South Beach rocks all night long. The bold and the beautiful, the young and the restless, old money, new money and no money, meet to eat, drink and hang out in this hub of social intercourse. The official designation of this 6.9 square mile tract of land is Orchid Island in Indian River County. For people watching, the view is sublime.
My purpose for being here is none of the above. I have come to the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental, to experience the innovative and restorative treatments inspired by the elements of nature, and the ancient traditions of Chinese, Ayurvedic, European, Balinese and Thai cultures as they are presented in this three-level sanctuary. Harmony and Balance—key words in nature.
While the hotel is contemporary in design, with the vibrant colours of South Florida, there are the minimal yet luxurious touchstones of the Mandarin Oriental hotels I have visited in Asia. An air of calm prevails in my suite, and the hum of traffic on the bridge over Biscayne Bay is soothing. The huge flat-screen TV remains off; it doesn’t stand a chance against the M Bar. A mixologist, who clearly dreams in high definition colour, has created a menu of more than 250 martini recipes.
The renowned restaurant Azul is closed for renovations. Never mind. I enjoy the pan-Asian fare at Café Sambal, an all day restaurant perched above Biscayne Bay and with a majestic view of Miami. Sushi for breakfast, seafood tempura for lunch and a noodle bowl for dinner.
Wellness becomes luxury at the Spa. This holistic spa is the only one in Florida to earn the industry’s most distinguished spa award. Here we are in a large, private suite filled with amenities and a window wall offering a glorious view of the bay. Not the usual small, dark treatment cubicles we are accustomed to at most day spas. The Ultimate Spa Day leaves no appendage un-pampered. Scrubbed with salt and oil; swaddled with ocean and earth wrap; feet, hands and face are attended to by practiced hands. After six and one half hours, which includes a delectable spa lunch, one literally floats out of the Spa.
500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami, FL, (305) 913 8288, www.mandarinoriental.com/miami
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.