by Sean Hillen
Vacations on Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, could well involve a stay at one of the luxury properties operated by Hand Picked Hotels, a group that has strengthened its portfolio to become a major player in the region’s spa and leisure market.
Among its four and five-star offerings, the Grand Jersey Hotel and the L’Horizon Beach Hotel & Spa are outstanding examples of the group’s strategic approach to international tourism and travel.
Both hotels occupy inspiring seafront locations overlooking two crescent-shaped beaches with dreamy views over lapping waters, the former fronting St Aubin’s Bay and the latter St. Brelade’s Bay.
The five-star Grand Jersey is one of the island’s most historic properties having stood opposite the impressive 16th-century Elizabeth Castle for more than a hundred years, since 1890. It features comprehensive spa facilities with a heated swimming pool, hot-tub, steam-room, sauna and gym, the elegant, high-ceilinged Champagne Lounge where light lunches and afternoon teas are served, a Park Suite business center consisting of meeting rooms and event areas, as well as the only bespoke private cinema on the island.
As to the hotel’s location, it is very central, with the downtown area of St. Helier, the island’s capital, main bus station, central tourism office and prominent attractions such as the Maritime Museum and the Jersey Museum, Art Gallery and Merchant’s House all within a 10-minute walk.
Designed in colors of chocolate and burgundy, our spacious suite offered not only a full sea view but also a clear vista of medieval Elizabeth Castle. The bedroom was tucked away from the main coastal road and felt cozy, boudoir-like, with rich, velvety textures.
The hotel has several dining options, the more formal Tassili, a 3 AA Rosette restaurant under the guidance of chef, Nicolas Valmagna, the more informal Victoria’s Brasserie and al fresco on the summer terrace. Whichever you choose, begin with the hotel’s signature cocktail – a balanced mix of champagne, Limoncello and passionfruit. Short on pre-theater time, we chose the brasserie and were pleased with the pleasant, efficient service. Starters of Tian Jersey crab cocktail with avocado and Marie Rose sauce and seared scallops with bulgur wheat crispy pancetta and rocket pesto took the edge off our hunger pangs, followed by mains of Aberdeen Scottish ribeye and a juicy fillet, with side-dishes of chips and onion rings.
Five miles west of Saint Helier, only a small rocky wall separates the 4-star L’Horizon Beach Hotel & Spa from the soft smooth sands of a crescent-shaped beach and the ragged bare rock pinnacles that clasp each side of it. From our bedroom, we were mightily entertained watching owners playing with their lively pets and swimmers, surfers and boat captains plying the waters, each devoted single-mindedly to their own pursuit. We also enjoyed the pleasure of being lulled gently to sleep at night by the soft swish of the tide.
Prime seafront location, however, is not the only advantage of staying at this 106-room hotel, which features a comfy, English-manor style interior. Indoor recreational facilities include a decent-sized pool, not one of those erroneously given the term by overly-zealous hotel promoters where three short strokes bring you from one end to the other. Here one can indulge in a bracing few laps over 15 meters with views on to the beach before relaxing in the nearby sauna or steam room. The spa also has six treatment rooms, with Elemis face and body treatments ranging from deep tissue muscle massage to pro-collagen quartz facial lifts, and a manicure and pedicure room.
Dining is also a highlight at L’Horizon, with three separate choice of restaurants. ‘The Grill’ serves a comprehensive mix of sea and land dishes including steamed lemon sole fillet with mussels and spring greens and breast of duck with baby spinach, lightly pickled enoki mushrooms and onion textures, all under the guidance of executive chef Andrew Soddy.
‘The Atlantic Room,’ beside the lounge, offers sea views and more informal fare such as prawn cocktail, micro herbs and sweet chili, goat cheese and watermelon, beetroot puree and pickled beetroot, and roast breast of chicken, grilled root vegetables and potato fondant. In warm weather, guests can sit outside at-table on ‘The Terrace’ with a cocktail or coffee, enjoy al fresco meals or simply lie back on one of the many chaise longues.
For a more energetic experience – aside from the hotel’s well-equipped gym – a short 20-minute walk along the strand brings one to ‘The Smugglers Inn,’ a cozy, old-style English pub. A longer, brisker walk, over a rounded hill and through a squirrel-inhabited woodland leads eventually down to the quaint town of St. Auban’s where yachts and other boats vie for space in the old walled harbor.
For sheer location and character, both the Grand Jersey Hotel and the L’Horizon Beach Hotel & Spa get top marks with quality of rooms and service to match.