While there may be fewer dining than spa-treatments options at Elbow Beach, the four outlets provide enough variety in cuisine and ambience to keep one happy and sated for many a day without ever leaving the resort.
Blue Point, steps away from the spa and Kids’ Club, serves fresh salads, sandwiches, gourmet pizza, and ice cream-treats poolside, before a spectacular ocean view from the heights of the property. The other restaurants are down at the shore.
“Mickey’s Beach Bistro and Bar is an incredible place; it’s unique,” said Executive Chef Guido Brambilla. “The tables are right on the sand. It’s the only restaurant so close to the sea and brings a Mediterranean feel to the setting.
“We serve a lot of fish,” the Milan-born head of F&B for the resort continued. “We try to get our fish from local licensed fishermen. The sea is often choppy, so we have to import fish as well — the clams, oysters, mussels and scallops are from New England. But we have excellent local fish: tuna, rock fish, grouper, even lobster. Also beautiful yellow fin for sushi,” he said, an ever popular option at Sea Breeze, the aptly-named dining terrace which features novel sushi rolls, sashimi, and tapas.
At Lido, the resort’s fine-dining restaurant, twice named Bermuda’s most romantic dining spot, a wall of windows overlook the sea. At the time of our visit, the beach was narrow, and sitting at a window-front table when the tide came in, we could believe we were on a ship at sea.
It is a powerful image, but still not powerful enough to detract our attention from such delicacies as roasted octopus with sun-dried tomato pesto, escargot in manicotti, clams with garlic and tomatoes, and fish chowder with tomatoes.
“The Italian influence,” Guido laughed. “There is an interesting influence of Portuguese cuisine here which I imagine must come from the Azores. Our bacalhau (codfish) is a popular dish. And we have a mix of Caribbean, English and American. But even if there are no Italian words on the menu, the style is predominantly Italian.”
He went on, “At the same time, I am proud of our American cheese board. I was in the Gramercy Tavern in New York and had an incredible tasting of American cheeses, all sorts that I didn’t know were produced in the States. They’re similar to the Italian and French. Since then, I’ve been getting cheese from the States: excellent goat cheese from Vermont, an incredible Coupole. Great cow cheese, one similar to Morbier, another to Fontina.”
Guido took degrees in law and business management before deciding what he really wanted was to be a chef. At that point, he began what would become a virtual circling of the globe, working in such far away locales as Thailand and the Maldives before landing in Bermuda and the Elbow Beach. “I’ve been here for two years,” he said, then paused before adding with a quiet smile: “I spend too much time in the kitchen. But it is my love.”
“You look at the hotel and it’s amazing. An amazing history, rich in culture, iconic,” said Edward Shapard, the brand new general manager of Elbow Beach when he joined us for dinner at Lido. “This is not only one of the oldest hotels in Bermuda, it is the most Bermudian, blending the charms of its history, age, and traditions with modernity. Whatever we do must respect the heritage.”
We were intrigued about the direction life was taking the youthful and garrulous Tennessee-born hotel exec who was sporting a bow tie, something we thought might become a trademark.
“We had just returned to Hong Kong from our vacation in Ireland,” Edward told us. “The phone rang. It was Richard Baker, executive vice president of Mandarin Oriental in the Americas and Bermuda. I stepped outside onto the terrace where it was a big quieter. We talked for a minute. Then he said ‘How would you like to go to Bermuda?’ I thought for a moment and then said, ‘It’s the last place I thought I’d be going.’
“It had been such a big move to Hong Kong two years ago. I had been working at Mandarin Oriental in New York and loved it. My thought at the time was where do you go from New York? But I got to love Hong Kong as well. The cultural experience was amazing. My children were speaking Chinese. Could it be time to leave Asia already?
“‘Can I have the weekend to think about it?’ I asked and then spent the weekend with my wife Michele talking it over. We talked about it as a career opportunity naturally. But also how it would impact on the children, whether Michele would work — she’s an elementary school teacher. We checked out the school situation in Bermuda, examined the professional perspective, the lifestyle It seemed positive, exciting. Sunday evening I sent Richard an e-mail saying ‘I’d be delighted.’
“It was tricky to get everything organized,” Edward admitted. “It took five months from the time I got the call until we got here, and in that time we met with the owner and others involved. On the way here, we spent two days in New York. The kids were with us; we wanted them to know we would be getting closer to the United States. If we’d gone to the U.K. first and then on to Bermuda, it would seem even further away. We arrived on Christmas Eve, and we absolutely loved it.”
He went on: “When we moved to Hong Kong, I got there first; Michele waited with the children until school was over. This time, we decided we would all come over together. Especially in a resort, you do things with the family representing you.”
With such representation, Edward is in a good position. The children . . . . . . . . are, in a word, perfect. The dog had arrived the night before. They were working on getting the cat over.
