EDITORIAL – After 30 years, the sun sets on Hemingways

It was last call for Hemingways last evening, marking 30-plus years as a culinary and social magnet on Seven Mile Beach that attracted the rich, the famous and the rest of us – tourists and residents alike.

The history of Hemingways, as far as we know, has never been properly documented but exists mainly in the memories of its patrons and staff. We think this would be an appropriate time to share a few of these recollections with you . . .

Hemingways holds a particularly dear place in the hearts of Compass Publishers David and Vicki Legge. In 1988, shortly after the opening of the restaurant at the Hyatt Britannia resort, the Legges were visiting Grand Cayman as tourists. The late Bert Watler, former Serjeant-At-Arms of the Legislative Assembly and head of Hibiscus Realty, helped arrange the trip, and upon learning it was Vicki’s birthday, invited the Legges to a very special lunch at, where else, Cayman’s finest, Hemingways.

In the words of Alvin Sluchinski, who served on the wait staff of Hemingways almost from its inception for 11 years – he left in 2010 to pursue a real estate career and, we are pleased to report, is doing very well at Engle & Volkers,  “Anyone who was anyone would eventually come to Hemingways.”

In the early days, Sluchinski worked alongside Marina Flynn and Alice Ring, both indelibly identified with the restaurant. “Chef Shetty” ran the kitchen at Hemingways for years and, of course, now owns Blue Cilantro just down the street on West Bay Road.

Sluchinski himself became an attraction at Hemingways. Many of Cayman’s professionals and elite would frequent the restaurant, but only if Sluchinski could oversee their service.

“Table 45,” for those in the know, was THE table for the “most VIP” of the VIPs. Actors Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman dined there, as did comedian Don Rickles and, yes, mega developer Ken Dart who, in the early days, would arrive with his bodyguards in tow. Best-selling author Dick Frances regularly held court at Table 45.

The preferred dish of the Hon. McKeeva Bush in the mid-90s were chicken fingers, even though they weren’t on the menu. (How do we know these things? We’ve got our sources.)

Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, chose to dine outside at Hemingways (“Table 70”) for a better view of Cayman’s sea and shore.

On more than one night, the “Ukrainians,” in their heyday, would party at Hemingways, drinking the restaurant and the resort dry of Cristal champagne, before heading on to one yacht or another for more late-night merriment.

The restaurant in its early years became known as a gathering place for what the staff called “the cute girls.”

When a contingent of “cute girls” would arrive, songster James (“Sunny Jim”) White, who entertained for many years from his perch in the spotlight, would play a particular riff on his guitar to signal those “in the know” or “on the prowl.” Several of “the cute girls” came to believe that one particular table always had an additional guest – a ghost (or, as ghosts were known in Cayman, a “duppy.”) Longtime staff, however, never could confirm a sighting . . .

We could go on, but let’s close with an appropriate word from Cayman’s own crooner, Barefoot Man, who in past months has been performing one or two evenings a week at Hemingways with Chuck and Barrie Quappe (aka Sea n’ B). They did their “last set” last Wednesday.

“I must confess I’m a little bit sad,” said Barefoot. “I know things must move on, but I’m going to miss this place. I sure would like an encore or a rerun for another year or two.”

Barefoot was speaking for all of us.