The Cayman Islands are widely regarded as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and it's not difficult to see why.
A thriving tourism industry coupled with a multicultural population means expectations are set extremely high when it comes to the quality and diversity of food available in Cayman. This combined with a growing number of internationally recognised food festivals, industry experts, award-winning establishments, and increasing demand for and supply of locally grown produce, quickly makes it apparent that food is more than just sustenance here, it’s a way of life.
To help you navigate the plethora of restaurants and places to eat in the Cayman Islands, we've compiled a shortlist outlining just some of Cayman’s best spots to dine, sip, and savour. Here are the top seven:
Tucked away in West Bay, you’ll find Catch Restaurant & Lounge, an open-air dining room perched on the edge of the Caribbean Sea. As the name might suggest, Catch is renowned for its fresh seafood, both cooked and raw, and you’ll understand why when you see fishermen unloading their haul and carrying it right through the dining room.
Local catch ceviche, a duo of local fish tartare, tuna sashimi and the seared yellowfin tuna are just a few of the raw or near raw options on the menu. For those that prefer their seafood slightly more cooked, the crispy trigger fish with pickled escovitch is a Caribbean classic that’s not to be missed, along with the smoked wahoo carpaccio and the crispy octopus.
Photo by Sonita Malan
Backroom Cigar Bar is as close to a speakeasy as you’ll find in the Cayman Islands. Next to a colourful and brightly lit Asian restaurant on West Bay Road, Backroom is in stark contrast with its non-descript sign simply stating “BAR” atop a row of blacked-out windows.
When the sun dips below the horizon, discover this sumptuous bar’s hidden secrets. Behind the well-worn brass door handle is a dimly lit room with a long, dark wooden bar, a few incredibly comfortable red leather bar chairs, and a world of luxurious libations waiting to be explored.
From contemporary and classic to seasonal and experimental, the menu at Backroom is concise and compact, but still offers up a drink for every palate. But, the best way to enjoy a cocktail at Backroom is to give the bartender a direction — be it your choice of spirit or a seasonal ingredient — and then sit back and watch the international team of mixologists craft a truly remarkable beverage.
Backroom also moonlights as a cigar bar with a selection of luxury Cuban cigars.Photo by Janet Jarchow
In 2018 Seven, at the Ritz-Carlton, was ranked among the 10 best restaurants in the Caribbean. This luxurious dining spot boasts a sleek interior design with contrasting cream and dark wood accents with two beautiful wine-filled walls encased in glass.
Top notch cocktails compliment the a la carte menu which offers premium quality Niman Ranch meats, Snake River Farms wagyu, and local seafood selections. Ordering multiple cuts of meat and asking for them “sliced” is recommended to make sharing easy, along with ordering several of their decadent side dishes like truffled mac and cheese, coconut creamed callaloo, and chipotle creamed corn with uncured Niman Ranch bacon. It’s often unwise to fill up on bread at restaurants such as this but passing on the freshly baked mango brioche would be a grave mistake.
Chef de Cuisine Thomas Seifried is at the top of his game, carrying the torch passed down by three Michelin Star chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York City.
The menu at Blue, at the Ritz-Carlton, by Eric Ripert focuses on the best and freshest seafood available. Each dish is perfectly prepared and cooked before being served with rich sauces exquisitely paired to elevate the undisputed start of the plate, the fish. The menu changes seasonally but notable dishes at the time of writing include the tuna and foie gras, a signature dish at Blue, as well as the scallop with summer truffles, poached scampi with marinated sushi rice and ramps, and the seared grouper with saffron risotto and bouillabaisse broth.
Attention to detail is evident from the moment you walk in - every wine pairing sublime, every dish meticulously and elegantly presented with flavours that range from subtle to striking and back again. This is the reason that Blue remains the only restaurant in the Caribbean to be bestowed the coveted AAA Five Diamond Award, a distinction it’s held since 2008.
Cayman’s newest hotel addition, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, boasts a stunning bar and restaurant called Ave.
Naturally lit with expansive floor to ceiling windows, the exposed beams and concrete walls blend seamlessly with the inviting furnishings. The island-style bar on the left draws your vision first and should certainly be the first stop for a glass of wine or a handcrafted cocktail. However, the true crowning jewel of the space is a 10-seat open concept chef’s counter called Avecita.
Here you are seated only inches away from the chefs and waiters engaged in a well-choreographed dance, a myriad of hands cooking, slicing, plating, and serving every dish in full view. The whole performance is dramatically backlit by a wood-fired Grillworks grill, which not only adds a vivid flicker of light, but also an aroma that foreshadows the delicious morsels to come.
During a recent visit we enjoyed grilled scallops with fugu dashi broth and French morels, then Atlantic halibut, basil risotto and pine nut caponata, each perfectly paired with its own wine. On to slow-smoked and roasted duck with cracked coriander glaze, before a wood-fired striploin steak with black quinoa, lightly pickled mushrooms and, of course, more wine. Lights, fire, action! Avecita is truly dinner and a show.
Bàcaro shattered the mold of typical Italian dining when their open-air restaurant in the Cayman Islands Yacht Club opened in 2017, offering a menu focused around an Italian version of tapas known as cicchetti that is served throughout Venice.
Bàcaro prepares mouthwatering cicchetti favourites with a creative Caribbean twist, and their desserts are no exception. The passionfruit panacotta and traditional tiramisu are so delicate and decadent, you can easily close your eyes and imagine the sounds of the passing boats in the harbour are passing gondolas in Venetian canals. The jarred chocolate cake is layer-upon-layer of deep chocolate and espresso cream, light chocolate mousse, crumbled chocolate sponge cake with sea salt, and black pepper and fennel chocolate. The burnt strawberries, dusted with cinnamon and coriander sugar before being brûléed and served with yogurt semifreddo, are a unique and whimsical contrast to the traditional, simplistic Italian dessert known as affogato; vanilla bean ice cream drowned in a shot of espresso and enjoyed with a spoon. Perfection.
To keep in line with the cicchetti concept, all the desserts at Bàcaro are smaller portions, so you don’t have to feel guilty about ordering several.
For many years the words “best” and “fine dining” were synonymous, however as the collective focus has shifted towards the farm-to-table movement, more casual restaurants like Cayman Cabana Oceanside RestoBar have been given the opportunity to shine.
The restaurant’s four-course farm-to-table-dinner on Thursday nights features exclusively local produce from Cayman’s land and sea in a beautiful oceanfront setting under the stars. Here guests are seated at long communal tables draped in white linen before wine and fresh pressed juices are offered.
The food is fresh, seasonal and exclusively local, served family style on large plates and platters creating a vibrant, social dining atmosphere between friends and strangers alike. This is a truly unique dining experience in Cayman, and a great introduction to the thriving community of local growers, producers, and fishermen in Cayman.
Alternatively, check out the restaurant’s newly launched locavore brunch, held every Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The a la carte menu features a selection of Caribbean inspired dishes where local produce is the star of the show.Photos by Janet Jarchow
About The Author
Chef Dylan Benoit is an active member of Cayman’s culinary scene. He is also an established food writer and blogger, documenting some of the best culinary adventures from around the world, as well as the host of Food Network Canada’s new fiery cooking show Fire Masters. His company Prime Group offers private chef and consulting services as well as food tours for tourists and residents alike.