Lauren Smith, stylist.co.uk’s editorial assistant spent four days devouring seafood, sipping potent cocktails and eavesdropping on celebrity conversations at the Delano Hotel in South Beach, Miami.
The last time I went to Miami, I got lost on the beach. Not accidentally and romantically swept up in the blue skies and beautiful scenery… Literally lost. I was seven years old and, after deciding to go exploring by myself, caused a panicked threehour, beach-wide search and a near heart attack for my parents. I was found safe and sound, and talking the ear off a bored lifeguard, but it permanently put the Smith family off a return visit.
Several years on from my Baywatch moment, I was keen to reacquaint myself with that same wide stretch of sand. But I didn’t just want to lie on it for a week – in the intervening two decades, I’ve developed a culinary obsession. So, as Miami now has one of the most vibrant restaurant scenes in the USA plus the annual Miami Food and Wine Festival (which runs from 18-21 April 2012), it was the perfect getaway choice.
South Beach’s iconic Art Deco District, dotted with pastel-coloured buildings, is one of the city’s biggest tourist draws and the Delano Hotel is right at its centre. Something of a Miami institution – Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously stayed at the hotel with his mistress in its historic heyday (hence the name) – it was to be my base for a culinary tour of the city. Philippe Starck restored the faded hotel to glory in the Nineties, completely transforming the space into a high-concept space, packed with Salvador Dalí artworks and surrealist furniture. This year, it has been revamped further with the opening of two new restaurants and the transformation of the in-hotel nightclub into a ‘moody speakeasy’.
A more laid-back alternative to many of the noisy nightclubs that can be found along South Beach, the subterranean FDR Lounge still has a notoriously tough door policy (handily, hotel guests can queue-jump), but it’s worth braving the clipboard even if you’re not staying there, as the intimate setting, dark padded walls and wickedly strong signature cocktails (I loved the Lucy – a potent mix of chambord, prosecco and St Germain – named after FDR’s mistress, Lucy Page Mercer Rutherford) are seriously good.
ABOVE: Bianca at The Delano
My favourite additions to the hotel, however are the restaurants – Bianca, a sophisticated alfresco Italian overlooking the beach, and Umi Sushi and Sake bar. At Bianca, we devoured the fresh seafood platter, grilled octopus and truffle pasta. And we couldn’t resist the succulent rib-eye steak too. At Umi, I discovered cold sake which was delicious, and refused to share my plate of Delano rolls (filled with lobster, Wagyu beef and black truffle) with anyone.
The hotel’s restored bedrooms, in a palette of white and silver, are not for the faint-hearted but feel fresh and cool after a day in the Miami heat. They also come with a green apple on a daily basis with a plaque to remind you that “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Like LA, there’s a restaurant or cafe to cater for every taste in Miami. It’s an insane mix of health-conscious, belt-loosening and innovative, where organic cafes serving protein shakes and egg white omelettes sit next to fusion Latin American restaurants and greasy diners with wipe-clean tablecloths serving cheeseburgers as big as your head. I’m in the midst of marathon training, so the organic healthy option was ideal for me.
Fuelling up for a run, I downed a morning smoothie from Java and Juice, and found myself overwhelmed by the selection of ready-made salads at the gargantuan Whole Foods Market on Alton Road. A few miles down the street, the slightly more low-key Apple A Day Natural Food Market is where health nuts head for steaming bowls of vegan soup and wheatgrass shots.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t indulge though. While dining at Asia de Cuba at South Beach’s Mondrian hotel, where the huge platters and big round tables encourage sharing, I watched the sunset over Biscayne Bay while sipping on a super-strong caipirinha (strong cocktails are a running theme in Miami) and tucking into a delicious calamari salad, miso-cured cod and plantain fried rice with fresh avocado.
ABOVE: The view from the Mondrian bar
The ideal mix
After-dinner drink spots abound on South Beach but don’t expect them to get going until after midnight. We headed to the Moroccan-themed Skybar at Shore Club (above). Nestled on huge floor cushions and surrounded by lanterns, we spied Adrian Grenier from Entourage, and heard how Axl Rose had hosted a two-day party in the penthouse the night before.
Feeling foggy the next day, I hired a DecoBike (Miami’s bike rental service) for a leisurely ride along the beach boardwalk, which cost only $5 (£3) for an hour. After an amble along Ocean Drive and a walk around the boutiques of Collins Avenue, I was ready to lounge by the hotel pool – and relish my next meal. With beautiful beaches, amazing cuisine and friendly locals, I’m one member of the Smith family who has not been put off a return visit.
Rooms from £277 per room per night excluding taxes; delanohotel. com. Virgin Atlantic flies direct to Miami from £445 return; virginatlantic.com
5 Places to Eat in Miami
The granola pancakes with banana and chocolate at this friendly restaurant are so hearty, they come with a menu health warning.
Now in its 99th year, Joe’s is a must-visit from October to May for fresh crab meat. The Lobster Mac ’n‘ Cheese is ridiculously indulgent.
This local book shop is also a great lunch spot, popular for vegan dishes like black bean houmous sandwiches and Yucca fries.
The A-listers come here for Nobu but the Shore Club’s lunch spot gets our vote for its dessert of cannoli chips – a Mexican take on the Sicilian treat – with cannoli tubes re-imagined as nachos and the filling served in a dipping bowl. Heaven.
5. NEWS CAFE
Since 1988, News Cafe has been the go-to place on South Beach. The 24-Hour newsstand/restaurant is more about its prime people-watching location than the food – but the huevos rancheros (eggs, tortilla and salsa) are exquisite.