Samantha Mayling finds more than just potato peel pie on a trip to the Channel Islands.
I’d read the book, seen the film and now it was time to visit the island. Written in 2008, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society inspired the 2018 movie of the same name.
It gave VisitGuernsey a platform to promote the island around the world, and highlight how it offers foodies far more than just potato peel pie.
The flight from Gatwick took less than an hour to reach Guernsey, the second-largest of the Channel Islands at just 25 miles square, and only 30 miles from northern France.
It has a Gallic flavour thanks to its French place names, and as a Crown Dependency, it’s not officially part of the UK – although visitors don’t have to worry about plugs or currency.
Our first evening had even more Gallic flair thanks to David Legoupil, manager of J B Parker’s, a restaurant on the cobbled streets of St Peter Port.
Hailing from Normandy, he was our entertaining host in the wine cellar, where we sampled a flight of wines, accompanied by charcuterie, cheese and artisan bread.
He described the systematic approach to tasting wine – the appearance, nose, palate – and a lexicon of terms to describe flavours, from floral and fruity to spicy or oaky. Elements of flavour can be as varied as yeast and eucalyptus or petrol and wet wool.
With our palates suitably warmed up, we headed upstairs to choose from a mouth-watering menu that included harissa-marinated lamb rump or pollock and langoustine pie with Guernsey butter mash. Mains are from £12, with tastings available on an individual basis.
The island is home to just one five-star hotel, the Old Government House– or OGH to locals – where Lily James, star of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, stayed when she visited for the film’s premiere.
We enjoyed an introduction to Guernsey’s artisan gins – Blue Bottle, Wheadon’s and Unit Six – which tasted as splendid as they looked. I only wished we had time to put some stamps in the hotel’s Gin Passport, which allows visitors to make their way through 37 different locally and internationally-made gins.
The hotel, set in the heart of St Peter Port, has created a Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society menu to tie in to the book and film. It features dishes inspired by the German occupation during the Second World War, when the OGH was used by German officers as a military headquarters, becoming a Soldatenheim (soldiers’ home) in 1941.
The menu included Soldatenheim broth and potato peel pie – but I imagine our pie was tastier than the islanders’ wartime version.
The gastronomic delights extend to smaller sister island of Alderney, just one-and-a-half miles wide and three-and-a-half miles long, where capital St Anne feels more like a seaside town than a busy city.
It may be small but lunch at the Georgian House was perfectly formed, with delicious seafood options on the menu: Alderney fish soup, pickled mackerel, crab, sea bass, samphire, lobster, pollock and oysters.
Return flights from Guernsey to Alderney start at £96 with Aurigny, or day return fares by ferry with The Little Ferry Company cost £50 per person (May to September). For a guided sightseeing trip around the island, Alderney Tours offers two-hour excursions (April to October) for £15 per adult.
Back to the land
Back on Guernsey, we explored with Andy Taylor of Tour Guernsey in a huge safari truck, which let us see over hedges into fields and farms.
Our first stop was at Rocquette Cider for an orchard tour with Craig Alexander, who used to run the local airline Aurigny. He showed us how apples from 5,000 trees are collected and processed, and we sampled the cider and apple juice, while listening to his plans to start distilling apple brandy.
Next on the tour was Meadow Court Farm to see the 156-strong herd of world-famous Guernsey cows and to coo over the calves. Farmer Ray Watts gave us samples of cheeses produced on the farm. Apparently, the butter gets its bright yellow colour thanks to the cows being able to graze the grass outdoors.
Lunch was a picnic buffet, spread on the bonnet of the truck, to give us enough energy for a cycling tour of the island with Phil and Trudy Le Poidevin, of Go Guernsey.
It was a leisurely ride, with a chance to learn more about the German occupation and get off the beaten track among the hedgerows to discover ‘hedge veg’ – tables of produce left on sale by the locals.
We ended at the Portelet Beach Kiosk for ice cream and Guernsey ‘gache’ (pronounced gosh), before heading to the airport.
Ask the expert
“Guernsey is a gastronomic delight. Customers are choosing Guernsey for a foodie break as the quality and choice or restaurants is constantly evolving. Airways Holidays’ 2019 brochure features a section on Gourmet Guernsey. We have highlighted some of our favourite restaurants, foodie facts and some of the best terraces.”
Gill McCarthy, sales director at Airways Holidays
Aurigny offers Gatwick to Guernsey return flights from £90 per person. Aurigny also flies from Stansted, Bristol, East Midlands, Manchester, Leeds/Bradford and Norwich.
Airways Holidays offers four nights at Bella Luce Hotel for two adults on a bed-and-breakfast basis, with flights from Gatwick, transfers, and a ‘Gintroduction’ experience at Wheadon’s Gin distillery, from £455 per person departing April 25.
Duke of Richmond offers double rooms from £250 per night, including breakfast.
A three-hour Guernsey tour (available May to September with Tour Guernsey) costs from £55 per person.
One-day bike hire is from £13 for an adult trekking bike with Go Guernsey.