12 April 2022
Originally from Yorkshire and Suffolk respectively, Paul and Tania Slijper have spent their lives in hospitality, a calling that has allowed them to experience the world while they work.
As a young professional, Paul spent 10 years with the Orient Express group and big-name brands like Hilton, Marriott and New York’s 21 Club restaurant.
“Much of my life was spent travelling with amazing properties,” he says.
Tania, a marketing guru, ran an advertising agency in Covent Garden in London for a number of years.
When their children were still young, the Slijpers moved to Spain and renovated a 100-year-old mansion in Majorca’s Tramuntana mountains into a luxury boutique hotel, Hotel L’Avenida.
After selling L’Avenida, they returned to London for some time, in need of a break from hospitality. They decided to relocate to Cayman, where Tania’s sister had worked as a lawyer for 30 years.
But they couldn’t stay away from hospitality for long. The Slijpers set up and ran a watersports company, until the COVID-19 pandemic forced its closure.
“We realised that Caymanians and visitors all love to eat and drink – that’s something that will never go away — so we pitched a number of ideas to Camana Bay, and Union was accepted.”
The couple had a distinct idea in mind for the restaurant's design.
“We didn’t want to do another bright, airy space with lots of Caribbean colours," he says. "We wanted a big-city bistro feel. We like a lot of texture – cast-iron table tops, leather chairs, a marble bar."
The Slijpers knew that the centre of Union’s menu would always be steak, cooked on a lava rock grill. From there, the menu evolves organically by sitting around the table and trying ideas out.
“We bring in different cuts of meat when we can and just introduced a new fish platter called Union Ocean. We want to keep things fresh,” Paul says.
Like any business, Union has seen its share of macro and micro challenges.
“At the end of the day, we serve food to people and make them happy," Paul says. "As long as we can do that, we’re happy.”
Profit isn't the only motivation behind the couple's investment into Union Grill & Bar.
“Tania and I were once in the South of France, staying in a small country house hotel," Paul recalls. "We saw the old couple who owned it sitting on the porch in their private space drinking wine and looking out at the view. We wanted to one day be that couple, to just sit and drink wine on the porch at this place we’ve built.”
This article was originally published in the April 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.