Guernsey, the second largest of the Channel Islands, home to Matt Le Tissier and erm, some famous cows. It perhaps isn’t the first place you think of when weekend gastronomic getaways are being planned. But, push those provincial prejudices to one side; there’s some serious eating to be done here. Because of its location, temperate climate and those famous residents (minus Matt), the big G a ‘must-visit’ foodie destination.
The cuisine has Norman roots and idiosyncratic recipes that have been passed down through the years, giving its cuisine an individuality and voice all of its own. With alfresco dining abundant coupled with Michelin-starred restaurants and new eateries and bars opening all the time, it’s only a matter of time before foodies everywhere uproot and decide that living in Guernsey is for them. So, here are 5 IDEAL reasons Guernsey is every gourmand’s dream.
THE STUFF FROM THE SEA
The island’s beautifully rugged coastline brings in the best of the sea’s bounty daily – a chef and diner’s dream, indeed. Mussels, oysters and other molluscs thrive here and the brackish, nutrient-rich waters allow the sea farm industry to thrive. And it’s not only the bivalves that love to call here home. From locally caught crab and lobsters to daily dived for scallops and fresh off the boat fish, Guernsey is a seafood lovers dream.
For a unique experience, plan your visit around ormering season. Whenever there is an “ormering tide” the island goes wild, and with good reason. The omer is a local delicacy in the Channel Islands and there are only 24 days in the entire season, falling on the fall moon, new moon and two days following. So time is precious in these parts to enjoy these pearls of the ocean. Omers look a little like to oysters, but have a milder molluscan flavour and are often called sea-ears because of their shape. Whatever you call them, they’re a real treat.
THE LOCAL PRODUCE
If you think the stuff from the sea is impressive, don’t even get us started on the lot from the land. Guernsey’s local produce is fantastic and any foodie would be a fool not to get their hands dirty and get amongst it. Indeed, the island’s long sunny days are perfect for growing fruit and veg; there’s even ‘hedge veg’ where boxes are filled up with fresh produce – and an honesty jar for those wanting to buy one. Quirky, quaint and charming.
Perhaps the world-renowned Guernsey cow is the island’s most famous culinary bragging right. As a result of high butterfat and protein levels, they produce some of the richest and downright delicious dairy products on the planet. The milk from Guernsey cattle reputedly contains three times as much beneficial omega-3 as any other milk, anywhere, and has a unique golden hue. From creamy milk, butter and ice-cream in a plethora of flavours, not to mention award-winning cheeses, Guernsey is a lactose lovers dreams. For those looking to learn as well as eat, taking a tour of Meadow Court farm, one of Guernsey’s traditional dairy farms, is a must.
It’s not just the cows that are famous – Golden Guernsey goats that produce melt-in-the-mouth cheeses also call this island home. Owing to such a diverse natural larder, a thriving artisan industry exists. Make sure you try some of Guernsey’s specialities, including gâche. Pronounced gosh, this is a fruit loaf made for slathering with golden Guernsey butter. A bowl of Guernsey Bean Jar is another must-try; a local dish which has been around for hundreds of years and is a cassoulet-type bean affair. Delicious and indicative of the island’s cross-cultural cuisine.
A THRIVING RESTAURANT SCENE
Guernsey’s restaurant scene is thriving and with new restaurant openings all the time, dining out on the island is a fantastic foodie experience. The Island has everything; Michelin-starred restaurants, clifftops cafes, Parisian-style bistros, country pubs and many a seafront, seafood restaurant.
Some of our favourites include The Auberge, Pier 17, Le Petit Bistro, Mora Restaurant & Grill and The Hook. But that’s just scratching the surface. Tintos, a tapas bar and fairly new addition to Guernsey, is further expanding the island’s culinary landscape here, with chefs trained by London heavyweight Jose Pizarro at the stoves.
SEAFRONT SUNDAYS & FOODIE FESTIVALS
In the summer months, the island hosts Seafront Sundays – in association with Taste Guernsey – every weekend at St Peter’s Port. The seafront gets pedestrianised and becomes a sea of market stalls selling all the fantastic produce that Guernsey has to offer. What’s more, alfresco dining spots pop up everywhere and there are cookery demonstrations and free tastings of traditional dishes.
Another fabulous foodie event is Tennerfest, held in autumn. During this time restaurants offer two and three course set menus for as little as £10 per head. It’s the ideal way to eat your way around Guernsey’s fantastic restaurant scene without burning a hole in your wallet. If you still need convincing, there’s also the Guernsey International Food Festival in September.
ST PETER PORT
Speaking of St Peter Port, it’s one of our favourite places on the island. This tiny, charming capital acts as the beating heart and lively hub of Guernsey. A focal point with a difference, with cute cobbled streets and a gorgeous seafront marina, it has a French bistro/cafe atmosphere and is a lovely place to spend the afternoon and evening, imbibing, eating and people watching.
A tradition in St Peter Port is afternoon tea at the historic Old Government House hotel tea, if the Anglophile in you has had enough of all the great French caffs. And if you need to walk off all that food, Candie Gardens is the perfect spot for strolling around and enjoying the lush green scenery.