We are spoilt for choice in Jersey when it comes to dining out, for an island of just 9 by 5 miles, it packs a flavoursome punch!
One of the lesser known spots for dining however, is the Academy Restaurant at Highlands College. It’s not somewhere that would automatically spring to mind when you think of eating out, but you would be cheating yourself if you didn’t at least visit them once!
I was invited up last month to sample their Valentines lunch menu. The restaurant itself is housed in the beautiful college building, decorated with warm wooden tones and flashes of deep red, it has a cosy and welcoming atmosphere. There’s even a live feed screen on the wall, so you can see what’s going on in the kitchen.
The most fascinating thing about the Highlands Academy Restaurant, is that it is entirely run by students from the college, in their first year of the Culinary Arts and Hospitality courses. The idea is to prepare them practically for all elements of the hospitality industry, the students work front of house, back of house and are responsible for preparing and cooking all the food.
They are supervised by the talented college tutors, but the actual delivery and execution of all areas within the restaurant is completely down to them. I was super impressed with the welcome we received from them, they were polite and efficient, but understood the importance of not being overbearing – impressive for students of such a young age.
But then, came the food….
Deliciously fluffy bites of home baked bread started off the show. Very moreish and subtly quirky enough to tempt you into having more than one.
I had a starter of crispy ham hock terrine, whole grain mustard mayonnaise, pickled cauliflower and a watercress salad.
I will confess to never wanting to order this type of dish off a menu, the word ‘terrine’ fills my head with images of pressed meats that look totally unappealing. However, I was convinced to give it a go on this occasion. The presentation was immaculate to the point they had even managed to make it look pretty and the ham hock literally fell apart, it was so was wonderfully cooked and had retained all it’s flavour and moistness.
My fellow diner opted for smoked salmon rillettes, tempura oyster and crispy bread, and was equally as impressed with the dish.
Next the main show arrived. What a main show it was! Pan roasted pork fillet with a café crème sauce. Presentation was perfectly adequate, although I do think it could be refined a little more, but hey, this is only year one for these guys, imagine what is to come!
But that really didn’t matter once I tucked in. I am going to make a very bold statement here and say, this is THE BEST pork dish I have ever eaten! It was unbelievably succulent and melted in my mouth. I couldn’t quite get my head around the skill of these wonderful students! I hate fatty meat and usually avoid certain pork dishes, but there wasn’t an ounce of it here. Truly remarkable and full of flavour, a testament to the excellent tuition being provided at the college and to the budding young chefs we watched cooking it.
The other option for main course, was grilled bream fillet with a Jerusalem artichoke velouté. Served in the same style as the pork dish and with the same seasonal vegetables, but also equally matched in the exceptional way it was cooked, I am assured by my fellow diner.
Finally, we shared the mother of all desserts, and I mean, all the desserts! They actually even gave us a plate each, although it’s meant for two to share. The platter included strawberry mouse, strawberry sorbet, chocolate dipped strawberries, profiteroles, crème Chantilly and chocolate sauce, vanilla panna cotta and shortbread. A truly dreamy and romantic dessert, it was beautifully presented and such a lovely concept for a Valentines meal.
The whole culinary experience was akin to some of the top restaurants I’ve eaten in, I wouldn’t be surprised if some future top chef’s come out of Highlands College, based on this experience.
Best of all, anyone can go and enjoy this little gem during term time, for a really rather unbelievable price. A three course lunch is amazing value at just £12.00 per person (yes, you read that right!) and is available on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s. The dinner menu is only a fraction more at £16.00 per person, and is available on Thursday evenings. You can also contact them to arrange private events or business lunches if you would like.
To experience this culinary treat for yourself, simply call them on 01534 608 560 and get your table booked in, I promise you will be pleasantly surprised, it’s one of Jersey’s best kept secrets!