Small Islands, Big Boats: 12 Wine Restaurants in Paradise

Savor top wines in these sunny dining destinations

Small Islands, Big Boats: 12 Wine Restaurants in Paradise
Set in the Cayman Islands, Grand Old House is an ideal escape for wine lovers. (Courtesy of Grand Old House)
Jan 19, 2023

After years of planning, postponing and re-planning, are you ready for your next getaway? No vacation is complete without great food and wine. Here are 12 top-notch Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning wine restaurants on islands and cruise ships around the world to spark your wanderlust, with flourishes including a historic 275,000-bottle cellar in the Bahamas, Italian classics in the Dutch Caribbean and an American steak house in the middle of the ocean.

This is just a small sampling of standout wine spots. For more wine-and-food destinations around the world, search all of Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Award–winning restaurants, including our award winners on cruise ships and iconic hotels with great wine lists across North America and the world, as well as all our Grand Award recipients.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to restaurantawards@mshanken.com. We want to hear from you!

Note: Opening hours and menus are subject to change as the industry continues to adjust to evolving regulations..


Graycliff Restaurant

Graycliff Hotel, West Hill St., Nassau, Bahamas
Telephone (242) 302-9150
Website www.graycliff.com
Grand Award

 A table set in a private dining space at Graycliff, set amid shelves of stacked wine bottles
Aged treasures abound in the cellar at Graycliff Restaurant. (Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant)

In the capital city of the Bahamas, you’ll find Graycliff, a historic hotel atop one of the great wine cellars of the world. An elegant oasis in a charming old neighborhood, with a restaurant serving 5,325 selections from a cellar of more than 275,000 bottles, Graycliff has held a Grand Award since 1988. Captaining the list—which offers strengths in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy (especially Tuscany and Piedmont), California, Port and Madeira—is wine director and co–general manager Enrico Garzaroli. Bucket-list verticals include Château Margaux back to 1892, Château Mouton-Rothschild back to 1934 and Château Latour back to 1904. Complementing these wines, chef Elijah Bowe’s Bahamian cuisine is infused with French influences for a creative twist on traditional dishes.


Aragu

Velaa Private Island, Maldvives m. Uniya 4th Fl., Fareedhee Magu, Malé, Maldives
Telephone (960) 656-5000
Website www.velaaprivateisland.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 The dining room at Aragu with large columns and hanging sculptures of birds and fish
Aragu offers guests a lively atmosphere to enjoy its Asian-influenced cuisine and stellar wine list. (Courtesy of Velaa Private Island)

Best of Award of Excellence winner Aragu is set against the stunning blue waters of the Indian Ocean on the private island of Velaa, not far from Malé, the capital city of the Maldives island chain. The restaurant’s dining room even opens to the expanse of the ocean, with a few select tables set out on the dock for diners to immerse themselves in the scenery. Chef Gaushan De Silva’s contemporary European cuisine has a distinctive Asian twist across the à la carte and tasting menus, with dishes such as Maldivian lobster with tapioca pearl risotto and lamb loin with ponzu jus. Sommelier Musthafa Mohamed guides guests through the wine program, which primarily spotlights France across some 1,000 selections, with plenty from Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne throughout.


Capriccio Ristorante

Kaya Charles E.B. Hellmund, 5, Kralendijk - Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean
Telephone (599) 717-7230
Website www.capricciobonaire.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 The white- and blue-colored, modern-design dining room at Capriccio Ristorante, with black wooden chairs and a view of the ocean
Italian cuisine and Piedmont wines mingle with a stunning setting at Capriccio. (Courtesy of Capriccio Ristorante)

On the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean, you’ll find acclaimed Italian food and wine at Capriccio Ristorante. Owner and wine director Lorella Lucia Scandaletti’s list has been earning Restaurant Awards since 2002; in 2016, Capriccio received its first Best of Award of Excellence for its list, which now stands at 500 selections with a strong showing from Italy, especially Piedmont and Tuscany. Pair your pick with Andrea Magni’s menu, which features plenty of antipasti, pizza, pasta and fresh-caught seafood.


