Fresh decor, a well-stocked gift shop and a touch of island flair on the menu are all part of the new Hard Rock Cafe, which reopened last December under new ownership.
The brand has enjoyed immense popularity around the globe, and for the refurbished restaurant in Cayman, the tried and tested formula remains unchanged. Rock memorabilia adorns the walls, and classic tunes pump through the speakers.
The entrance to the restaurant is via a stairway at the back of the Rock Shop, giving visitors ample opportunity to buy brand-emblazoned clothing before or after dining. This setup no doubt also caters to the large groups of cruise ship passengers who pass through the doors during the week, giving them easy opportunity to pick up merchandise even if they are not dining.
As well as a large array of clothing, the Rock Shop also gives visitors a small taster of the memorabilia collection that is continued upstairs, and what most Hard Rock Cafes are known and loved for.
The new decor upstairs is much brighter than before, and the stairwell is adorned with lit guitars mimicking the shapes of stingrays – very appropriate for our Caribbean setting. Once upstairs, a bright and fully stocked bar area is on the right, and a 140-seat restaurant floor borders the room, with booths and standalone tables offering views of the harbor. The sea life painting on the domed portion of the ceiling is the only remnant of the restaurant’s previous format; everything else about the decor has changed.
The menu is typical American fare, with eight burger options and slow-cooked smokehouse specialties, such as hickory-smoked pulled pork and hickory smoked ribs. An island flair is also evident throughout the menu.
“We obviously have the standard Hard Rock menu items but have localized the menu for Cayman to include jerk chicken, conch fritters, fish tacos and our local Legendary Burger with cilantro pesto mayo, Scotch bonnet relish and pepper jack cheese croquette,” said Tim Langfitt, general manager.
Our waitress recommended the twisted mac, chicken and cheese or the blackened chicken alfredo pasta, but in an attempt to not fill up too quickly, my guest chose the hickory smoked ribs, with coleslaw and salad, while I went for the vegetable fajitas. To start, we shared a spinach and artichoke dip.
The dip was good, and not too large a portion – perfect for two to share while waiting for mains – and the crispy flat bread was a nice touch, in place of more traditional nachos. My guest’s ribs were tender, although he did request extra BBQ sauce. My fajitas were served with ample salad and sauce toppings, which was refreshing as some establishments under-serve these items. In hindsight, we should have tried a dessert, all of which sounded gorgeous, including the sinful hot fudge sundae or Oreo cookie cheesecake, but our stomachs could hold no more!
Big music fans, especially those of older generations, will appreciate the diversity of music played and, of course, the memorabilia. From my seat, I could see a bra worn by Madonna, a Fender Musicmaster bass signed by all three members of the Beastie Boys, and a drumhead signed by Lenny Kravitz. Guitars signed by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sheryl Crow and Chris Isaak were also in eyesight. On the far wall, a tunic worn by the crew on ska and rock band Pepper’s tour was displayed, and the café also boasts memorabilia from Elvis, the Beach Boys, Bob Marley and Rihanna.
While it was quiet the evening we visited, during the day the story changes due to high tourist traffic.
“With our harbor location, the cruise ships continue to play a huge role in our success, but we are attracting more local business through our special event participation, such as Mardi Gras, and daily happy hour and ongoing 10 percent local discount on all purchases,” Langfitt said.
One popular aspect of Hard Rock is also likely to return as they have plans to host live music, karaoke and other singing contests one or two nights a week.
For those looking for a quiet meal with in-depth concentrated dinner conversation, Hard Rock may be a distracting choice (I found it hard to tear my eyes away from the music videos and memorabilia at times).
However, for those dining in large groups, who are yearning for American-style comfort food, a cold beer or cocktail and friendly service, with decor that is exciting and far from boring, Hard Rock Cafe has all the ingredients necessary for a relaxed night out.