22 September 2021
Those involved in the early planning for Camana Bay envisioned a "Restaurant Row" along the waterfront Crescent, with a string of eateries offering different types of cuisine.
With the opening of Union Grill & Bar on 17 September, the Crescent now features nine different eateries that serve everything from pizza, pasta, burgers and Asian cuisine, to ceviche, tapas, gelato and craft cocktails. Union Grill & Bar adds something new to the mix: a luxury steakhouse.
"We wanted Union to have a big-city feel, one that's kind of grown up and clubby," says owner Paul Slijper.
The restaurant's décor supports that vision, with leather-tufted bar stools pulled up to a marble bar, crystal chandeliers hanging above the dining room and comfortable, velvet-covered chairs at the tables, all giving an ambiance of classy luxury.
Although Union's décor pays homage to traditional steakhouses of the past, it diverges into the future with its use of colours and art, including an abstract mural on the back wall.
"Union is really a modern interpretation of a steak and grill restaurant," says Slijper.
Union Grill & Bar's dinner menu features a variety of meats, fish and even some plant-based options, but Slijper says different cuts of steak form the heart of the menu.
"We have tenderloins, T-bones, ribeyes, New York strips and tomahawks, and we also offer some Wagyu, all of which we prepare on our lava rock grill," he says.
The steaks come with a choice of a sauce, one carbohydrate and one vegetable included in the price.
The list of appetisers includes classic beef tartare, duck salad and raw bar/seafood selections that include fresh oysters.
Meals can be served at the bar, which also has a separate bar snacks menu for those who come to enjoy happy hour.
The pared-back lunch menu includes more salads and sandwiches, all of which can be delivered to offices and shops in Camana Bay. A loyalty programme called the Union Lunch Club offers one free item up to CI$15 for every seven take-out lunches ordered.
On weekends, Union offers a Saturday-only breakfast from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. in addition to its regular lunch and dinner offerings, and on Sundays, it opens for a brunch-like lunch only.
In addition to seating for 60 inside, Union also offers al fresco dining outside, weather permitting.
Slijper says Union has a wine list of about 150 selections.
"It's not a vast wine list, but the collection has been hand-picked," he says, adding that most of the wines on the list are biodynamic, organic or sustainable.
Artisan cocktails, including various martinis, are also a highlight of the beverage offerings.
"We have a martini list that's themed on James Bond movies," he says.
Gin is a focal point with cocktails as well.
"We specialise in gin, with about 30 different gins," he says. "We have a build-your-own gin cocktail concept where you can choose from 10 different tonics and then choose various herbs and botanicals to add, giving you almost endless combinations."
Exceptional service is an important part of Union's business model.
The staff members, most of whom worked in Cayman previously, were hired well in advance of the restaurant opening and went through extensive training while the fit-out of the restaurant was completed.
"Training for us is really important," says Slijper, who has spent his working career in the hospitality industry and owned and operated a successful boutique hotel on the Spanish island of Mallorca for 10 years with his wife Tania. "We have a great team that wants to deliver world-class service."
As for the name, Slijper realises that Union Bar & Grill might roll off the tongue more easily than its chosen name of Union Grill & Bar, but there's a good reason for the choice.
"It's really more of a restaurant than a bar," he says, adding that the "Union" part of the name was also deliberate. "We want to create a union of food, wine, drink and amazing people."
Slijper says he wants his diners to leave Union saying, "That was a bloody good meal; I had a really good time."
In the long term, Slijper has even loftier goals.
"There's no reason, over time, this couldn't be the first Michelin-starred restaurant in the Cayman Islands."
For reservations, call +1.345.328.2662 or email email@example.com.
This article was originally featured in the September 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times.
About the author
Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for four years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 17 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for the Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. Alan is passionate about food and wine and he loves to write about both those subjects. He is also the leader of Grand Cayman’s Slow Food Chapter. One of Alan’s favourite ways to relax is to catch a film at Camana Bay Cinema. It was at one of these movies that he met his wife, Lynn!