“ Address: Esplanade / St Helier / Jersey / JE2 3QA / Channel Islands / Tel: 01534 722301 „
Twenty years ago my husband and I spent our honeymoon on Jersey. Last weekend we returned to celebrate our anniversary and decided that we would spoil ourselves and stay at the 4star Grand Jersey Hotel. When I investigated the booking I found that I could actually use our Air miles to cover the cost of the hotel so we did not have to pay for our Bed and Breakfast package.
Originally known as The Grand Hotel Jersey the establishment was first opened as a fashionable destination in 1890. Unfortunately during World War II the German army commandeered the hotel as a place for administration offices and also accommodation for senior officers. It is believed that Prisoners of War were kept in the cellars. After the war the hotel has passed through several owners including the De Vere group and a leisure club was also built in the underground structure. In 2006 the Hilwood group purchased the hotel and they have performed extensive refurbishments on the leisure club which is now the Spa, the restaurants and also the bedrooms to turn this into a stylish and contemporary retreat.
The hotel has 123 bedrooms ranging from their Superior Rooms to their Sea-view suites; I was surprised to see that they only have two accessible rooms.
There are two restaurants open all year, the Tassili which is their Michelin starred dining room and Victorias which is described as a relaxed brasserie. During the summer season there is also a barbeque dining area on the front terrace overlooking the delightful St Aubins Bay.
The Spa has won various awards and offers an indoor heated swimming pool with Jacuzzi and steam rooms and also six treatment rooms offering a vast array of beauty therapies and relaxing treatments.
Jersey is an unbelievably small island so it was only about a 15 minute drive from the airport. We found the hotel easily as it is situated on the Esplanade, facing the bay just before you reach the main part of St Helier. On pulling into the car park at the front of the hotel we were immediately struck by the distinct lack of parking. We had only hired a Ford Fiesta for which we were grateful as we managed to squeeze it into a very small space. There are actually less than 30 spaces which for a hotel with well over a hundred rooms could prove very tricky in high season. If you are not able to park in the car park the Concierge will direct you to other nearby parking places but they all require the purchase of Paycards which are a requirement in most Jersey car parks and cost 60p per hour (only during the day I believe).
The hotel entrance was through some lovely dark wood and glass doors and then you enter a stylish reception area. We were greeted promptly and the receptionist who dealt with us was polite and helpful and even though we had arrived at just 1.30 she was happy to check us in and ensured our room was ready (check-in is supposed to be from 2). She showed us the location of the restaurants but pointed out that the Tassili was fully booked. A porter then took our bags up to our room, he was also polite and departed as soon as he had deposited our bags, not loitering for a tip.
We had a Deluxe Park View room and had been asked at reception if we wanted to pay £20 to upgrade to a Sea view room which we declined. Our room actually had a nice view across the bay and I could easily sit in bed in the morning and see the sea so we were glad that we hadn't bothered to upgrade. As this was originally an old building the rooms have great proportions and the ceilings are high, making the rooms feel bigger.
First impressions of our room were good, it was very clean and smelt fresh. The room was stylishly furnished with a double wardrobe containing an iron and ironing board and also two bathrobes and pairs of slippers for use in the Spa. There was a large desk over which hung an enormous LCD television which was on an angled arm so that you could move it right out into the room so that you could view it from the bed.
There were two small armchairs which looked nice but were not terribly comfortable clustered around a small table. In the corner was a padded topped ottoman with drawers and then bedside units. The one unit contained the Tea tray with a small supply of tea and coffee and one packet of biscuits, a safe and a fridge stocked with bottles of filtered water. On one of the bedside units there was a large mirror that was on a triangular stand, the fact that this mirror was angles irritated me the whole time as I found it difficult to use. There was also a hairdryer which had to have a rather stiff button held in all the time to make it work, that combined with the tricky mirror made drying my hair quite a challenge.
The colours of the decor were all quite dark and muted and although there was a central light, bedside lights and a light on the desk the room did feel a little gloomy when we arrived as it was raining outside and although the window was large there just didn't seem enough light.
