NO one could argue that Jersey is a poor place for gastronomes. Not only do we have a few Michelin-starred restaurants competing with each other, but there are dozens of brilliant eateries offering anything from Thai and Indian to Italian and French – not to mention a plethora of cafes dishing up full English breakfasts, sandwiches and homemade cakes.
For those who prefer to cook at home, we have a healthy range of supermarkets, two cracking markets selling fish, meat and vegetables, and these days we can source just about any obscure ingredient. (I did struggle to find some sumac recently, but that was mainly because I was pronouncing it incorrectly…) So, why on Earth are UK fast food chains more popular in this Island than anything else? Witness the chaotic scenes when Greggs or Burger King opened their doors in the last few years. And I don’t think I’ve ever walked past McDonald’s in Jersey and not seen it bustling with people, whatever the time of day.
The latest big name to arrive is Domino’s Pizza – an American takeaway and delivery service that has thousands of outlets across the world, including China, Haiti and (incredibly) Italy.
Jersey’s newest eatery opened quietly one night a few weeks ago (known as a ‘soft launch’), perhaps thinking that it would be afforded a relatively easy start to life in the Channel Islands.
Fat chance. Soon after the new employees switched on the lights to illuminate the well-known blue, white and red logo at their premises in St Saviour’s Road there were queues out of the door. They had to stop taking orders on the website in the first few days because they were so inundated with requests from greedy Islanders. I drove past shortly after it opened and slowed down because I thought there had been an accident, judging by the cars lining the pavements and the many people standing around.
Now, I’ve eaten Domino’s pizza in the UK a fair few times, mainly as a late-night dinner to soak up too much alcohol, and it’s absolutely fine. It’s inoffensive, relatively cheap (if you cash in one of their ‘offers’ that run perpetually) and it fills a hole. Italians would probably query whether or not it is a true replication of their famous dish and you’re unlikely to see many pizzerias in Rome offering a Mighty Meaty, a Vegi Volcano or a Meatilicious (all genuine pizzas sold by Domino’s), but I’ve never been unduly disappointed by anything I’ve ever eaten from there.
But for some people, Domino’s is some sort of holy shrine to pizza, as evidenced by the lengthy queues seen in Jersey and the thousands of outlets round the world. My wife, unfortunately, is one of their devoted followers.
When Domino’s announced their intention to set up a store in Jersey, she was more excited than the day I proposed. She even phoned some of her friends in the UK to boast about the news, which fell a bit flat when they all pointed out that they lived within a few miles of one of the ubiquitous takeaway joints.
I managed to put her off getting involved in the first few weeks, saying that it was too busy, but she eventually got her way this week.
I was dispatched to collect the order (they only deliver to St Helier at the moment, apparently) and was pleasantly surprised to find that the place was fairly quiet when I arrived. After some confusion over the order, which was in my wife’s name, I was soon driving home with two hot pizzas on the passenger seat, as well as a box of chicken and potato wedges that I really didn’t think we needed but are allegedly essential to the full Domino’s experience.
My wife also loves the famous garlic and herb dip, apparently, so ordered something called a ‘Big Dip’, which turned out to be a huge tub of the sauce. What she may or may not have realised is that you also get a free dip with each pizza and yet another one with the potato wedges she ordered. So, we ended up with enough garlic and herb dip to paint the downstairs hallway – which, after tasting the goo (warmed by its proximity to the pizzas) was probably a better use for it.
Anyway, the pizzas were fine, albeit with far too thick bases for my liking, and my wife was pleased to report that they tasted exactly the same as she remembered.
I couldn’t really remember what they taste like but my plate was empty at the end of the evening, which suggests that I enjoyed it.
Oh, and the joys of collecting your own pizza become all too apparent the following day, when you get in your car at 8 am and your nostrils are filled with the unmistakable, lingering whiff of a Mighty Meaty.
After driving round with the windows open for 20 minutes the smell still hadn’t gone, and I started considering leaving a tub of garlic and mayo dip on the dashboard to counteract it…