian Royalty that walked the paved walks some decades ago. And when we felt a bit of thirst after the walk, we had a drink or two at the nearest cafe or bar and had a bite and moved on again.
The Special Moment:
So the next day, the special moment arrived and we got into our formal clothes: me in my tux and my wife in her bridal gown, and our excitement was enhanced when the staff at the hotel cheered us and attended to us with sweet smiles on their faces, as if we were newly-wedded! Yes, Grand Jersey boasts of arranging grand weddings and it has several honeymoon suites, each with the most enchanting view of St. Aubin’s Bay.
One of the staff suggested we, in our wedding clothes, should have a photo on the Grand Stairs of ghe hotel as it was an age old custom. We were overwhelmed. We were really excited like a couple of newly weds! The entire atmosphere was so encouraging and staff were so cooperative that they were like stand-ins for our absent family and friends.
Tassili, the Michelin Star restaurant:
Tassili is a compact but well-fledged restaurant which won four Michelin Stars in a row, a rating given to the best European restaurants by the Michelin tire company, and three AA Rosettes, a rating/award given to a restaurant that meets the specific standards set by the British Automobile Association.
The executive chef Richard Allen, a culinary graduate and experienced chef, who had been in charge of the kitchens of several best restaurants before joining Tassili, took-over Tassili’s kitchens in 2007 and later as the executive chef of the whole establishment. With his innovative culinary skills, he saw to that the four star hotel got its five stars, and the Tassili restaurant, its Michelin Star and the three AA Rosettes. Personally, Richard Allen won several accolades for himself, too: Catey Hotel Chef of the Year and also Chef of the Year by Craft Guild of Chefs Awards (2012) and he was recognised and included in the prestigious Debrett’s people of Today list.
Some of the best dishes Tassili, or rather Chef Richard Allen and his team, is to offer are: sauté of Jersey bay scallops with confit smoked pork belly, jersey mussel fricassee, lemon sole, foie gras, and cheeses topped with pear chutney, to name a few.
And creating this sort of image in the minds of customers of a business establishment is what is called Brand Image. See, I wanted to write this article to show my appreciation of the place and the hotel which made us happy. I paid a lot and I got what I paid for… great satisfaction. That is what a Brand Image is supposed to do and in this case, Grand Jersey was successful in making their brand the best.
The dinner was excellent. Though there may be some disgruntled guests who felt the heat in the restaurant a couple of degrees more than they could stand or a dish on the menu not being as sweet or sour as it should be, we enjoyed our dinner as if we had never eaten a dinner before… could be the mood we were in or the recipes suited us well or the fuss the waiters and chefs made over us.
On The Road again:
The next day was wonderful, too. We did some more exploration of the island. We were at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to which we used to send some donations to show our compassion for the animals that share this world with us. We were very happy being at this great ‘Stationary Ark’ to make a donation, a small amount, as it was the wish of my dad. I and my wife were a bit disappointed with the cold reception we received at the office. Of course, the Trust is run mostly by volunteers and there were very few volunteers that day, but then there must be some better way of receiving visitors who make a long trip to be there to appreciate the relentless work of an individual, Gerald Durrell (1925 –1995), with his team, including those who actually shoved us away after keeping us waiting for a long time just to receive our donation. I could have sent it online as I had done several times before, but as my dad wished, we wanted to be there in person and hand-over the money to them in my father’s name whose name we could find in some of their previous records, if they kept any!
Well, anyway, we took it easy being used to such small disappointments and inconveniences in our frequent travels, but on hearing this episode, my dad was more disappointed, for he had had a lot of respect for those people there, and also for troubling us with his wish.
Nevertheless, we visited the renowned ‘The Princess Royal Pavilion’ where conferences and some lecture classes are held and where a number of species are kept for educational purposes, and proceeded to spend some time in the beautiful green gardens.
The Salty Dog:
When we were thirty and hungry, we had our fill at the Salty Dog Bar & Bistro. A wonderful place where the locals and the tourists meet, greet and feast. The wine was sparkling and the food was good. We had a bit of fun when we thought of the name ‘Salty Dog’ which could be ‘a cocktail drink made with vodka or gin and grape-fruit juice’, ‘an experienced sailor’ or ‘one’s best friend’. My wife and I had fun guessing which meaning would fit this wonderful bar and bistro the best.
Apart from the wine and food, another thing that fascinated us at Salty Dog is the fact that this bar & bistro lends its hand in support of Restaurants Against Hunger, which is a part of the Action Against Hunger Charity, and to the RNLI, Royal National Lifeboat Institution, charities that save lives… on land and at sea. When customers order bottles of water, they are served tap water but are charged 50 pence for each bottle, of which fifty per cent goes to the Action Against Hunger and fifty per cent goes to the RNLI. Though we were not obliged to order, we ordered some bottles just to contribute to the great cause of saving lives.
The Tragicomic moment:
Now that the Grand Moment, our wedding anniversary, and the honeymooning are over (seemed too soon), it was time to get back home. We were a bit of tragicomical as we had to leave this wonderful place but were glad to get back home and join our folks, especially the kids.
So, thanking the wonderful staff at Grand Jersey and bidding good-bye to the friendly people on the island with whom we had chit-chat and, especially those who took our pictures, we returned home… safe and sound!