The Green Olive won the restaurant category, while the Castle Green won the pub category, a new addition to the competition this year. Both participants were highly praised by judge and international wine and food writer Michael Edwards for combining local ingredients with plenty of imagination to come up with their winning menus.
Highly commended in the restaurant category was the Garden Restaurant at the Jersey Pottery, last year’s winner, and Ocean Restaurant at Atlantic Hotel. Also shortlisted was the Olive Branch, while the Tipsy Toad Townhouse was shortlisted in the pub category.
The Menu de Terroir competition aims to showcase the finest local produce by encouraging chefs to put their culinary skills to the test and create a menu that extensively features local produce. Competitors are not only judged on the quality and taste of the food on their menu, but also its prominence and the amount of local produce used.
The 2005 competition was launched in May with 22 participants and Michael was in Jersey at the end of September to judge the shortlist, which was drawn up by a panel of mystery judges throughout the summer. He said that once again he had been impressed with the high standard of menus and the variety of local produce on offer to chefs.
Of the Green Olive, based in Anley Street, Michael said: “I was particularly drawn to this restaurant by its charming lack of pretension, the warmth of the welcome, the passion of the trio in the kitchen and the inventive cooking giving marvellous flavours at very reasonable prices.”
He noted in particular the hand-dived Jersey seared scallops on the menu. “They were as fresh as could be, as on every other menu, but at the Green Olive, they were made exceptional by the lemon butter and the mushroom and sage accompaniments.”
Michael also highlighted an “imaginative” vegetarian option of samosa of shredded Jersey carrots with coriander and tamarind served with an organic tomato and brown rice salad, which he described as “different, full of flavour and delicious”. The highest point of all, however, was the dessert – “a faultless crème brulee, the richness beautifully balanced by the acidulous flavours of roasted Jersey rhubarb”.
The Castle Green in Gorey received high praise for encompassing exactly what the Menu de Terroir is all about. “Chef Roger White’s cooking is based on a model of what a Menu de Terroir should be – the best local ingredients given that imaginative twist that makes for some excellent dishes,” said Michael.
He gave special mention to the Grouville tomato gazpacho with chancre crab and olive oil, and the grilled Trinity mushrooms on hazelnut brioche with melted Welsh rarebit. But the dish that really stood for him was the confit of Mont Plaisir suckling pig with parsnip puree and black pudding.
“This is cooking that shows real understanding of different ingredients that work well together, without bamboozling the palette – a common fault of modern cooking,” said Michael.
The Garden Restaurant at Jersey Pottery and Ocean Restaurant at the Atlantic Hotel were both highly commended for cooking meals of high quality and local character. He highlighted in particular the pan-fried tranche of sea bass with grilled squid at the Garden Restaurant and the trio of beef at Ocean as excellent and memorable dishes.
The inaugural Menu de Terroir was held last year, when the competition was won by the Jersey Pottery’s Garden Restaurant. At the time, the restaurant’s chef was Roger White, who clearly has now taken his winning menus to the Pottery’s Castle Green.
The success of the 2004 event led to the number of participants in this year’s event doubling to 22. A pub category was also introduced to complement the restaurant category.
Ken Syvret, chairman of the Genuine Jersey Products Association, said that this year’s competition had left the association in no doubt that it should be held again in 2006. “The Menu de Terroir is all about promoting local products and getting them onto menus for the benefit of not only the producer but also the diner, who can enjoy the high quality and excellent taste of local goods. We were delighted when the number of participants doubled this year and our hope is that even more restaurants, cafes and pubs will take part in 2006,” he said.