Friday, 24 March 2017

Raise a Glass to Drink to Lost Heritage

Raise a Glass to Drink to Lost Heritage

In 1985, Glenn George, who was then “mine host” at the Old Smugglers Inn at Ouaisne Bay, produced a small booklet called “Jersey Pubs and Inns: A Souvenir Guide to the Local Pubs, Inns and Bars of Character”.

Some of those he described are still around, like the Smugglers itself. Some have changed their name, like L’Auberge du Nord, which is now the Farm House. But others have fallen away, and are either closed or demolished. Here are a few mentioned in the booklet, along with Glenn’s descriptions which bring them vividly back to life.

Of these, the only two I have visited was the Lillie Langtry Bar, which also used to be a favourite watering hole for beer drinking teachers from Victoria College, and the Harvest Barn, which was indeed providing good food at reasonable prices, as Glenn says.

La Folie Inn, South Pier, St Helier

There are few pubs where you can rub shoulders with a French fisherman, talk to a Jersey sailor, and then buy a live crab or lobster to take home for supper. But then locals like La Folie Inn are few and far between.

Tucked away in a sheltered corner of St Helier Harbour this tiny pub oozes character - right from its authentic nautical decor to its authentic nautical clientele.

It's the meeting place for the Harbour folk - the fishermen, seamen, sailors, pilots and dockers. To them, drinking and conversation are a serious business, so you won't find any pub games, television or juke box at La Folie - just good honest company and good honest beer.

The pub has been this way since 1733, and it will take more than the twentieth century to change its habits. It sells beer in a rather unusual way. To make things easier for the many foreign sailors and yachtsmen, all the beers are numbered. You simply order a pint of `Number 3', thus eliminating the language problem.

Outside the Fo'c'sle Bar is the area where the local fishermen sell their catch. It couldn't be fresher. and the range of fish, crabs and lobsters are always well below town prices.

Mermaid Tavern, St Peter

Sitting on the beer patio, looking out over the ornamental lake, it's hard to imagine that the Mermaid Tavern is just a few hundred yards from bustling Jersey airport. True, the illusion is shattered when an occasional jet takes off, but otherwise this tranquil sun trap provides a peaceful and welcome retreat.

Now part of a larger hotel complex, the Tavern dates back to the sixteenth century when it was a typical farm-house. In fact, it still boasts one of the few remaining `Witches' Rests' on its chimney.

Local folklore states that superstitious farmers built these resting places so that any witches flying by on their evil business could sit down and rest their weary broomsticks. By providing them with this welcome relief, the farmer and his family were then left free from any curses.

The main fireplace inside the Tavern is a superb example of granite workmanship, and the hearth is made from an old cider press wheel. Above the fireplace do note the 'genuine' stuffed mermaid in a glass case -apparently caught by local fishermen!

The Mermaid offers quite a range of food - good pub grub in the Tavern itself and a really high-class menu available next door in the Grill Room. 

Lillie Langtry Bar, La Motte Street

This tiny town bar is named after Lillie Langtry, the famous `Jersey Lily', who attained fame and fortune in the late 1800s as an actress, and some notoriety as mistress of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

Born Emilie Le Breton in St Saviour's Parish, Lillie enjoyed success in England and America until she passed away in Monaco in 1929. She is buried locally in St Saviour's Churchyard.

The bar itself is a favourite meeting place for many St Helier businessmen, drawn by the good company and excellent food, enhanced by an Edwardian decor.

The Harvest Barn, Vallee des Vaux

Many years ago the only customers at the Harvest Barn would have been a contented herd of Jersey cows. But following extensive renovations, the granite barn and cowshed were skilfully converted into a thriving pub with several bars and restaurants. Today it enjoys a reputation second to none on the Island.

Rurally situated in the Vallee des Vaux, the Harvest Barn is still only a mile or so from the centre of St Helier. The drive to the pub, along a pleasant winding country road flanked by a stream, is a delight in itself and the pub's two large car parks make life easy for the visiting motorist.

Once at the Barn you have the choice of two low-beamed rustic bars: the appropriately named Granary Bar or the Barn Bar itself, and each of these has a restaurant situated above. Quick service and keen prices are the hallmark of the pub's catering success, and it is possible to have a meal for two, with wine, for under £5. Bar snacks are also available for patrons not wishing to use the fully licensed restaurants.

During the summer months tables and chairs are placed outside in the courtyard, which is a real suntrap. Children are welcome to join their parents in the courtyard or eat in the Restaurants, but don't forget the Chef's day off is Sunday.

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