It all started when… (the deep history of IRG)
It would be a shame to have such wonderful cultural and vintage rooted restaurants, and not highlight fun moments in history and bad hair styles from the days of yester year. At Island Restaurant Group we’ve been a local favorite and historic hangout for generations, going back to our Great Granddaddy’s days.
If you’ve not had a chance to dine in one of our restaurants, now’s the time to make your history come alive!
Do you have historic and memorable photos and footage of your favourite IRG restaurant? Please drop it on our Facebook or Instagram pages, and it could be included right here!
As seen in the 1970s
Hog Penny and Barracuda Grill
5 Burnaby Hill also has seen some significant history in its building. The ground floor was formerly a Bicycle Shop selling Penny Farthing bicycles. It was then converted to a Meat Slaughterhouse and Fishmongers, which also sold huge blocks of ice that had been shipped in from North America during the winter. Subsequently the ground floor was finally converted into the Hog Penny; which when it first opened during the late stages of segregation, had a divider down the middle of it. Soon though, equality prevailed and the middle divider was removed. Upstairs were offices and small bed lets until the early 1970’s at which time it became the Guinea Discotheque. In 1975 it was then converted to a restaurant the Fisherman’s Reef which enjoyed great success for 27 years. In April of 2002, the venerable Fisherman’s Reef gave way to the Barracuda Grill.
The Hog Penny has the distinction of being one of the most enduring institutions in Bermuda, and is the oldest licensed premises in Hamilton, having been in business since 1957. Interestingly, the Hog Penny is in fact the original inspiration for the Cheers Pub in Boston. The Hog Penny was cobbled together from old Watney’s pubs in England that were being withdrawn. Many of the mirrors, benches and sheep shearing tools in the Hog Penny date back to the early 1900’s. The Barracuda Grill with its warm, sumptuous and inviting interior hints at a time of luxurious passenger ships, martini’s and champagne all contemporized to be thoroughly of the moment. Irresistible seafood and chops prepared with expertise and passion take centre stage on immaculate white lit linen covered tables.
The Pickled Onion
The building the Pickled Onion is located in has quite a varied history. Dating back to the early 1800’s, it exhibits classic Bermudian architecture. Thick limestone walls, stone roofs with eaves constructed to gather as much water as possible, and high soaring ceilings to keep the rooms cool in the summer are all signature aspects of Bermuda buildings. The limestone slate roof is held up by cedar beams that are over 200 years old and which exhibit the incredible beauty, strength and resiliency of Bermuda cedar. At the turn of the century, this building was the location of J.E. Lightbourne & Co., a wine and spirit merchant that is still in business today. They used the ground floor of the building as their storefront, and the second floor was utilized as a Whisky Warehouse. In the 1940’s, the second floor was changed from a whisky warehouse to a bar called the 21 Club. Exclusively for men, it was an upscale drinking establishment frequented by the high society figures of the time.
The 1960’s, bringing about change in the rest of the world, also swept Bermuda, and forced the evolution of the male only 21 Club into the casual and fun Ye Olde Cock and Feather, a restaurant and pub known for its great bar scene and live entertainment. In April of 1998, the building saw the rise of the newest restaurant in the hottest location on Front Street... The Pickled Onion. Combining aspects of all the past operations, the Pickled Onion is an upscale casual bar and restaurant having unique but familiar food and drinks with a Bermudian focus. In March 2018, it underwent a third complete renovation, and opened with a new, hip, and urban look unrivaled anywhere in Bermuda.
Leveraging our totally unique brand and product of Dockyard Brewing Co., and our established and respected brand and cuisine of Java Jive, comes the idea of BREW. BREW opened it’s door in November 2018.
BREW denotes freshness and just made; is also a fun Bermudian vernacular word for “good friend”, and plays well with the upstairs name of Pickled Onion and its twist on vernacular for Bermudians. It is a central place for locals to hang out and meet, and is a destination for tourists to feel a part of the action and community.
Part trendy coffee house, part craft brewery, BREW is a totally unique and one of a kind spot on Front Street. With rustic wood accents, brewery elements, hops, malts and coffee beans on display, BREW is a music filled, energetic wide open space, with a large picture window streaming in sunlight and the hustle and bustle of Hamilton. Walking in, one is greeted with a warm Java Jive welcome. Gourmet “ready to eat” quick service sandwiches, salads and pastries, displayed and inviting, are prepared with innovative heating methods such as impingement ovens. Fresh brewed Illy coffee and craft roasted beans from different geographic areas are on offer, as well as cold brew nitrogen infused coffee.
Frog & Onion and Dockyard Brewing Co.
The Frog & Onion was created and opened in 1992 by a Bermudian (The Onion) and a Frenchman (The Frog).
The historic building the Frog & Onion is housed in, a cooperage, was completed in 1853 after the war of 1812. A cooperage was a work-shop that built, repaired and dismantled barrels, casks and kegs. The provisioning of wooden ships during the days of sail required that almost all provisions be packaged in barrels or casks so they could be man-handled, loaded and stored in the cargo areas of the ship. Empty water casks needed to be taken ashore in ships’ boats for refilling at the watering place. The cooperage space and adjacent Victualling Yard were converted to five storehouses in the 1940s and now finds itself home to The Frog and Onion, and so continues in the victualling business.
Frog and Onion is the only establishment in Bermuda to specially blend their own rum. Featuring 4 parts Rum and 1 part water, which was coined as Grog by sailors, in the 1700s. We named our rum; Frog Grog and is available in specialty cocktails or for the true sailor, you can drink it straight.
The Story Behind the Grog in Frog Grog:
Known for wearing a Grogram cloth coat, Vice Admiral Edward Vernon in 1740 became colloquially know amongst his sailors as “Old Grog”. In 1740 he introduced the tradition of issuing a tot of rum to his crews. Water, stored in barrels (some of which would have been made right here in The Cooperage) would have rum added to the wood barrels to slow the growth of algae.
This mixture, named in honour of Admiral Vernon, was called Grog. Sailors, issued limes to ward off scurvy, would squeeze them into their Grog, and then suck on the leftover pith and rind, earning the British the (still in use) nickname of Limeys.
In 1805, under Lord Nelson’s admiralty, the Royal Navy proved it’s supremacy over the French. His most famous engagement, at Cape Trafalgar, saved Britain from threat of invasion by Napoleon, but it would be his last.
Being only 5ft 4 inches tall, Sir Nelson’s body was sent back to England in a barrel of rum, in order to preserve his body for his state funeral.
So there you have it, drinking our Frog Grog will not only make you sing like a sailor but will preserve your body for your voyage home.
Dockyard Brewing Co
Is Bermuda’s only microbrewery, and has the distinction of being the only producer of any type of adult beverage that can put the “Totally Made in Bermuda” stamp on all of its products. Currently featuring 8 different types of beers and ales, Dockyard Brewing is a favourite destination of locals and tourists alike who wish to sample artisanal beverages of exceptional quality.