The Cayman Islands is one of the few places in the world where the meat of the queen conch and the green sea turtle are both sustainable and seasonally available.
Famous among the Cayman Islands traditional dishes to be found on the menu of The Wharf is the meat of the queen conch (‘conk’), which, in the early history of European settlement of the region, was not considered a particularly valuable food commodity. The queen conch’s worth was in its beautiful and iconic shell, most commonly collected and traded for blowing like a trumpet to warn ships of the dangers of rocks near the shoreline.
The Cayman Islands is one of the few places in the world where queen conch meat is both sustainable and seasonally available. Local protection of the Cayman Islands queen conch stocks means there are strict rules on when they can be harvested (roughly November to April) and how many can be taken. Only a queen conch can be kept.
And then there is the green sea turtle, a staple food of the Cayman Islands throughout its history. Turtle meat attracts a lot of controversies, mostly due to many years of global overfishing and poor conservation. The Cayman Islands’ population of green sea turtles, close to extinction by the 1950s, has rebounded thanks to strict protection and captive breeding, farming, and wild release programs.
Today there is a thriving population in local waters and a ready supply of sustainably bred and harvested turtle meat in Cayman Islands seafood restaurants.
Being one of the few places in the world where diners can enjoy sustainable conch and turtle meat, Cayman restaurants naturally celebrate these exotic delicacies. The dinner menu at The Wharf offers both turtle steaks and turtle stew, Grand Cayman’s national dish, in this case, served with tomatoes, onions, garlic, red wine, peppers, and lime juice.
Under the direction of Executive Chef Christian Reiter, The Wharf is renowned for offering the best dinner in Grand Cayman and creatively showcases turtle meat in its Caribbean curries and bite-size fritters as well as turtle meat battered, fried, and stuffed in a bun for what the locals call a "turtle burger."
A popular favorite with The Wharf’s patrons is a Cayman conch chowder with fresh tomato, basil, and fiery scotch bonnet peppers. On the appetizer menu, there are conch fritters, fried golden, and accompanied by a spicy red pepper remoulade. For a zingy treat on a hot day, there is The Wharf’s chilled conch ceviche made from fresh conch slices cured in citrus juices and spiced.
Fresh turtle and conch dishes are mostly seasonal and may not always be available. But the majority of dishes on The Wharf dinner menu feature more familiar fresh Caribbean ingredients that are available year-round, including local shrimp, lobster, calamari, crab, scallops, oysters, and an abundance of reef and deep water fish species.
With its core selection of fresh seafood items on the dinner menu always available, The Wharf also creates multiple daily specials dependent on what fresh catch is available from the islands’ fishermen. So, no matter how you feel about eating turtle or conch, there is always plenty of opportunities to try the best local food in Grand Cayman from the many other fresh seafood dishes on The Wharf’s menu.