A report by David Graver for Esquire.
For its sun-drenched beaches and warm, crystalline waters, the Caribbean has long been a destination for those seeking rest and relaxation—and others desiring luxuriant celebration. Its proximity to the United States draws many looking for a quick, close escape. Additionally, its acclaimed resorts, private escapes, and various adventures pull in visitors from all over the world.
This grand chain represents so many cultures, languages, sub-regions, and roughly 1.06 million square miles of land and sea. Unsurprisingly, all of this plus the vast array of cultures, languages, sub-regions, and roughly 1.06 million square miles of land and sea paints a landscape that delivers culinary options you can only have in the Caribbean—including five-star dining experiences located in the midst of island life.
In a region frequently defined by mega-resorts and all-inclusive getaways, The Ritz-Carlton will set a new standard with The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. The first of three yachts in the fleet—set to take to the seas in February 2020—will feature an à la carte restaurant from Chef Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg in Germany.
Sailing between the British Virgin Islands, St. Barths, Barbados, the Grenadines, and Carriacou, guests onboard will live with the same comforts they expect from a Ritz-Carlton hotel or resort. (Depending on the season, however, the yacht will also venture to the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Northeastern United States, and Canada.)
Of course, with the sea being such a defining characteristic of the Caribbean, anyone seeking out culinary perfection on any one of its islands should expect its freshest offerings on their plate or its various blue hues in their line of sight. The eight options below cover a range of the finest culinary indulgences available.
Blue, Grand Cayman
Arguably the most acclaimed restaurant in the Caribbean, Chef Eric Ripert’s Bluefeatures the only AAA Five Diamond level of recognition. Found at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman resort, the fine dining experience is one of substance and spectacle. The multiple Michelin-star recipient has crafted a menu of local seafood and seasonal ingredients, complemented by a list of more than 700 wines. It’s truly spectacular.
Dune, The Bahamas
One of the most recognizable names in fine dining, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Caribbean outpost has a very appropriate name. Dubbed Dune, the restaurant actually rests atop a large white sand dune and features a beach view from its large outdoor patio. It’s a destination vying for the title of best in the Bahamas. Between the romantic scene and the French-Asian cuisine—supported by herbs grown from a garden on site—it makes a very strong case.
The Cliff, Barbados
Unsurprisingly, Chef Paul Owens’ Saint James, Barbados hot spot The Cliff also features a name worthy of the location. The restaurant is accessible by a set of very steep steps which rise up along a cliff face. This allows guests to arrive via boat—and many do make their way from nearby yachts to try the astounding, sophisticated prix fix menu. Further, every table—candlelit by night—has a view.
L’Esprit, St Barthelemy
On one of the Caribbean’s most exclusive islands, St Barthelemy, Chef Jean Claude Dufour’s sublime gourmet haven L’Esprit sits amidst a tropical garden—along the way to the famed Saline Beach. The menu at this epicurean powerhouse draws heavily from the French but bears great influence from the local herbs and spices used.
La Guardia, Cuba
Embodying all the glamour of Havana, Cuba both old and new, La Guarida occupies several floors at the top of a decaying residential building. Within, one finds timeless decor and carefully considered cuisine. It’s a Paladar—or Cuban restaurant— of the finest caliber, and its terrace is a perfect place to enjoy a drink either before or after a meal. Cuba remains a time capsule in the Caribbean and its more exquisite dining experiences feel quite uncommon.
At Rhodes, one dines in the open air, surrounded by a canopy of plants, palms and vines. The restaurant embraces its home island, Grenada, from decor to cuisine—including an elegant use of local ingredients. It’s all the vision of Michelin star Chef Gary Rhodes and the food pairs well with their top tier cocktail program and a Caribbean ambiance that’s delicately lit by night.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
Designed by The Ritz-Carlton and luxury cruise ship firm Tillberg Design, the first yacht will be a small capacity vessel with 149 suites and two penthouses. Ultimately, it will offer an intimate luxury experience on the high seas. Seating just 30 guests, Chef Sven Elverfeld’s à la carte restaurant will focus on the harmony of textures and the taste of high quality ingredients. Reflecting the values of The Ritz-Carlton brand, service will be unparalleled and presentation precise. From delectable European cuisine to attentive staff, it will be an experience of impeccable beauty.
Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar, Puerto Rico
For a tasting menu (or 15-course group tasting menu) in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, there’s only Marmalade. From Chef Peter Schintler, the restaurant and wine bar serve complex international cuisine employing just-caught seafood and local vegetables. Desserts shouldn’t be missed.
Le Pressoir, Saint Martin
In Saint Martin, renowned Chef Franc Mear’s Le Pressoir occupies a carefully restored beachside Creole cottage from the 1870s. Entering feels like stepping back in time, with a dollhouse-like nostalgia infusing the charmed, colorful environment. Here, the freshest of fish and lobster factor into many sophisticated dishes from Europe. It’s French culinary mastery reimagined with a distinct Caribbean flair. And the salt press, from which the restaurant takes its name, is on permanent display across the street.