I can honestly say that I love Jersey! I know that's a bold statement, but since visiting the island for the first time back in 2015 it has become one of my favourite places. Now how's that for a recommendation.
So when a press trip was offered to the island staying at a five star hotel situated in the heart of St Helier, Jersey's beautiful seaside capital, I jumped at the chance.
One of the Channel Islands, Jersey is a great destination for so many reasons.
There are plenty of regular cheap flights there from North West airports and the flight itself takes only around an hour.
And if the short stress free journey hasn't prompted you to log on to book your flights already, the likelihood that once you arrive on the island you will be greeted with sunny skies, should.
Sitting in the Bay of St Malo just 19 miles from the French coast and 85 miles south of the English coast, Jersey’s southerly location and sheltered position means it has a temperate climate that is often warmer, with more sunshine hours, than you might experience in the other British Isles.
The fact that the island is only five miles long and nine miles wide is another bonus particularly if, like me, the thought of driving abroad fills you with dread. Driving in Jersey is a pleasure - very relaxed and everyone is so polite and considerate! Yes St Helier can get a tad congested at peak times and some of the island's windy roads can at points be precarious, but on a scale of one to 10 for difficulty and stress, driving in Jersey is a one.
So in summary, we've so far got an easy, quick journey, great weather and a laid back atmosphere as three reasons to visit Jersey. But, I'm now going to play my trump card.
Let's now throw a fabulous hotel that boasts a Michelin star restaurant that has been named 11th best in the UK into the mix. And, yes you've guessed it, that is the hotel where myself and my mother were lucky enough to reside for two nights during our recent trip to Jersey.
The best way to describe The Club Hotel and Spa would be as a revelation. In walking distance to all of St Helier's amenities with the main area for shopping literally just around the corner, the stylish AA Red Star Hotel boasts a truly unrivalled location.
Arriving at the hotel on a wet Wednesday afternoon - yes I know this contradicts my earlier statement about the glorious climate, but even Jersey sometimes has a drop of rain or two and it was autumn don't forget - I was greeted by the most welcoming of concierges who promptly disposed of our wet umbrellas and cumbersome luggage.
Then able to take in and appreciate our surroundings, we were struck by the hotel interior's stylish and contemporary feel. Modern art adorns neutral walls, while unique sculptures and striking rugs in bold primary colours, keep the decor chic and sophisticated throughout. Wood and glass paneling feature throughout the hotel, giving overall continuity and a contemporary dimension to the light and fresh interior.
The Club Hotel and Spa boosts 38 deluxe double rooms and eight suites which are all in keeping with this neutral colour palette. Plush carpets, crisp white Frette bedding, and chocolate and coffee-toned furnishings - including stylish touches such as chaise longues and mirrored sliding wardrobes - feature in the rooms which also benefit from natural light streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Thoroughly modern comforts including LCD flat screen TVs, DVD players, portable telephones, en-suite bathrooms with luxury Elemis toiletries, and soft bathrobes and slippers are staple features in all the rooms.
Let's just say that we were very happy with what was going to be our home for the next two nights.
After a quick freshen up and the opportunity to slip into attire more appropriate for a dinner reservation at a Michelin star or as my mum described it, a "fancy" restaurant, we made our way downstairs to the Bohemia Restaurant & Bar.
On our way down we looked around some of the other facilities that the hotel has to offer including the roof terrace Champagne bar and the ivy clad terrace with outdoor heated pool and sun loungers. There is also an honesty bar with small library, while just off the open plan reception is the luxurious Club Spa, which boasts four indulgent treatment rooms including a couple’s treatment room. The Spa’s ground floor is home to an Indoor Salt Water Pool and Thermal Suite which comprises a Salt Cabin, Herbal Steam Room, Sauna and Experience Shower, plus a soothing Relaxation Sanctuary offering four reclining beds with integrated headphones playing calming music, fruit, herbal teas and magazines.
For business guests, the hotel offers a large meeting and banqueting room, with a conference table seating for up to 34. Free parking and complimentary WIFI are also available.
However, the crowning glory of this establishment is its outstanding in-house restaurant, Michelin starred Bohemia, which boasts a stellar reputation for its first rate cuisine and has put The Club Hotel & Spa firmly on the gastronomic map as a food-lover’s destination.
