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The boldly refurbished Grand Jersey strengthens the island’s appeal as a year-round destination. Annica Wainwright reports from the launch
Think of Jersey and you’re likely to conjure images of summer holidays. Justly famed for its long, sandy beaches, the island is undeniably a fair-weather stunner – but not exclusively so. The coastline is arguably even more beautiful when the autumn storms whip up dramatic waves and there are enough superb restaurants, bars and shops (none of which charge VAT) to lure visitors out even in coldest winter. Besides, the island’s location, some 100 miles south of mainland Britain, ensures a temperate climate in which outdoor activities can be enjoyed year-round.
At the Grand, guests are greeted by a vast expanse of sea-facing terrace, which of course makes a lovely setting for summer alfresco (even though the road that separates it from the beach can get busy in peak season). But the recently refurbished hotel gets even better as you step through the door. Its new owner, Hilwood Resorts, has spent millions bringing the landmark property up-to-date, celebrating its relaunch – and new five-star accreditation – with a lavish party this summer. Naturally, we were quick to take up the invitation to view the upgraded hotel and see how it worked as a venue.
The theme for the main event was decadence and with free-flowing Champagne, canapé trays stocked with lobster and foie gras, plus entertainment from top burlesque artists, it was certainly very indulgent. Sundowner drinks on the terrace lasted well into the warm summer night but guests were also encouraged to dip inside for cocktail-making classes in the bar and to sample menu highlights from Martin Blunos’ onsite gourmet dining room, Tassili. With a DJ flown in specially from Manumission in Ibiza, it was perhaps no surprise that the party went on well into the early hours.
Bedrooms at the Grand are thankfully done out in sleep-inducing dark colours, so we found ourselves surprisingly well-rested when we emerged the next morning. Eating breakfast, we noted that the muted coloured scheme continued in Tassili, with an almost entirely black decor. Meanwhile, all-day diner Victoria’s has an old-school Hollywood club feel about it, making it the perfect party space for the hotel’s popular Rat Pack nights, held in here at the weekends.
The darkly hued theme culminates in the luxurious new spa, where the dimmer switch is kept firmly on low, creating an almost womb-like atmosphere in the black and fuschia space. There are en suite treatment rooms, ‘experience showers’ (think tropical rainstorm or minty mist), plus a lounge area, sauna, steam room and pool with Jacuzzi – all swathed in the same relaxing darkness. Given half a chance, you could happily spend hours on end wandering zombie-like around this place, blissfully unaware of the time of day.
You can, of course, also come to the Grand to do business and there’s little risk of falling asleep in the hotel’s bright meeting rooms. Adopting a theme of warm neutrals, the Park Suites are kitted out with modern technology and funky furniture, and come with plasma screens and comfortable white directors’ chairs as standard. The main space, Master Suite Leopold, seats 65 theatre-style and can be split in half, while two further boardrooms and a high-definition private screening room for 36 add appeal to the facility, which comes with its own entrance, reception and lounge.
Linking the Park Suites and the main lobby is the Grand Suite, a ballroom-style event space with room for up to 300 reception guests. With a grand piano and built-in stage for live entertainment, it is popular for weddings and dinner-dances but could also accommodate 200 delegates for a conference. It’s likely that guests would have spilled into here had Jersey not welcomed us with such wonderful weather, encouraging everyone to stay outside. Indeed, the party was so much fun, we barely got a chance to acquaint ourselves with the off-lobby Champagne Bar, let alone the ‘Quiet Lounge’ just opposite. Check out the pictures overleaf and you’ll understand why.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Autumn 2008.