In contrast the ensuite was exceptionally light and very clean. There was a good-sized walk-in shower but no bath. The shower was very powerful and there was no problem with the hot water, there was always plenty. There was also a large square basin which seemed to take forever to fill and a large heated towel rail. There was an ample supply of embroidered white towels and The White Company toiletries.
All the rooms are air-conditioned but we did find it quite tricky to get our room warm enough. Although we set it at 24 in the end it still didn't get very cosy. There is free internet access in the rooms but you need to get a cable from the reception area, there is free Wi-Fi in public areas. I don't know how efficient this was as we did not take our laptop, the only internet we needed was for online check-in for which the Concierge was happy to let you use their terminal.
The bed was absolutely huge and extremely comfortable. The headboard appeared stripy but half of the stripes were actually red-lights which gave the room a lovely look, very sophisticated (no comments about red-lights please!) As in most hotels there was a directory giving information on various aspects of the hotel and its facilities. There was also a letter offering free late check-out if you purchased Sunday Lunch at the hotel which we decided to accept as well as we had a latish flight on the Sunday.
We returned to the reception to book our evening meal in Victorias as we did not want to go out looking for anywhere to eat on such a wet day. We also booked our late checkout and purchased some Paycards for the car parks as we had heard that it was useful to carry some. Once again we were dealt with efficiently and we left to explore St Helier in the rain.
On returning to the hotel we were greeted politely by the concierge. At all times during our stay the reception and Concierge staff were attentive and efficient.
We decided that we would take a look at the pool to see if it was busy before deciding whether to have a swim. We followed the direction that the receptionist had originally shown us but we actually walked straight past as it was accessed via the Spa which was not clearly marked at all, we only found it by asking a member of staff who pointed us in the right direction.
We decided to get changed and head back down for a swim. Upon entering the Spa I was struck by how dark the reception area was. We were greeted cheerily by a young man on reception who gave us towels and locker keys and sent us down some more stairs. The stairs had candles all down the side as you descended into the subterranean maze that was the Spa. We eventually found the changing rooms after going down two floors. The changing rooms were very nice with plenty of lockers, a couple of separate changing rooms if wanted, fantastic showers and hairdryers and GHD straighteners if needed.
After changing we had to head up the stairs to access the pool. I was once again struck by the lack of lighting. On the website there is a lovely picture of the pool area but I really could barely make it out as it was so dark. The pool was lit from underneath but the roast of the area was depressing, I was beginning to feel like a pit-pony! The temperature of the pool was acceptable but a degree or two warmer would have been more relaxing. As I was swimming up and down I noticed that the walls looked like they needed decorating and I wondered if the lack of light was to hide imperfections that needed sorting. It was very difficult to even make out of there were people sitting on the seats or in the Jacuzzi. I didn't use the Jacuzzi or steam room as I felt I wouldn't have wanted to get back into the coolish water if I got too warm.
There appeared to be a small gym next to the pool area but I didn't feel energetic enough for that after walking the length and breadth of Jersey during our stay!
Although I normally use leisure facilities in hotels a lot when I am away I didn't venture down to the pool again as I found it gloomy rather than restful and it certainly wouldn't suit anyone with claustrophobia. I don't know if there is any access for disabled patrons as the stairs were very steep and I didn't notice a lift but it may have been elsewhere.
We were looking forward to our evening meal and headed down to Victorias. When we arrived the young man on the entrance had trouble reading the names on his list as it was, once again, too dark. The general decor seemed quite dark again although it was certainly not shabby. We were shown to a table on one side of the restaurant, they were obviously filling it up from one side which looked a bit strange as there were about eight tables in a row occupied and the rest of the room was empty. I was pleased to find that we had a light above our table which meant we could see what we were eating, we observed people in the centre of the room later on trying to eat by the light of what appeared to be a tea-light. The only menu we were offered was a set menu as £25 each for three courses. The menu was acceptable and we both chose things that we liked the look of but I noticed that there was only one vegetarian choice of main meal. I selected Chicken Caesar salad then mushroom tagliatelle whilst my husband selected ham terrine followed by steak. Both of my courses were tasty but the serving of the pasta was far too large for me, my husband was not impressed with his starter but his large steak was well cooked and he enjoyed it. The dessert menu was not very exciting and I selected carrot cake which was alright but the icing was not the creamy sort associated with carrot-cake, it was far too sweet and it was served with about a teaspoonful of vanilla sauce so was quite dry, my husband had steamed pudding which also could have done with more sauce. We had chosen one of the cheapest wines on the list (£20 Pinot Grigio) but it was surprisingly good so we were pleased with our selection.