Grand Old House

648 S. Church St., George Town, Cayman Islands
Telephone (345) 949-9333
Website www.grandoldhouse.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 Bottles of wine on shelves at Grand Old House
Wineries in California, France, Italy and beyond feature among Grand Old House’s thousands of bottles. (Grand Old House)

With panoramic waterfront views in George Town on Grand Cayman in the Caribbean, Grand Old House has been earning Restaurant Awards since 1990. Take a seat on the veranda and enjoy a range of dishes from chef Thurshara Siriwardana, such as conch stew, rack of lamb and a chateaubriand flambéed and served tableside. Today, wine director Luciano De Riso’s Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list is known for its strengths in California, France (especially Bordeaux, the Rhône and Champagne), Tuscany, Piedmont and Spain. Among the 1,600-plus selections offered, more than 150 large-format bottles are available, including several double magnums of Champagne, as well as super Tuscans such as Ornellaia, Sassicaia and Tignanello.


Julian’s

Quintessence, Long Bay Village, Long Bay, Anguilla
Telephone (264) 498-8106
Website www.qhotelanguilla.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 Tables set for Julian’s guests at the beach
Julian’s treats guests to French and Caribbean delights in a breathtaking setting. (Joe Jenkin)

Located in Anguilla, Julian’s blends French bistro staples with Caribbean flavor. The restaurant is housed at the Quintessence hotel right off the shining Long Bay. Here, executive chef Dominique Thevenet uses local ingredients for a variety of dishes: lobster, mango and avocado salad; coconut-crusted tuna steaks; and pan-seared chateaubriand with green peppercorn and dark rum sauce. Wine director Albert Lake has filled the cellars with rarer bottles and extensive verticals from the likes of Château Latour (vintages from 2001 back through 1982), Quintessa and Opus One. Diners can also reserve dinners or tastings hosted by Lake in the hotel’s cellar.


La Mer

Halekulani Hotel, 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu, Hawaii
Telephone (808) 923-2311
Website www.halekulani.com
Best of Award of Excellence

 Wine room at La Mer, with wooden chairs, wooden window shutters and a wall of stacked wine bottles
The wine room at La Mer showcases a portion of the restaurant's sizeable collection. (Courtesy of Halekulani)

La Mer embodies the tranquil, tropical feel of Hawaii with local cuisine and stunning ocean views. Chef Alexander Trancher’s menu incorporates regional fare with the flavors of southern France, resulting in dishes such as kampachi tartare with a fennel volouté glacé, lobster consommé and foie gras with pineapple chutney. For wine, choose from across a 1,200-label, Best of Award of Excellence–winning list that highlights France with standout picks from Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne. Wine director Kevin Toyama manages the program, which has grown by several hundred selections in recent years. If you’re looking for cocktails, stop by the restaurant’s L'Aperitif lounge.


Noe

Four Seasons Resort O'ahu at Ko Olina, 92-1001 Olani St., Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii
Telephone (808) 679-0079
Website www.fourseasons.com/oahu/dining/restaurants/noe
Best of Award of Excellence

 A private dining room at Noe, outside under a wooden pergola, with light-brown wooden chairs and blue cushions, and glass lighting fixtures hanging overhead
Noe's private dining room is a great venue for special occasions. (Courtesy of Noe)

At Hawaii fine-dining restaurant Noe (pronounced “no-ay”), most tables are outdoors, so guests can savor wines from a Best of Award of Excellence–winning list surrounded by the natural beauty at Four Seasons Resort O'ahu at Ko Olina. The 500 selections, overseen by wine director Jonah Galase, span the globe, but the primary focuses are France (Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne), California and Italy. Chef Ryo Takatsuka’s menu mixes southern Italian and Hawaiian influences for dishes such as lobster spaghetti with Calabrian chile, jidori chicken piccata and saffron campanelle with king crab.


Ragazzi

West Bay Road, Buckingham Square, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Telephone (345) 945-3484
Website www.ragazzi.ky
Best of Award of Excellence

 The dining room at Ragazzi, with blue walls and wooden chairs
Wine complements a wide range of pizzas and antipasti at Ragazzi. (Courtesy of Ragazzi)

For Italian comfort food in the Caribbean, Ragazzi is a pizzeria located just off Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach. Choosing one pie is a challenge, with 30 thin-crust options ranging from classic Margherita to a carbonara pie to a Norwegian pizza with smoked salmon, caviar and capers. Chef Luca Cocchieri’s menu also includes other Italian classics like lasagna, chicken Marsala and seafood linguine. Ragazzi has held a Best of Award of Excellence since 2010, its wine list clocking in at about 1,500 selections. Wine director Andreas Marcher offers bottles from around the world, with a particular focus on Italy, California and France.


