Just eight months after joining the Atlantic Hotel in Jersey, chef Will Holland is already making waves, writes Katherine Price
Shortly after announcing his departure from Coast in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, last year, the news broke that chef Will Holland would be uprooting to Jersey.
“I loved Coast. It was a very personal thing to me, but it had its limitations,” says Holland, who had launched the restaurant in 2014 as opening head chef, along with owners Neil and Zoe Kedward. Seeking a new challenge, he put himself forward for the executive chef role at the 50-bedroom, four-red-AA-star Atlantic hotel, in the Burke family for 48 years and now overseen by Treena and Patrick Burke.
The previous executive chef of the Atlantic’s Ocean restaurant Mark Jordan held a Michelin star for 10 of the 13 years he was there; Holland admits those are “big shoes to fill”, but he is keen to put his own stamp on things.
Holland secured his own first Michelin star before the age of 30 at La Bécasse in Ludlow, Shropshire, and was awarded AA Restaurant of the Year in Wales 2015/16 for Coast. He says he is happy the Atlantic had its accolades removed following Jordan’s departure. “I don’t want to come in and retain something off the back of someone else’s hard work,” he says. “We’ve got everything to play for.”
Not only has he overhauled every menu and introduced a menu that changes daily to Ocean’s à la carte offering, he has transformed the private dining room – a 14-cover, glass-partitioned space at the back of the restaurant – into the Tasting Room, which focuses solely on a seven-course tasting menu.
The aim is to make Ocean more accessible and offer guests an alternative dining experience in the Tasting Room. “A lot of the guests come here for more than one night, so it’s trying to keep them in-house,” says Holland.
Although both menus focus heavily on Jersey produce, he aims to expose diners to new food and wines and unexpected flavour combinations in the Tasting Room.
The first starter on the tasting menu features a carpaccio of raw Jersey scallops paired with passion fruit and shiso, inspired by a recent trip to Thailand. “We’re taking a scallop that’s caught in these waters and serving it with a garnish that you would expect to have on the other side of the world,” he says.
The menu also features a retired Jersey dairy cow tartare of classically garnished beef fillet, bone marrow and a smoked egg yolk.
“Obviously the Jersey dairy industry is massive, but what happens with the cows once they’ve finished milking? Usually not a lot, but actually the meat is amazing,” says Holland. “They’ve worked all their lives, so the meat can be slightly tougher, but it’s also a fuller flavour and the fat is really creamy. The flavour lends itself to being a tartare, and we use the fillet, so it’s as tender a cut as it can be.”
Holland’s two primary concerns when he arrived were staff and produce – the latter, he says, has been easy. No supplier on the island is more than eight miles away, each does several deliveries a day and all of them work Sundays. Holland recalls contacting Jon Hackett of Me and the Farmer in St Brélade about pork.
“Five minutes after calling he was at the back door with two hot pork pies he’d made that morning,” laughs Holland. The quality of suppliers – including Fin and Feather (seafood and game) in St Helier, Faulkner Fisheries in St Ouen, and Fungi Delecti in Trinity – means the kitchen can primarily source locally. Holland hastens to add that the quality and consistency must be right, though – he has no qualms about using Tahitian vanilla or Sicilian lemons.
Recruitment, he says, has also been “relatively easy”. Three of his brigade of 12 have previously worked with him, but the seasonal nature of the business is a challenge, requiring a swell in staff on seasonal contracts during the summer months while also abiding by the staffing limits enforced by Jersey authorities.
“Demand is so up and down,” says Holland.
Low-season service could be “a couple of tables”, but during high season with a full hotel, a busy dinner service, extra covers on the terrace and 100-cover events, he estimates they could end up doing 300 covers in a day.
“There’s a lot to keep me busy here,” he adds. “I want to develop the breakfast buffet. I’d love to have a chef presence in the dining room, maybe making omelettes or cutting fruit…”
‘A Taste of Jersey’ menu
• Jersey scallop carpaccio, avocado, passion fruit, shiso
• Retired Jersey dairy cow tartare, bone marrow, egg yolk, watercress
• Salt-baked Jersey Royal potato, onions, capers, Comté
• Jersey turbot fillet, yogurt, coriander, teriyaki
• Liquorice-confit lamb neck, sweetbread, fennel, anchovy
• Citrus sorbet, lemon, tarragon, raspberry
• ‘Mojito’, bitter chocolate, mint, kalamansi
£80 for the seven-course tasting menu; £145 with wine pairings
The Atlantic Hotel & Ocean Restaurant, Le Mont de la Pulente, St Brélade, Jersey JE3 8HE