Throughout the meal the staff were pleasant and helpful and we did not feel rushed. It is only since I have come home that I have checked their website and they say that there is a Table d'hôte and an ala carte menu in Victorias but it certainly isn't offered to guests!
After a wonderful nights sleep (ignoring the car alarm on the road outside) on our gloriously comfortable bed we headed down to breakfast which was also served in Victorias. A pot of tea was brought to our table but the rest of the breakfast was buffet style. There was a delicious selection of cereals, fruit platters, cheese, ham and pastries. However it was another hotel with the dreaded toasting machines, I never saw anyone successfully toast their bread so I didn't bother trying. The hot selection was quite adequate, bacon, sausage, black pudding, mushrooms, sliced tomato and eggs either fried or scrambled. On Sunday morning there were far less people at breakfast and the eggs had obviously been sitting around for a long time as they were very rubbery, they should have definitely been refreshed.
We noticed on Saturday evening that the menu for Victorias had not changed but we had already decided to go elsewhere.
When we arrived for our lunch on Sunday we noticed that the dining room was very quiet. When we looked at the menu we realised that a lot of the dishes were basically the same as had been on the menu the previous two days, if you were vegetarian you would be mightily sick of mushrooms by now! We selected our courses, my husband chose Leek and Potato soup but what they placed in front of him was a bowl of something bright green which turned out to be Pea soup! No-one had bothered to mention that they had run out and since the staff ran away pretty quick after serving we couldn't even ask about it. When they brought out our Roast Beef it was practically mooing, I eat my meat medium or medium rare but I couldn't have attempted this as it looked practically raw so we had to send it back to be cooked more (I noticed the people on the next table also returned theirs). When it was returned the meat was very nice but the Yorkshire pudding seemed to have been deep-fried and all of the vegetables were greasy and there was very little gravy. After actually going and hunting down a member of staff we eventually got our hands on a dessert menu and ordered chocolate mousse cake, these were nice enough but they certainly didn't appear to have been freshly made.
Overall I would say I was very disappointed with both the standard of the food, the quality of the menu and the serving ability of the staff on the Sunday and I could see why it wouldn't have been popular with locals even though they got a free glass of wine with their meal and a free family film shown in the hotels own cinema afterwards for £20 a head.
The hotel has a Champagne bar which seemed very noisy of the Friday night, we were going to go in for a quiet drink after our meal but decided against it as the music was too intrusive, I believe there was a residents lounge but we didn't use that either.
The hotel is set in a great position, right on the esplanade facing Elizabeth Castle across the causeway. It is only about a 5-10 minute flat walk into the town centre of St Helier. Although we hired a car I imagine it is quite easy to manage without as the bus station is probably about 7 minutes walk away which would give you access to the whole island. The town offers plenty of shopping and dining opportunities as well as a cinema, bowling alley, leisure centre and museums.
As I said we had our hotel for free using Air miles but I have just looked up the price for staying two nights next weekend in the room type we were in, for two people, Bed and Breakfast it would be £258 in total. This seems a lot to me considering all aspects of the hotel, it has the potential to be really fantastic but I, personally, felt that it was let down particularly in the restaurant which was obviously crying out for a good manager, it is no good if they spend all their energies on their Michelin star restaurant if most hotel guests can't eat in there anyway as it is already booked. The location is good although the parking may be an issue if going in high season. If I was staying on Jersey again I may well select a different hotel.
We had a nice time but the general impression I was left with was that a little more light would have been good, subdued lighting is romantic and relaxing but squinting in the dark is just depressing.