The infamous Rocks Group that includes two must-visit venues on the island – Sheer Rocks and Catherine’s Cafe, recently celebrated their 10th birthday. We caught up with them to find more about their venues and what their top five things to do on the island are!
Can you give us an overview of the history of the Rocks Group – how it came to be, your journey to date and how the group expanded?
Rocks Group was born through our owners, Alex Grimley and Kate Taylor, affectionately known as Mr & Mrs Rocks. Alex is an accomplished chef from England, who worked in various gorgeous destinations before settling in Antigua, where he met Kate, also from England, who had a very keen eye for design, photography, and music.
Before Rocks Group existed, Kate and Alex purchased Sheer Rocks in 2010. Originally called ‘Sheer’, it was only open for dinner and was very quiet. The pair had a vision for the idyllic spot and opened not long after purchasing, using dishes from home, one or two staff and a lot of spirit! It has since transformed into the gorgeous, award-winning business you see today.
In 2017, Catherine’s Café was purchased and as such Rocks Group was born as an overarching brand for the two, which then extended into Rocks Group Events, Urchin Atelier, and Rocks Box, in more recent years.
Tell us a bit more about Sheer Rocks and Catherine’s Cafe …
Perched atop a rocky cliff, in the centre of Antigua’s gorgeous west coast, Sheer Rocks Restaurant is surrounded by vivid scenery, creating a stunning backdrop for lounging in the sun, enjoying tapas lunches, and romantic sunset dining in the evening. Make your way through the bougainvillaea-draped walkways, twinkling lights, billowing white curtains and lush greenery. Featuring two superb cliff-front plunge pools and linen-draped day beds, there is no shortage of luxury at this exquisite venue.
Sheer Rocks’ Head Chef, Jamal Warner works with Rocks Group Executive Chef Simon Christey-French, who has been named one of the Caribbean’s Most Acclaimed Chefs. They have created beautiful Mediterranean inspired menus around carefully selected and sustainably sourced ingredients, making use of the islands best and freshest ingredients.
Open every day, tapas are served from 12 pm, and guests can dine à la carte or from the tasting menu for dinner. Since opening in 2010, Sheer Rocks has topped industry lists, notably being awarded Best Restaurant in the Caribbean by Caribbean Journal in 2020, as well as the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Award, as one of the Best Fine Dining Restaurants in the world for nine consecutive years, and placing first in the entire Caribbean Region in 2018 in USA TODAYS 10 BEST.
Catherine’s Café can be found along Antigua’s southern peninsula at stunning Pigeon Point Beach. This much-loved gem is tucked into the corner of sailor’s paradise, English Harbour, a hub for all things nautical, and a worldwide destination for sailors. Paying homage to its French roots, Catherine’s Café channels the iconic Parisian café scene, with a relaxed, beachy twist. The beachfront venue offers classical French cuisine with Provence-style influences and local ingredients. Our classically French-trained Head Chef captures the essence of what dining ‘sur la plage’ is all about. The modern, healthy, and stylish menus are based on the freshest native produce from local farmers. The bespoke cocktails and popular gin & tonic menu perfectly complement the food and stunning views.
Catherine’s Café has been making a name for itself since Rocks Group took ownership in 2017, placing in the top ten for USA TODAY 10 BEST Beach Bars in the entire Caribbean Region for the past two years. It also landed in fourth place for Caribbean Journal’s Best Beach Bars in the Caribbean for 2020 and has been awarded the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Award for 2020. These are the restaurant’s first international accolades since its opening twenty years ago!
Catherine’s Café is surrounded by lush greenery, mesmerizing neem trees & orchids, providing an idyllic backdrop for long daytime lunches or fine dining on the beach. Luxurious daybeds are sprawled across the sand, with a delectable beach menu, designed for sharing. Sit back and relax in Catherine’s refined yet chic, sun-dappled setting.
What are your signature dishes that guests must try if they visit?
We are known for our tapas menu, perfect for having throughout the day with a glass of Rose by the plunge pool. Guests love our spiced aubergine, it’s an old favourite, perfect when accompanied by a cocktail or two!
Spiced Aubergine, with Pecans, Feta Cheese, & Cilantro
1 Large Eggplant
Half Yellow Onion
50g Vegetable Oil
1 Tsp Ground Turmeric
1 Tsp Ground Coriander
1 Tsp Ground Cumin
2 Small Tomatoes
1 Tbsp Coriander
Half Tbsp Mint
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Toasted Pecans
1 Tbsp Feta cheese
Cut the eggplant into ½ inch cubes, dice the yellow onion and tomatoes, and finely shred cilantro and mint, keeping all ingredients separate.
Heat oil in a large frying pan, adding onions and cook until soft with no colour. Add all spices together and cook for 5 minutes. Add eggplant and cook for another 8-10 minutes, seasoning with salt. The secret to this dish is to cook out the spices thoroughly.
Take off heat and cool. Once cooled, add chopped herbs and diced tomato. To plate, place the mix in a serving bowl and top with pecans, crumbled feta cheese and a few cilantro leaves. Your taste buds will thank you!!
What are your top five favourite wines that you serve and tell us why they are so good?
It’s impossible to pick five wines because each is designed for a different experience, but a few favourites are Minuty Rosé et Or because it’s super fresh and perfect for the beach. For dinner, we have some great options on our Grand Cru list, like the Ridge Montebello, which is an American company in Santa Cruz mountains that make Bordeaux style red wine with a lovely American oakage. For white, anything by Domaine Saumaize Michelin in Burgundy. They’re a very small production, perfect for our food because it’s a great white with a bit more body but still light and fresh. We also find great value for money in Italy and Spain. At both restaurants, we serve Rioja Reserva, which is nice, as is the Tignanello by Antinori at Sheer Rocks.
Finally please tell us what the top five best bits are about Antigua and why it’s so brilliant?
Antigua is special because it’s got everything you need and nothing you don’t need – no abundance of restaurants, shops, distractions, but you’ve got enough to really enjoy yourself.
Best things to do:
1. Cocktail on the beach at Catherine’s Café
2. Tapas and sunset at Sheer Rocks
3. Hike up Shirley Heights
4. Swim in the crystal clear water of Darkwood Beach
5. Water sports – paddle boarding, sailing, kite surfing etc.
Visit Sheer Rocks or Catherine’s Cafe for more information on their menus or to book.
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