pool at The Villa in Miami Beach.
BEACH, Fla. ó This just may be Americaís sexiest city
ó a symphony of sand, surf and sherbet-colored sunrises
set to a sassy salsa beat. It is palm trees and pulsating
nightlife; torpid days and tropical nights; shimmering
pools and shimmying revelers.
you imagine a less glamorous city spawning "Miami
Viceís" Sonny Crockett and his linen suits or
"C.S.I. Miamiís" Horatio Caine and his
epicenter of all this glamor is South Beach ó a slice of
sand along Ocean Drive, and an accompanying collection of
Art Deco buildings (housing mostly hotels and restaurants)
along parallel Collins Avenue ó that attracts the rich
and famous from around the world.
Muhammad Ali to Madonna, Joe Namath to Jennifer Lopez,
Gianni Versace to Gloria Estefan ó theyíve all become
part of the fabric of the South Beach scene.
you want to weave your own threads into that fabric, thereís
no better place to start than at the Delano Hotel. The
1947 Art Deco building on Collins Avenue became Miamiís
first boutique hotel in 1994, an early collaboration
between Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck.
the billowing white curtains on the front terrace to the
oversize chess board on the palm-lined back lawn,
everything is carefully designed to evoke an "Alice
in Wonderland" fantasy. I didnít think I would have
been at all surprised to spot the white rabbit nursing a
gin and tonic in the elegant Rose Bar, or to see the Red
Queen lounging by the oft-photographed pool (or as they
like to refer to it, the water salon).
Delano, a member of Morgans Hotel Group, is a work of art
in every sense ó from the all-white decor of the rooms
to the original Brazilian rosewood floors to the daily
inspirational quote scrawled on a mirror opposite the
may be figurative art, but there is real art as well.
Director of Housekeeping Tony Costello, whose passion for
the Delano knows no limits, will happily take guests on a
guided tour if they request it.
point out an original Salvador Dali chair across the lobby
from a delicate Murano chandelier (every piece of glass in
the hotel is Murano), and heíll indicate an unobtrusive
chair which might go unnoticed until he reveals it was
designed by Antoni Gaudi, who also designed the fanciful
La Sagreda Familia Cathedral in Barcelona.
thereís a property in South Beach to rival the Delano,
itís the Villa Casa Causarina, the former mansion of
Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, and now a
boutique hotel. A cross between a Moorish palace, a
Venetian palazzo and a Spanish hacienda, the Villa is the
third most visited house in America (after Graceland and
the White House).
is largely due to the fact that it was on the front steps
of the mansion that Versace was shot to death on July 15,
1997, after returning from an early morning walk to get a
newspaper. At any time of day or night, a horde of curious
onlookers can be found trying to snap photos of the house.
you want to get a peek at the inside, however, you will
have to book one of the 10 rooms (all with original
details such as mosaics, handpainted murals and colored
tiles) or make a reservation for dinner at Gianniís
Restaurant (located in the designerís former dining
stayed for two nights and during that time had a chance to
see both the Medallion Suite, which even though the
smallest of the bedrooms, was Elton Johnís favorite, and
the Mosaic Suite, formerly the bedroom of Versaceís
sister Donatella when she was in town. Alas, I didnít
get to see Gianniís bedroom as it was booked.
favorite experience had to be dining al fresco one night
beside the elaborate pool with its small waterfalls and
thousands of 24-carat gold tiles Versace had flown in from
Italy and reassembled on the poolís floor. Like the
Delano, the Villa offers its guests a sensory overload
along with a good nightís sleep.
thereís one thing you donít want to skimp on in South
Beach itís eating and drinking. Both the Delano and the
Villa have first-rate fine dining restaurants. At the
former, itís Bianca, which features modern Italian fare.
Whatever else you order, donít miss the appetizer
portion (large enough to share) of the Big Eye Tuna Pizza
ó truly one of the best things Iíve eaten lately.
the latter, you can dine in either Versaceís former
dining room or al fresco poolside. The menu is
Italian/Mediterranean, and should you happen to have an
extra few hundred bucks in your pocket, thereís a Caviar
by Petrossian menu as well.
another night for the Sarsaparilla Club in the Shelborne
Hotel. The club is known for what is billed as
"American dim sum" ó meaning such delectable
dishes as drunken deviled eggs with pickled roots,
heirloom tomatoes with ricotta, tomato sorbet, basil and
crisp olive oil toast, and my favorite, Corn 4 Ways
(grilled sweet corn, cornbread butter, cornbread crumbles
and lemon popcorn).
you want dim sum the Asian way in an eye-catching decor,
book a table at Komodo in downtown Miami. Glamorous and
sexy are the key words at Komodo. You might remember what
you ate, but one thing youíll never forget is the
setting, especially if you opt for the outdoor tropical
garden with elevated tables known as birdís nests.
great options are Sunday brunch at Prime Fish (the most
extensive and innovative array of buffet dishes Iíve
ever seen ó ever heard of lasagna pancakes?) and KYU
(pronounced cue) in the Wynwood Arts and Design District,
where small plates such as roasted cauliflower with goat
cheese and heirloom tomatoes with chiles, red onion and
shiso had my friends and I practically fighting over the
Beach certainly has a lively (and loud) club scene, with
no shortage of places where revelers can dance the night
away. But it has also gained a reputation as one of
Americaís best cities to experience a classic cocktail
Regent Cocktail Club in the Gale Hotel is an intimate spot
reminiscent of a 1940s lounge, or on nights when a Latin
combo is playing, a bar in old Havana. This is definitely
the spot for cocktails and conversation, but get there
early as intimate means just that.
favorite South Beach watering hole has to be the Delanoís
Rose Bar, sophisticated and sleek, with a backlit bar,
Venetian chandeliers and the best spot in the hotel for
people watching. Then, there are the cocktails themselves
ó when was the last time you had a Boulevardier Fume (Woodford
Reserve bourbon, sweet vermouth and hickory smoke essence)
or a Chelsea Gimlet (Bombay Sapphire Gin, cucumber, basil
and lemon essence)?
the Regent Cocktail Club and the Rose Bar take the art of
cocktail mixing to a new level.
whatís a glamorous getaway without a day of spa
pampering? Whether itís hot stone therapy or a
lavender-scented scrub youíre after, or just a relaxing
massage, South Beach has a spa for you.
of the best ó the rooftop Agua at the Delano (request
Elizabeth for the deep tissue) and the casita complex at
the Setai Hotel (the ocean view from the room only adds to
the sense of serenity).
in that serenity before heading off to experience more of
Americaís sultriest, sexiest and most sensuous city.