The laminated bag ladies who shop and lunch have certain buzz words that define their style. Mention the Bal Harbour Shops and there are knowing looks. One hundred fine stores in a landscaped garden include Valentino, Chanel, Lanvin and Van Cleef and Arpels. The casual Carpaccio and La Goulue, a study in art deco, are celebrity-sighting eateries that also serve some inspired dishes. A five-minute complimentary limo ride away, or a 15-minute walk if you’re wearing the right shoes, is the newest member of the neighbourhood, The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour.
Set back from the street, at the end of a winding driveway, the building whispers exclusivity and dignity. The list of condo owners reads like the international who’s who, but here, discretion is the better part of valour.
The two-story lobby of this 18-story glass tower, with its leather upholstered walls, massive columns of exotic wood and marble floors, is hushed and still—not words that one would associate with Miami Beach. And a curator with elegant taste has installed a fascinating art collection. Elevators go to groups of floors, and open right at your door, no wandering down long hallways carrying shopping bags. The view from my terrace is picture post-card, here is where the Intercoastal Waterway kisses the Atlantic Ocean.
Afternoon tea is served in the lobby and I wrestle with temptation at the array of pretty pastries, but I am on my way to the beach wearing an unforgiving swimsuit. How luxurious to doze in the sun surrounded by beautiful landscaping and the sounds of ice cubes clinking in glasses. It is January, and platoons of snowplows are out back in Toronto.
Dinner is a Florida-casual event. Nothing is required of us except to relax, watch Europe’s haute couture collections on the huge TV over the bar and order from an American classics menu. While others might hustle over to the cacophony of South Beach for a night on the town, after a hard day of shopping and sunbathing, everything I need is right here.
10295 Collins Avenue, Miami, FL, (305) 455-5400, (877) 455-5410
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.