And Michele, a lovely redhead, is warm and gracious, destined, we thought, to be a perfect Elbow Beach hostess with an insightful turn of mind.
“If Bermuda is the oyster,” she had said to Edward at one point, “the Elbow Beach is the pearl. It will be your job to cultivate the pearl.”
Clearly Edward is a family man, and his sense of family seems to embrace the entire resort. “Family encapsulates the style of service at our cottage complex,” he had told us. “The staff has been incredibly welcoming. I’m anxious to cultivate one-to-one relationships with them.”
A good person to start with is Shirley . . . . who, having begun working at the resort in 1956 when he was 21 years old, is the Elbow Beach employee of greatest longevity. “My first job was an electrician,” Shirley told us when we met him in the Library late one afternoon. “But when I heard there was an opening here, I came over. Back then, there were still switchboard operators handling the phone calls.’
Shirley started as bellman but before long had worked up to bell captain, a position he continues to hold. “I never had mishaps. I worked hard but it was decent working for that era,” he said.
“Things are different now,” he added. “It used to be more restricted; it’s freer now, much more opportunity there for you if you want it. Now and then I’ve been to other hotels to see what was going on. But this is the best. There’s something that I like here.”
One of the people he likes is Webster Reginald Mills. It seems everyone likes Webster. If a contest were to be held for the most convivial man on the premises, he would undoubtedly win. Webster was the first person we met when we arrived at Elbow Beach. He drove us to our cottage, showed us around. He’s a bellman of the first order, but somehow whenever we called for a van, Webster would be there behind the wheel.
Webster came to the job through Shirley. “I knew Shirley well; we played cricket together,” Webster said. “He treats you with respect. He’ll get at you if you did something wrong, but he is so kind.”
He shows us written testimonials from guests. “I keep these,” he says. “There aren’t enough nice words in the Webster dictionary to describe Webster,” we say.
We add a note, saying we hope to see him again when we return one day. For we do hope to return. Our little visit had been a time trip in the two directions time moves. Looking back, there were the losses: the sense of freedom and adventure we once felt driving little scooters all over Bermuda, discouraged this time around as traffic on the roads has substantially increased; getting dressed for the big event dinner had been in the dining room of the main building room that once served the entire hotel and now is used for storage; shopping at Trimmingham’s, the store in Hamilton where we bought Scottish outfits for our then very young children that is no more. But looking forward, the Elbow Beach promises an ever more glorious future.
“Unlike other islands, Bermuda is not a resort compound,” Sophie had told us. “One can feel free to travel around. But Elbow Beach has everything close at hand. We are right in the middle of the island, close to Hamilton, close to the best golf courses, and with a great private beach where every guest can always be assured of a lounger and umbrella. You wouldn’t want to leave.”
Leaving Lido after dinner our last night at Elbow Beach, we strike up a conversation with Monica Massey, head of human resources, her son Robin Massey, and her husband, Andy Hopkins. Andy, who is English, tells us his brother lives in the town of Lyme Regis in West Dorset. We see a connection; we live in the town of Lyme, New Hampshire. But Lyme Regis has a connection to Bermuda, Namby says. It is the home of Admiral Sir George Somers, who founded the Somers Isles, better known as Bermuda, after being shipwrecked in the 1600’s. “There is a lot of history,” Monica notes.
The next morning there’s much excitement at breakfast. Whales have been sighted, a good number of them. If one is a calf, it had to have been born in middle of the ocean, probably in the shallow waters of Bermuda.
This had been a frequent occurrence in the past but hadn’t recurred for a long time. There is speculation that due to the healthy humpback population, there might be a great breeding and calfing ground. These waters, people are saying, is the only place in the world where there is a mid-ocean migratory route for humpbacks.
Later, we walk along the shore, a rather narrow stretch at this time of the year. “We get a lot of erosion during the winter months, but in the summer, the beach extends quite far,” Sophie had told us. “You could walk out ten feet in the ocean and be up to your neck.” Still it is a beautiful sunny day; the water is glittering as it reflects countless drops of sunlight. The erosion is just a temporary, seasonal thing.
We go up onto the terrace of Sea Breeze for a last good view of the coral reef. It’s like a plateau. At the edge, the water seems to boil up, then it falls into a cavity before rushing to the shore.
“Fish feed on the coral, spread it around,” Sophie said. “It breaks up large waves, keeps the sharks away. That’s why Bermuda is such a safe place for swimming. A protected place.”
We think about it, this island, all alone, out in the middle of the ocean, far from any other land. So neat and clean, so orderly and beautiful. Prevailing against hurricanes, maintaining a civilized, mannerly culture, surviving and thriving. Sophie calls it “the little island that could.”
Truly, a brave new world – in the Shakespearean sense.
Elbow Beach, Bermuda
60 South Shore Road
Tel: 441 239 9363