Situated on the ground floor of The Club Hotel & Spa and with its own private entrance, the 5 AA rosette restaurant has been Jersey’s finest dining establishment since opening its doors in April 2004. The restaurant serves Michelin Star cuisine created by Head Chef Steve Smith, while the bar area provides a less-formal setting for lunch, dinner, drinks and afternoon tea.
Steve, who has held a Michelin Star for more than 15 years from the age of just 24, has created a truly outstanding dining experience with his ingredient and flavour driven tasting menus.
At Bohemia since January 2013, Steve has taken the restaurant to new heights with Bohemia’s many accolades now including a Michelin Star, which Smith and his 13-strong kitchen brigade acquired in less than a year. And, in September 2017, just prior to my visit, Bohemia was the first restaurant in Jersey to receive 5 AA rosettes, the highest AA rosette ranking that a restaurant can achieve.
Bohemia was also ranked as the highest scoring restaurant in the Channel Islands in the Good Food Guide 2018 with a glowing score of eight and was listed as the 11th best restaurant in the whole of the UK in the guide. The restaurant now outranks some of the world’s most famous restaurants cementing Bohemia on the international culinary map.
Steve Smith’s accolades also include Catey Chef of the Year, retaining Bohemia's Michelin Star and being named as one of top 50 best restaurants in the UK in The Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants. The Sunday Times also gave special praise to Bohemia’s desserts which were listed "sixth Best in the UK". In addition, Bohemia was ranked at number 42 in the UK in Square Meal’s Top 100 Best Restaurants 2017.
Steve Smith previously headed the kitchen at The Burlington at The Devonshire Arms in Yorkshire where I have also been lucky enough to visit while I was a journalist for The Craven Herald newspaper.
He endeavours to offer a variety of local, fresh produce in all of his dishes and celebrates seasonal fruits and vegetables. The majority of ingredients such as the famous Jersey Royal Potato and fresh Scallops are locally sourced from the island of Jersey, while other ingredients are gathered from France, a mere 16 miles away. The fresh Oysters come from local fishermen and from Normandy, the capital of Oyster farming.
Following Steve’s unprecedented success in raising the culinary bar even higher for the restaurant, the owners of Bohemia felt compelled to revitalise the interior design to match, and following a major refurbishment, it oozes elegance and sophistication .
The crowning feature of the private dining room is a statement chandelier made from 200 Champagne glasses. Each glass is individually illuminated with glowing effervescent "Champagne" to give the illusion that it has just been poured.
I opted for Bohemia's prestige menu - which consisted of nine courses! At first, my 74-year-old mother who isn't known for her large appetite looked horrified, but I reassured her that this would consist of small taster portions that would give us the opportunity to enjoy a culinary voyage courtesy of Steve Smith that we would never forget.
The first course on our journey was a warm potato and cepe, which is a type of mushroom, veloute with what tasted like mushroom icecream dusted with mushroon powder. A poached quail's egg completed the dish.
The second course was a pea and ham soup with mint, truffle and a slow cooked bantam egg, and the third course, a local crab tart and custard with a peach and lemon verbena which was followed by a fourth course of belted Galloway tartare with caper and raisins.
The fifth course was foie gras cream, duck salad, sea buckthorn and kumquat with pistachio.
All mouth wateringly delicious and like nothing either my mother or myself had ever eaten before. With two main courses to yet enjoy and two desserts I must admit that at this point my tummy was feeling the strain.
Turbot with onion, smoked eel, rock samphire and mustard was the sixth course, and Anjou pigeon with beetroot and blueberry, smoked leg of pigeon and pigeon parfait on toast for the seventh course.
The word exquisite and the phrase a "work of art" spring to mind to describe what we ate.
Alphonso mango sorbet with vanilla and lime rice cleansed our palettes prior to the finale - a pop corn, caramel and lime masterpiece.
The whole experience was one I will never forget - and is the most extravagent of treats.
And as if it wasn't enough to enjoy the richest of menus on our first evening at The Club Hotel and Spa, the following day, we enjoyed treatments at the spa followed by use of all the facilities before a Champagne Afternoon Tea in Bohemia's relaxed bar area.
What an amazing experience which I would definitely recommend to anyone who wants to visit Jersey in style. I could wax lyrical about The Club Hotel and Spa, Bohemia and Jersey, even more, but I think I've said enough.
The Club Hotel and Spa and Bohemia Bar & Restaurant, Green Street, St. Helier, Jersey JE2 4UH, Channel Islands
For reservations call: 01534 880 588 or visit www.bohemiajersey.com