Cagney’s Steakhouse

Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Cruise Line, multiple routes; headquartered at 7665 Corporate Center Drive, Miami, Fla.
Telephone (866) 234-7350
Website www.ncl.com
Award of Excellence

Norwegian Cruise Line’s American-style steak house is featured onboard 18 ships, including the Norwegian Escape, where it holds an Award of Excellence. Chef Christian Pratsch’s classic menu of beef cuts, sauces and sides joins a California-focused wine list. Wine director Luis Ortega oversees these 120 labels, some of which are served by the glass using a Coravin system. Guests can browse the selections through either a printed list or a digital, interactive application on a tablet, complete with contextual details and food-pairing suggestions.


Celebrity Cruises

Multiple routes; headquartered at 1050 Caribbean Way, Miami, Fla.
Telephone (800) 647-2251
Website www.celebritycruises.com
Award of Excellence

 The glass wine-bottle tower in a restaurant on a Celebrity Cruise ship, with white, modern-design accents and a second tier one floor above
The glass “wine tower” at many Celebrity Cruises restaurants sets the tone for the evening of food and wine ahead. (Quentin Bacon)

Where can serious enophiles satisfy their wine craving while vacationing on the water? They might consider Celebrity Cruises, with destinations around the world, from Hawaii to the Galapagos to Bermuda and beyond. The cruise line boasts 15 Award of Excellence winners: Cosmopolitan on Celebrity Summit, Grand Cuvée on Celebrity Silhouette, Grand Epernay on Celebrity Solstice, Metropolitan on Celebrity Millennium, Moonlight Sonata on Celebrity Eclipse, Opus on Celebrity Reflection, San Marco on Celebrity Constellation, Silhouette on Celebrity Equinox, Trellis on Celebrity Infinity, Normandie on Celebrity Edge, Cyprus on Celebrity Apex, Fine Cut on Celebrity Beyond and Celebrity Apex and Le Voyage and Tuscan on Celebrity Beyond. A focal point of several of the ships’ main dining rooms is a two-story glass wine tower rising up from the center of the space. Each ship’s list, overseen by beverage operations manager Cristian Pirvutoiu, offers more than 200 selections. All the lists highlight wines from France and California, including bottles from Moët & Chandon, Decoy and Grgich Hills.


Oceania Cruises

Multiple routes; headquartered at 7665 Corporate Center Drive; Miami, Fla.
Telephone (855) 623-2642
Website www.oceaniacruises.com
Award of Excellence

 The wood-lined dining room at Oceania Cruise’s Polo Grill, with red leather seats and window views of the ocean
Polo Grill is one of several luxe dining experiences from Oceania Cruises. (Courtesy of Polo Grill)

Luxury line Oceania Cruises, known for its culinary focus, provides plenty of options for enophiles to indulge in across all seven ships in its fleet, including three Award of Excellence–winning restaurants: Jacques, a French-cuisine restaurant on the Oceania Marina, and the Polo Grill steak house and Italian-style Toscana on the Oceania Riviera. Oceania’s corporate beverage director, Daniela Oancea, steers the wine program, stocking the cellars with bottles from leading producers, with a focus on regions in California and France. In 2023, Oceania will be christening its newest ship, the Oceania Vista, with an enhanced beverage program that includes new wine-pairing lunches, a new three-course Moët & Chandon pairing experience to join the six-course Dom Pérignon tasting menu, a rolling Champagne cart and a new molecular mixology program.


The Terrace Restaurant

Cruz Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Telephone (340) 779-8550
Website www.theterracestjohn.com
Award of Excellence

 Tables set outside on a terrace at the Terrace Restaurant
Fresh seafood and shellfish dishes abound on the menu at the Terrace Restaurant. (Courtesy of the Terrace Restaurant)

The Terrace Restaurant, located on St. John’s Cruz Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands, offers a French fine-dining experience and waterfront views. Yellowfin tuna with Parisian-style gnocchi, butter-poached Caribbean lobster tail and filet mignon au poivre are just a few of the plates you’ll find on chef, co-owner and wine director Erica Miner’s menu. The moderately priced, Award of Excellence–winning wine list features 180 international selections, with strengths in French bottlings as well as California Cabernet and Chardonnay. There are 19 choices served by the glass, many less than $20, to enjoy with your meal on the open patio, which offers views of the Caribbean Sea.

Edited by Emma Grant and Julia Larson


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Miami / Miami Beach Dining Out Restaurant Awards Restaurants

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