A jaunt up to the tranquil eastern districts with their verdant beauty and quiet sun-kissed beaches is a day out that puts mind and body at ease.
When my visiting guest and I took that scenic drive up the Queens Highway, we stopped frequently to take pictures and admire the near-deserted beaches along the way, leaving the bustle of George Town behind us.
Our final destination (the sea breezes having made us ravenous) was Pelican’s Reef restaurant at the Wyndham Reef Resort in East End. With its new lunch menu waiting, we decided not to take too long drinking in the spectacular view of the beach. A short walk along the white sand and onto the hotel’s dock was rewarded by the sight of a pair of gray pelicans bobbing companionably together in the sea, cresting the waves.
The restaurant, formerly Castaways, has recently updated its menus and serves mainly Caribbean and Mediterranean fare. With ample seating both upstairs in the air-conditioning plus outside tables on the balcony overlooking the thatched Rusty Pelican beach bar area and sea, patrons have plenty of choice.
The restaurant’s lunch menu has 13 appetizers and 12 entrées to choose from. The dishes were devised by the Pelican’s food and beverage manager, Martin Pilat, along with the restaurant’s head chef, Hillary Rozario.
I opted for conch fritters for my appetizer. Served on a bed of crisply shredded salad leaves and accompanied by a ramekin of zesty jerk mayonnaise and a slice of fresh lime with Scotch bonnet and aioli for those who like it even hotter, the fritters were just as they should be – golden, warm and crisp on the outside and firm yet tender on the inside.
The other appetizer sampled was the restaurant’s Asian spring rolls. Stuffed with delicate strips of moist, seasonal vegetables sprinkled with turmeric and encased in melt-in-your mouth wrappers, the dish of four came with soy sauce and a deliciously light and piquant dressing of wasabi mayo whipped up to mint-colored perfection with a hint of vinegar. With just enough wasabi to add relish to the dish, its mousse-like consistency was sublime.
Other appetizers included coconut shrimp, Mahi ceviche, baked Brie cheese, and steamed mussels.
My entrée was braised beef short-ribs covered in a hearty tomato-based glaze with French fries (instead of horseradish mash) and seasonal vegetables (broccoli, green beans and julienned carrot). The ribs were succulent and fell off the bone. The fries were crisp and helped soak up some of the remaining glaze, while the vegetables were al dente, which kept their flavors sealed in and their colors bright and appealing.
My guest, who was flying back to the U.K.’s cooler climes, opted for the jerk pork with baked potato and seasonal veggies. She received a portion of the thickly sliced tenderloin that had been marinated in spicy and aromatic jerk seasoning and covered in jerk gravy. It was tender, moist and hot rather than incendiary. Having become something of a jerked meat connoisseur during her stay, the jerk pork certainly lived up to expectations. The sides were cooked to perfection and as such were an enjoyable accompaniment to the meat. Other entrées we could have chosen included potato gnocchi with four cheese sauce, Parmesan and pistachios; Cayman-style Mahi escovitch with rice and beans and plantains; Indian chicken curry with white rice, mango chutney and pita bread; and fish and chips – the beer-battered Mahi served with tartar sauce.
Soup of the day and salads including Greek salad, warm goat cheese salad, blue reef salad tuna and macaroni salad and a strawberry spinach salad were also available, along with portions of chicken, Mahi and shrimp on request. Various sandwich selections and a kids’ menu also were on offer.
We washed down our mains with cocktails, in keeping with our beach-side lunch. I chose the adventurously named Rum Runner, a tasty concoction made with a measure of gold rum, raspberry and banana liqueurs, a splash of grenadine and orange-pineapple and lime juice.
My guest plumped for a Cayman Lemonade. After the first tentative sip, she found the drink “tart, yet surprisingly refreshing.” Consisting of vodka, cranberry juice, peach schnapps and fresh lime, its colors glowed like a local sunset.
Though we could have stopped there, in the interests of the review we gamely tackled dessert. My tiramisu had all the key elements and rounded off the meal well. The dessert, as its name suggests, was a great “pick me up” with its layers of moist sponge cake, liberally soaked in coffee and brandy with powdered chocolate and creamy mascarpone cheese.
My guest chose the Key lime pie, which was zesty, creamy and refreshing. With such indulgent desserts, we cleansed our palates with a glass of ice water and kicked off the last traces of sand before bidding adieu and driving back to George Town after our capital lunch.
Pelican’s Reef restaurant is open daily lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. No reservations are needed except for Thursday night due to the Barefoot Man show. The Rusty Pelican’s bar menu is available daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
To contact the Wyndham Reef Resort, call 947-3100. For menu options, visit wyndhamcayman.com.