Heading into Guernsey’s St Peter Port from the airport, down lanes edged through nicely-tended stucco, I interrogate my cab motive force about neighborhood eating places. I do this, now not due to the fact cab drivers understand everything, however, due to the fact they do know the conventional wisdom. Octopus, he advised me, serves some incredible meals; however, the provider can be a nightmare. A round of applause, then, for traditional knowledge, nailing it there. Octopus has an awful lot to endorse it. However, it’s additionally an amiable shambles. It’s much less of a mess than it becomes while it first opened in 2016. Still, if you are susceptible to being forgotten or overlooked or of going for long stretches without being fed, this could not be the vicinity for you.
Even so, it’s nonetheless really worth the chance, as it’s almost the restaurant you want on a sea-licked island like this. The wood-clad building occupies a top spot within the shadow of a forested hill on the south quit of Havelet Bay, on the town’s edge. The view from the outside deck and the glass-fronted eating room at the back are throughout the water to the castle and various outcrops and islands. This elegant brand of rugged modernism stands in evaluation to the Bijou, old global-vibe of their different eating place, Le Petit Bistro, lower back within the center, which has a menu heavy with more French classics than you can shake a garlic-butter-smeared, snail-stuffed baguette at.
Octopus is named after the beast on the coronary heart of sometime Guernsey resident Victor Hugo’s tale Toilers of the Sea, and the menu is indeed a many-legged creature. Or to position it any other manner, it’s completely nuts. Alongside a listing of steaks, another of road food, a third of mussels (five extraordinary methods, in three individual sizes), salads, flatbreads, sauces, and more than a dozen facets, there’s additionally a bunch of ramens. Of course, there’s no cause why the most relaxed people of Guernsey shouldn’t have access to ramen. However, it does make the kitchen seem very eager to delight.
Look, right here’s the specials menu: 3 plats du jour at £thirteen every, an original path, a whole turbot to the percentage for £65, and three nibbles. We get this sort of scallop “beards,” the frilly skirts reduce away while the beef is liberated from the shell, floured and deep-fried to golden, and served with a bowl of punchy rouille. They have the savory-sweet edge of the best seafood and are satisfyingly chewy. We start with them, but I can see how they could also work as an appropriate bar snack if you had investigated the promise in their 50-sturdy gin listing.
We additionally get a sausage roll and a first-class porky component it’s far too, in a pastry shell as glazed as a vintage piece of wood fixtures. But the critical thing to the menu right here lies inside the middle, where there’s a list entitled Crab Shack, supplying oysters, complete crabs, lobster, and numerous fish of the day served in methods many and various. From this, we get three rock oysters straight up, keenly priced at £1.70 each, and three more grilled underneath a burnished champagne sabayon with spinach and seaweed, which is all cream and acidity and surf and hurrah.
It’s an excellent way to begin, and it needs to be because it takes 50 mins from sitting down for any of this to land on the table. Waiters have to be flagged down like racing taxis as they try to skim, wild-eyed, past us. Generally, if we get the eye of one, they inform us they need to locate every other. There’s additionally some shameless upselling. While ordering starters, I’m asked randomly if we’d like to add some scallops to that. What? To a big sausage roll, six oysters, and a bunch of curly deep-fried seafoodie bits? No, no longer absolutely, thank you.
It occurs once more with the second vital phase within the center of the menu headed Hot Seafood Pot Specialities: a stew of mussels, prawns, scallops, and child octopus. You pick which broth you want in – marinière with new potatoes and parsley, say, or green Thai curry – after determining whether or not to add an entire crab, half or whole lobster, or a combination of the two. We pick out the spicy bouillabaisse jus with fennel and chorizo with each entire crab and lobster to proportion, for what, at £49, is the true value. The waiter asks us if we’d like a bigger lobster. I ask him how a lot. Instead of answering, he returns with a tea towel-included tray and pulls it returned to reveal social, blue-gray creatures, claws twitching. He points to the bigger one. Again, I should ask him how a whole lot. He mutters, “£65.” I decline, as it virtually isn’t that a lot bigger.
It’s additionally needless. The actual disgrace about all this rackety, chaotic, once in a while clumsy carrier is that it detracts from what’s a wonderful mess of seafood. It’s a massive dish to arise to your armpits in. They say it’s for one or two, but it can effortlessly feed three. There is an ocean-deep broth. This is not anything like either a bouillabaisse or a jus. However, it is spiced and ripe with tomato and chili, and the liquor the quality shellfish gives up as it meets its end. We pull the beef from the lobster and crab, our shells heaping up within the bucket earlier than us. We dig around for scallops and prawns and suck the particles off the mussel shells. It’s engrossing, an unmarried dish which for some is worth no longer simplest its own rate, however also that of a flight. We drink a fairly priced Gavi di Gavi at £26 and paint our manner via the napkins and the moist wipes.