Seasoned by Chefs Magazine October 2014
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Welcome to Seasoned by Chefs Food Magazine. Rosie Birkett reports from the award-winning Atlantic Hotel in Jersey, where owner Patrick Burke tells her about his continued quest for excellence - and why he’s excited about the hotel’s fiftieth anniversary, in 2020.
With its strikingly modern white facade rising above the crystal blue pool, flanked by swaying palms and sun-loungers, you could be forgiven for imagining yourself off the coast of Los Angeles - rather than in the Channel Islands - when you visit The Atlantic Hotel, on a searing late summer’s day. Until, that is, you look out over the flora-rich headland to St Ouen’s Bay and see the ancient La Rocco Tower and Second World War battlements, built by the Germans during their occupation of the island.
There’s a certain mid-century glamour to the property - Jersey’s only member of the exclusive collective ‘Small Luxury Hotels of the World’ - and it’s a building which stands out in its surroundings, on an island populated by rambling old English houses and French influenced villas.
When I meet with the Atlantic’s owner, Patrick Burke, in the hotel’s Michelin-starred Ocean Restaurant, he explains how he was strongly advised to do away with the original architecture when he began remodelling work on the hotel, at the turn of the millennium. “Because it was built in the sixties [by his father] the original building did have a rather brutal look to it. Many of the architects we spoke to told us to cover it over, to erect a roof on it and try and make it into a country house, which we really didn’t wish to do. What we wanted was to take what we already had and move it forward. That is why we enlisted the services of revered architect, Jonathan Manson - known for his modern approach.
“Jonathan was the first architect we met who really understood the building. He came here and said, ‘they’re all wrong’ He brought in a sketch pad and explained that - whilst the architecture of the late sixties was a bit brutal, its roots were in the modern aesthetic of the twenties and thirties and it is fundamentally, very beautiful. So his idea, as we remodelled, was to go back to those roots and bring something that everyone would think was contemporary but that was, in fact, modern architecture.
“I think it was at that point that we understood just what we are; the building is almost like an ocean liner, looking out over the bay. He even said it reminded him of Frank Lloyd Wright’s style. He encouraged us to embrace the hotel’s architecture and to go back to those roots. I’m so pleased we did, because we didn’t want to change it all, but rather keep edging it forward.” This idea of evolving, rather than overhauling, is something that Patrick has found to be fundamental over the years, implementing an ongoing roster of improvements since he took over which, while staying true to his father’s vision and the hotel’s origins, keep The Atlantic at the forefront of luxury accommodation. Patrick and his wife, Treena, are currently in the midst of prototyping newly updated rooms, to be rolled-out in the next five years, which feature improved design, solar blinds, Californian ceiling fans - Patrick is keen to not install air conditioning - and a centralised, state-of-the-art computer control system called Lutron.
“We’re also looking at taking four existing rooms and creating three out of four, because we want to have more choice of bedroom. So we can have a standard, a superior type which is larger and the deluxe, which will be almost as big as two of the existing rooms. We’re looking forward to 2020 which will be fifty years after my father opened the hotel - which is an amazing anniversary to celebrate - and we want, as much as we possibly can, to get the hotel ready by then. It’s very exciting.”
From a gastronomic point of view, The Atlantic has long-been admired for the cuisine created by head chef Mark Jordan at Ocean Restaurant, which has held a Michelin-star since 2007. Jordan’s flair for rendering the famous local seafood, renowned for its sweetness and freshness thanks to Jersey’s huge tidal range (the third largest in the world) into exquisite plates, has people flying in from all over the place to dine here. During our interview, I get to sample this refined, creative cooking, indulging in a plate of the sweetest local lobster, served with crackling tempura tapioca and lobster claw, smooth mango sauce, fresh pea shoots and crunchy chicory. It’s a lesson in balance, texture and flavour and is followed by an equally-flawless dish of smooth, creamy turbot, topped with crispy potato ‘scales‘ and served with fresh, nutty local asparagus with a rich, heady mussel cream.