In the city of Miami, 7,072,439 hotel rooms were sold from January to May 2019. Hotels proliferate in every degree of luxury, from country club hotels like the palatial Biltmore in Coral Gables to the extravagant beauty of the Lowes in South Beach to the cool and casual Stanton that promises a vacation from formality. There are hotels in the Design District, on the Ocean and in many charming neighborhoods. No matter your desires, there is a hotel that is just perfect for everyone.
Loews Miami Hotel was built in 1998, and now, with a $50 million makeover, the entire hotel has been re-imagined to even more fabulousness than the original. We’re greeted with enthusiasm, the staff remembers our names and can answer every question. We’ve never felt more pampered and cared for, lounging on a daybed, enjoying lunch and cocktails in the St. Tropez inspired, adults-only, SOAK cabana with butler service.
My favourite meal of the day is breakfast. The menu at Prestons quickens my pulse. Florida spiny lobster eggs Benedict; avocado toast capped by perfect poached eggs; fruits deliciously in season; and baked goods sparkling with just-out-of-the-oven freshness. I am ready for come what may.
We’re back for dinner at Bar Collins, in an expansive arm of the lobby. Recently completed with cutting edge design, here is where we find an explosion of the new Miami Cuisine. Latin and Cuban flavours course through the menu. We try a chicken empanada with Poblano Citrus Crema and a succulent Cuban sandwich that becomes a made before your eyes encrusted Cuban pizza in the gorgeous pizza oven. A local Cobia comes with lemon dill beurre blanc. Chipotle Citrus chicken is piqued with orange agrumento. These are the flavours of Miami: colorful, exciting and exotic.
The Biltmore Hotel is a national historic landmark, but don’t be fooled by the stately Spanish, Moorish, Italian architecture and handsome early 1900s lobby. The inner workings of this hotel are cutting edge. The 71-par championship golf course and tennis courts are renowned, and the beautiful pool is the largest to exist in a hotel in the eastern U.S. Rooms are graciously appointed with not a hard edge in sight. But nowhere is excellence more evident than in the dining rooms. Meet in Fontana for breakfast, and you can while away a morning on this landscaped terrace, under the trees, enjoying local fruits and breakfast specialties.
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Still, it is the Palme D’Or, the restaurant named as one of the best in the U.S., which offers thrilling contemporary French cuisine. You’ll want to dress to dine under the fresco painted ceiling, gorgeous chandeliers, and beautifully appointed tables. When I have the opportunity, I like to order dishes that are new to me. An artfully folded French crepe filled with well seasoned braised oxtail, spinach, leeks, and natural juice, followed by the local Corvina, enriched with creamy lobster polenta and tangy with Single Malt sauce. Dessert can’t get much better than Macaroon tart with Pineapple Compote, Mango Sauce and Coconut cream. But it ain’t over ‘till it’s over. The eye-popping selection of petit fours tells me that this pasty chef dreams in all the colours of the rainbow. It is worth the drive to Coral Gables.
Marriott Stanton Hotel, with a small frontage to the street, is easy an easy gem to miss. A rarity, step away from the lovely pool with its palm tree landscaped terrace and lounge, and in seconds you are on the beach. We begin and end our day at Lolo’s Surf Cantina, where guests and locals appreciate that they take casual dining all the way.
The main restaurant serves Japanese cuisine. At Azabu, it is clear to someone who has traveled to Japan that here, Executive Chef Masatsugu Kubo pays homage to the American appetite. He defies the usual limitations on classic Japanese cuisine by offering large portions of Tokyo comfort food at reasonable prices. No one leaves hungry from Azabu.
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.