I worry sometimes that people will think there’s some kind of direct correlation between the amount of time it takes me to report back on a restaurant and how good it was.
There isn’t. I’m just bad at keeping up with writing (especially when it doesn’t relate to paying the mortgage) and bad at writing things in the order I enjoyed them.
So here we are, back in Jersey a couple of months after mum and I had our annual mother-daughter jaunt there. You may remember that we went to Number 10 in St Helier for dinner where a few dishes were, quite literally, jaw-dropping. While nothing in Jersey is particularly hard to get to, our second foodie experience was a bit further afield from our hotel in the pretty village of Gorey.
It’s home to a fishing port as well as the imposing Mont Orgueil fortress which is well worth a wander around if you visit. But we were there for Sumas, a restaurant that had come highly recommended from several people. And the place forever remembered for changing my mum’s opinion on oysters.
Sumas sits looking out to sea, with an all-weather terrace that was handy for keeping us warm as well as allowing us to peep out at Mont Orgeuil and the big blue. The menu is pretty much all about the fish, as you’d expect, with a plenty of other local ingredients thrown in too.
First, some beautiful home-baked bread. Soft inside, a crunchy crust, and bags of flavour, with a smear of decent butter on top.
I’m physically unable to resist an oyster at the best of times, so when there are no fewer than four different choices on the menu you can guarantee one of them is going to get ordered. Mum has hated oysters for YEARS and despite regularly checking if her feelings had changed, until now she remained resolutely in the no camp. However, after hearing that one of our pals had had her mind changed by a deep-friend oyster at Prawn on the Lawn in Padstow, Mum decided maybe if she found one served in pretty much any way other than natural, she might be turned.
With that in mind, we went for a poached version as well as a pickled one. The latter was spiced, served with pickled jalapeno that brought heat and soy, mirin and yuzu that made for a refreshing, tangy, citrusy delight. Except for mum the texture was still far too much like an oyster. For her, the poached version won hands down and is the one to get the prize as changing her feelings on oysters.
It’s all about the texture see. The poaching makes it more reminiscent of a mussel, along with the creamy poaching liquid, while the salted cucumber added crunch and freshness and the chives a little tang. Bravo.
For starter we decided to share the Carnaroli shellfish risotto, with 24-month parmesan, marsala and a saffron vinaigrette. I really think this may be the best risotto I’ve ever eaten. The flavour was as deep as the colour, the product of the time and effort that it takes to make a fish dish really taste of the ocean and all of its goodies.
Packed with shellfish it was somehow delicate as well as pungent, with the parmesan bringing a tangy meatiness to the dish and the vinaigrette a light but noticeable tang. The portion was substantial, but this is the kind of dish that you could eat a vat of and never get bored, with another dimension to the flavour round the corner of every spoonful.
A die-hard pasta fan, especially when it comes with fish in some form, mum couldn’t resist the local brill with crab ravioli, a fennel salad and bisque. Except there was no brill the day we were there so it came with sea bass instead. I love the fact that this reminds you that this is about using fish that was caught fresh – not bought in in huge freezer lorries, though I’m not convinced sea bass was the right replacement.
Either way, mum’s ravioli was to die for (so I’m told, as I still can’t stomach crab). Perfect pasta, gorgeous filling, and a bisque nearly as packed with depth of flavour as the preceding risotto. Again, the addition of freshness and crunch courtesy of the fennel and a perfect way to cut through such heady, fishy flavours.
Whilst tempted by 30-day aged steaks or lobster thermidor, I decided to stick on a fish dish and went for John Dory with orzo pasta, artichoke barigoule (basically braised in wine and olive oil and other veg), almond, lemon, and a pickled cucumber beurre blanc.
It was definitely an interesting dish full of elements I’d never have put together before. The John Dory was (unsurprisingly) cooked perfectly, with a crispy skin and delicate flesh. I’m a big fan of artichokes and this was a big winner for me, with the addition of crisp almonds, zesty lemon and more of the sour notes from pickled cucumber.
However… while it was nice, it just didn’t quite punch as hard as that risotto, which I’m thinking is probably worth flying back to Jersey for.
Avoiding dessert isn’t an option when mum and I go out together so we gave the strawberry and Tahitian vanilla pannacotta a go. As pannacottas go it was pretty good, possibly not the bestest I’ve ever had, but the clotted ice cream it came with was a real winner, as was the shortbread. A lovely fresh, spring-like end to a delicious meal.
Maybe I have rose-tinted glasses and maybe food just tastes better when you’re with someone you really love. Or maybe I just pick good restaurants. But Sumas is really rather lovely. Completely different from Number 10 – in ambience, location, style of food.
Maybe it didn’t knock my socks off in the same jaw-dropping way that some dishes did, but it was a great experience and one that I would thoroughly recommend. These guys know their fish, they cook it in modern, innovative ways that still showcase the flavours of the fish but bring them right into 2019.
The service is great, the setting beautiful, the wine rather lovely. All that’s missing is that they don’t deliver that blimin risotto to Rugby!
We paid in full at Sumas. They didn’t know I was a blogger.