La Fregate

“Perched high above the town with fine views over Herm and Sark, a small hotel with a noteworthy seafood restaurant.”

Review by Fiona Duncan, published 28th January 2007.

Guernsey may be an island of small pleasures but surely it deserves better than its current crop of frowsy hotels.

It's the same story throughout the Channel Islands: there are no more than half a dozen places that I could recommend with even a modicum of confidence. Yet the islands are ripe for weekend breaks, especially in winter when they are several degrees warmer than at home. They badly need some sybaritic hotels in order to lure anyone other than the traditional blue rinse brigade.

There are two places worth staying in Guernsey's capital, St Peter Port: the long-established Old Government House, with touches of grandeur and an inviting spa, and La Fregate, where the hotel's English manager is doing what he can to give the people what they want.

Let's start with the restaurant, a succés fou.

With superb views over the harbour and Herm and Sark beyond, the recently extended dining room features a wall of windows, a cool white interior and very good food. "May I suggest" said restaurant manager Laurent Bucher, when asked for recommendations, "that you keep it simple." Ignoring fancier dishes, he extolled the virtues of Guernsey seafood in all its plainest glory, and strongly advised the cocktail of Guernsey crab and a plain grilled brill ("with a little hollandaise if you must").

You have to be sure of your ingredients and of your chef to be so bold. No masking sauces here. I was hesitant about the crab cocktail, envisaging something in a glass tossed in pink, but what came was a huge mound of perfectly fresh, sweet crabmeat and a little pot of homemade mayonnaise. As for the brill, it was just right too: meaty and succulent, grilled to a golden brown. In the interests of research a pudding had to follow, and by now Laurent and I were entirely in tune. `'I fancy the Grand Marnier soufflé", I told him. "Madam, that is exactly the dish I had in mind for you". Puffed to bursting when it arrived, it collapsed with a sigh of relief as soon as I sank my spoon into its frothy depths.

In the restaurant, perched high above St Peter Port, you feel as though you are on the top floors of a tall building. In fact the dining room is on the lowest floor of the hotel, and it is only as you climb up that the sense of being somewhere chic and classy is, I'm afraid, dispelled, at least for me.

La Fregate calls itself a boutique hotel, and so it is by Guernsey standards, but if “boutique" means “charm and character" then the prominent mahogany-framed, glass-fronted cabinet displaying photographs of the proprietors of a local estate agent didn't do it for me. Nor did the rooms, recently redecorated but blandly furnished, with anaglypta wallpaper, and the usual oh-so-dull contemporary brown and beige colour schemes. But they are thoughtfully equipped and do have terrific views, and the ten new rooms opening next month look very promising. Even better equipped, with wide balconies, they will cost the same as the existing ones. The suites are huge.

It's back to the restaurant for an unimpeachable breakfast: proper waitress service (fleets of Latvians), superb, beautifully presented bacon and tomato, freshly squeezed juices, excellent coffee, sunlight pouring in.

St Peter Port, Guernsey (01481 724624; www.lafregatehotel.com). Doubles from £145 to £185 including breakfast; dinner £27.50 For reviews and recommendations from Fiona Duncan, visit www.thehotelguru.com.

Stay at this hotel

The Hotel Guru verdict

Rooms
3 out of 5

Spacious, good views, balconies, but lacking in character

Service
3 out of 5

Informal and friendly; local staff backed by eastern european temporaries

Character
2 out of 5

Original 16th century manor house obscured by modern additions

Food and drink
5 out of 5

A fair bill for excellent local seafood; superb breakfasts

Value for money
4 out of 5

Bedrooms pricey; food good value. excellent weekend rates

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