Caribbean Journal

Graycliff: The Jewel of the Bahamas

Graycliff, the Caribbean epicenter of luxury 

By Alexander Britell
CJ Editor in Chief

In the middle of a room in an old pirate mansion in Nassau there is a piano.

Every night, the sound of this piano weaves through cigar smoke and robust laughs, the soundtrack for an instantly memorable dinner.

There’s a story that Billy Joel, dining here, was once asked to play this piano, and a single song turned into an hour and a half set. The Piano Man simply could not leave the bench.

That’s not a surprise. Because here at Graycliff, the Garzaroli family has cultivated a unique kind of energy, one that draws guests back again and keeps the old mansion permanently, wonderfully sealed away from the mundanity of the world.

No matter if it is your second or 20th visit, when you climb the steps from West Hill street and enter the Lounge, you’ve returned to the instant you left, the room a memory you can come back to and relive, an elixir for nostalgia.

As the rest of the world gets newer and loses something of itself, Graycliff remains a fixed point in time and space.

While it began life as a pirate mansion, then a retreat of British nobles, the Garzarolis have turned it into something far more – first, the Caribbean’s first five star restaurant- then a boutique hotel, then, a world class cigar factory (Avelino Lara, once Fidel Castro’s personal roller, developed the brand).

Next was a chocolate factory, and now the family is restoring and reinventing West Hill Street into a historical village, replete with an artists’ colony, a cafe, shops and, soon, even a winery. (In the old dungeon of the manor sits the world’s third largest private wine collection).

The artists’ colony on Via Enrico in the Graycliff Historical Village.

They are always tinkering, always looking for new avenues of delight, cleverly building a luxury empire.

Yes, you can stay here in the hotel’s charming rooms and spend an afternoon at the stunning pool puffing on a Chateau Grand Cru, or take a chocolate lesson and then eat a full fledged Neapolitan pizza. You can spend a weekend or a week on a getaway from the artificial, surrounded by the authentic.

It is an understatement to say there is nowhere like this in the Caribbean – it is a removal from modern, more synthetic concepts of luxury that is instead a loving tribute to the fundaments of luxury – all the things we already know to be great – fine wines; aged spirits (including a broad selection of cognacs); cigars; classic continental gastronomy with a Bahamian accent; and, most importantly, overwhelmingly good service, the kind meant to make you feel not just like royalty but royalty staying in a fellow royal’s home.

Because luxury is not about bar programs and wellness concierges — it is about changing the way you feel, making you feel grand.

There is a pull here, something magnetic. It brings you back, and if it’s your first time here, it makes you a regular. There is a soul here, floating in the cigar smoke and the robust laughs.

Just be careful about sitting at that piano. Because you may never leave.