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Two authentic restaurants, one vision

Business 05 Feb, 2024 Follow News

The beautiful Wharf restaurant

Attention to detail at Grand Old House

The Wharf is a perfect location for dining al fresco at sunset

Grand Old House’s splendid dining room

Head of Operations Luciano De Riso

Extensive wines at Grand Old House

Rums galore at Grand Old House

Oceanfront dining at The Wharf

Grand Old House and The Wharf have been pleasing their guests with fine dining at these two individual locations for decades. The Caymanian Times speaks with Head of Operations Luciano De Riso about their ethos that has delivered so much more than just great food for so long.

Among Cayman’s multitude of excellent restaurants, Grand Old House and The Wharf stand out as two of the best, and, perhaps unusually for the restaurant sector, they have managed to maintain their top spot for all the decades that they have been in operation.

“We aren’t really just providing food for people; we are providing an experience,” Luciano explained. “We try to couple with the food (which is the highest quality you can get on island) the location, the service, the cigars, the wines, everything, so it is the entire experience.”

At Grand Old House, a restaurant since 1969, Luciano said the location itself creates the atmosphere. The main building was a former plantation house established in 1908 and is considered one of the most iconic buildings in the Cayman Islands. It is nestled among the ironshore of South Sound and overlooks the Caribbean, so diners can experience oceanfront dining combined with historic ambiance unlike anywhere else on island.

“Over the past few years, I have learned to appreciate how the history of the place is so important to us,” Luciano confirmed. “We often hear about how Cayman is losing its heritage, and here we are, the custodian of one of the finest pieces of Caymanian architecture and it has been here for over 100 years.”

Guests come to Cayman to enjoy the ocean, savour the food, and enjoy the hospitality and they get all this and more at Grand Old House with its historical charm a huge draw for visitors.

Luciano speaks with passion about the beautiful exterior of the restaurant, noting all the extras to the location that build up to an incredibly special place, including the restful lounge area for after dining cigars and digestifs surrounded by art and lush exotic flora, and the expansive yet cozy decks for people to dine together at the water’s edge.

“Normally people take around one and a half hours when they dine out, but here I often see people taking three hours and that is not because we are slow!” he said. “They go for a tour of the place, they go for a walk, and inside there are so many rooms to explore.”

The 86-year-old Cuban gentleman who rolls the cigars, the dedicated cigar and rum room, the authentic and history-laden artwork, gorgeous chandeliers and the extensive wines that fill every nook and cranny and secret room of this beautiful establishment all add to the enjoyment of the experience.

The Wharf, which sits at the George Town end of Seven Mile Beach, has been in operation as a restaurant since 1988 and is Grand Old House’s sister restaurant, also overseen by Luciano. He said this restaurant always has had a special place in his heart.

“Although the Wharf stands out as the place where people go for Boogie Nights and salsa, there is so much more to the restaurant. There is no place closer to the water than The Wharf – the fish are swimming right under you! The different levels to the deck also add to the atmosphere. It feels more like the kind of restaurant people are looking for when they visit the Caribbean.”

Looking innocuous from the initial drive in, The Wharf opens up in spectacular fashion for diners as they walk down the path to the restaurant. It’s a particular draw for families who come to enjoy its friendly and relaxed service. Luciano said he enjoyed seeing the wonder in diners’ eyes as they realise just how close to the water they are.

“It’s not until you actually get there that you see the full expanse of the restaurant,” he said.

Both locations pride themselves on their food, their service, the fact that they have so many long-term employees, as well as the locations.

“But it’s not just that we have a beautiful view; we care for the location. We make it pleasant for people so they can enjoy the full experience with all their five senses,” Luciano said. “I have worked in some of the most beautiful places in the world, but we are so proud of these restaurants. You see it in the eyes of the people who have not come there before when they say “Wow! We’ve never seen anything like this before!” And that’s because there is nowhere else like these restaurants!”

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