Review by Fiona Duncan, published 10th May 2009.
Longueville Manor is Jersey’s finest hotel and its story is worth recounting. To me, it encapsulates traditional British hotel-keeping and why it’s something of which we should be proud.
It opened in 1949, when a publican, Sydney Lewis, came from the north of England on holiday with his wife. They fell in love with the island and decided to open their own modest hotel.
They lighted on Longueville Manor, a private residence with a poor record of upkeep despite Norman roots and a fine 16th-century façade. Its best moment came in the 1630s, when its owner panelled the Great Hall, now the restaurant, with carved oak chests culled from the Spanish Armada (they are still in place today).
In 1949, guests had to hand over their ration books on arrival. The Lewis’s son, Neal, joined his parents in their venture, eventually taking over, with his wife Barbara, in the Sixties.
They went on holiday too: to France, where they stayed in gracious, spoiling, professionally run but privately owned hotels that were part of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux group, established in 1954 with exacting admission standards. They returned to Jersey, with one aim: to lift Longueville Manor to the same exalted level by answering the group’s traditional “five c” motto: caractère, courtoisie, calme, charme et cuisine.
The aim was achieved. Neal and Barbara are now retired and their son, Malcolm, runs the hotel, with his wife Patricia. Her sister is married to Pedro Bento, the genial general manager, previously the head sommelier. Malcolm, fittingly, is a grand fromage in Relais & Châteaux, these days a global organisation with more than 450 members.
Of such stuff good hotels are made. The five “c”s are all achieved in Longueville Manor, although personally I’d prefer more caractère in the public rooms. But service could not be more polite or genuinely helpful and there’s courtoisie and calme by the spadeful. The bedrooms are spacious, traditional and restful, all with fresh flowers and generous bowls of fruit. The grounds are tranquil, with black swans on water, a fine walled kitchen garden and a pool.
“Why is there a soft toy boxer dog on each bed?” I ask Pedro. “Because the family have always had boxers and our guests identify them with the hotel. You wouldn’t believe how many we sell.”
“People,” says Patricia, “see Malcolm and Pedro smiling and chatting to guests and think 'easy job; I could do that’. But they’re wrong.” I agree. Hotel-keepers have to be entertainers, financiers, marketing experts and employers caring for a large and often peripatetic workforce. They must publicise, forecast trends, make wise investments, maintain standards. Hotel-keeping is anything but easy; which is what makes it such an interesting industry to watch. People like Malcolm and organisations like Relais & Châteaux should be praised for their continuing efforts.
St Saviour, Jersey (01534 725501; www.longuevillemanor.com). Doubles from £275, including breakfast. Access possible for guests with disabilities. Further information on Jersey at www.jersey.com. For flights visit www.flybe.com