I am not keen on buffet brunches anymore.
It’s partially because I tend to overeat at buffet brunches, but it’s also because I don’t enjoy the experience of having to get up from my seat, stand in a line to get food that has been sitting under a heat lamp, and then do that all over again for each course of my meal.
I still enjoy going to a restaurant for Sunday lunch or brunch, but I prefer à la carte options. Earlier this year, Andiamo at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman launched the kind of à la carte Sunday brunch I enjoy, but only for a limited time. Starting May 19, the Andiamo brunch returns every Sunday until the restaurant’s annual summer closing in September.
Unlike the à la carte brunches where guests choose from regular menu items, Andiamo offers a special brunch menu with plenty of choices, all served in a shaded, breezy, al fresco setting next to the dock. The ambiance offers a relaxed elegance suitable for families, and one of the first things I noticed was a large group of local residents with five young children among them.
Although Andiamo is at The Ritz-Carlton and I was there during the high tourist season, more than half of everyone at the restaurant was a local resident.
The brunch experience often includes alcohol and while Prosecco or Champagne certainly have a place at brunches, the outdoor setting for my Andiamo brunch begged for rosé, so that’s what I had. Rosé is a food-friendly wine that pairs well with a variety of food and is less acidic than bubbles, something my stomach thanked me for afterwards.
The food service started with a pre-chosen “Wake-up Call” — focaccia topped with olive tapenade, basil pesto, capers and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese. The delicious taste was a testament to the quality of ingredients, right down to the extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top of the cheese.
Next was the appetiser course, from which I could choose two dishes from a menu with four options. “Uovo Benedettina” was a rich and imaginative twist on eggs Benedict. It featured a poached egg resting on a bacon and potato fritter and topped with a porcini mushroom cream sauce. You just don’t see this kind of dish at your typical Sunday brunch!
My other appetiser choice, “Pumpkin French Toast,” was a work of scrumptious art, even if it didn’t resemble any French toast I’ve ever experienced. The pumpkin “toast” part had the consistency of a cookie/biscuit and was presented in a sandwich-like construction, filled with mascarpone cheese flavoured with cinnamon and other pumpkin spices. It was then topped with candied pecans, berries and Amaretto syrup. Although the desserts that came later were delicious, particularly the hazelnut panna cotta, the Pumpkin French Toast was the sweetest dish of the meal.
After the appetisers, I selected one main course out of five options — the Branzino, which is sea bass, cooked “Al Cartoccia” style. The method of cooking is similar to the way “Cayman-style” fish is prepared. The fish is placed in a foil pouch with various vegetables and then baked. The result is an extremely moist, tasty and tender fish that takes on some of the flavours of the vegetables with which it is cooked.
For dessert, there was a choice of four special creations, including the hazelnut panna cotta I had, or house-made gelato. Since I really wanted to try the gelato as well, my Sicilian waiter Marco said he would bring me some. He brought me his “special” — mango sorbet topped with candied lime zest and a shot of tequila. It was like a deconstructed mango margarita and Marco’s special is something I’d highly recommend.
I finished brunch with a double espresso, part of the coffee or tea service that is included in the brunch price.
With the exception of the main course, all the other dishes were tasting-size, so I didn’t have to overeat to try many different things. I still left feeling quite full.
Best of all, I didn’t have to get out of my seat once to go get food; instead I had Marco and the rest of the service team provide the kind of service for which The Ritz-Carlton is famous.
Priced at CI$45 exclusive of gratuities and drinks, Andiamo’s brunch costs about the same as other brunches without alcohol factored in.
“Andiamo,” as I learned from Marco, means “let’s go” in Italian. Next time someone suggests a Sunday brunch, my go-to line will be, “Let’s go to Andiamo!”