It’s T-minus five hours to sunset at Palm Heights Grand Cayman, and a tropical braintrust is gathered around a mock tablescape in the private dining room. Final touches are coming together for the evening’s dinner: a seafood feast in celebration of the property’s new 11-piece collection with Gohar World, the New York–based line of wry and flouncy home goods. Gabriella Khalil, Palm Heights’ founder and creative director, has unearthed a set of vintage fish plates, which will be topped with seashell napkin rings from the capsule. Executive chef Jake Brodsky is talking through the imaginary seafood tower. “We’ll put a crudo on here,” he says, holding a mother-of-pearl dish the size of his palm. “Simple things that let the plateware do the talking.” Laila Gohar, with baby Paz in tow, is rearranging glasses commissioned from Cairo’s Alef Gallery: three different shapes, each with a blown orb along the stem, like curious sea creatures. Her sister and cofounder Nadia—the one who typically liaises with artisans in Egypt, where their family is from—pauses over a group of speckled shell boxes with thin gold chains. “A trinket bracelet for Advil,” she says with a hint of mischief. “You had fun at karaoke yesterday, and then you take your shell box to the beach the next day.” A debate is on about how they’ll be pressed into service at the table—salt cellars, it turns out—but Bambi Grimotes, the hotel’s caftan-wearing emcee who floats in a perpetual cloud of good vibes, weighs in: “They’re for secrets.”
Since Palm Heights opened in 2019, unfurling its marigold-yellow umbrellas along a slice of the island’s Seven Mile Beach, it has redefined the destination resort for a far-flung creative set. Early on, the 52 suites illustrated Khalil’s version of a warm welcome, with an assemblage of ’70s-leaning furniture culled from markets across Europe and North Africa and Mexico, plus a loaner set of vintage books. Newer facets of the property have continued that sensibility, the details impeccable in an offhand way—whether the Garden Club’s open-air hammam clad in Giallo Siena yellow marble, or the boutique Dolores, kitted out with pieces from Christopher John Rogers, Bode, and Nia Thomas. But what gives Palm Heights the feeling of an ongoing party—characters cycling in and out as the familial energy rolls on—is the network of artists and collaborators brought into the fold.
Laila Gohar, known for staging high-concept food installations for the likes of Hermès and Sotheby’s, first came to Palm Heights in 2019, when she co-hosted a dinner on the beach. “There was all this anticipation because a lot of different friends were getting involved and doing fun projects here,” says Laila, pointing out the fabric-tented ceiling overhead at the Coconut Club, the all-day café. Little moments of finesse don’t escape her—the clairvoyant service most of all. She recalls a moment while sunbathing, when a small glass of pineapple juice serendipitously materialized. “That idea of giving you what you want before you even want it—Middle Eastern hospitality is the same,” Laila says. “Honestly, and I’m not just saying this since we’re here, I think this is the best example of hospitality I’ve seen. Ever, maybe,” she adds. “It feels as though every single person [working] here is living their best lives. So in turn, we all are.”
A generous, lively approach to entertaining is part of what unites Gohar World and Palm Heights, making this sea-themed tabletop collection feel ordained. The Gohars like to throw impromptu dinner parties on city sidewalks, highlighting everyday foods like beans or tomatoes; Palm Heights takes it to the sand, lobster pasta under an orange sky. “In our conversations with Laila and Nadia, we were saying it would be really interesting to have these pieces also exist throughout the property during guests’ stays,” says Khalil. “The glassware can be at the Coconut Club bar. The necklace can be on the hostesses as they go into the restaurant—super beautiful.” She’s referring to Gohar World’s signature statement piece strung with chicken feet pearls (so named for their three-pronged shape). Here, it’s adapted with black-and-white striped shells: “The Host necklace goes on vacation,” Gohar says. Such real-life encounters with the collection promise to reframe the concept of the souvenir: not a tourist-shop tchotchke but a true memory in object form. “Having a drink in one of those glasses is so special,” Khalil says. “For it to translate into your home is the best compliment.”