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The most exhilarating city in the USA now sways to a Latin remix of sensuality, salsa and South Beach style. The city boasts a fabulous Art Deco district, miles of beach, lively restaurants, a great party atmosphere and a fabulous climate.
Where to stay in Miami
NB Florida imposes a 12.5 per cent state hotel tax and parking may be extra. BAY HARBOR INN & SUITES 9660 East Bay Harbor Drive (00 10 305 868 4141; fax: 867 9094; www.bayharborinn.com). A stone’s throw from Bal Harbour shops (Miami’s Rodeo Drive), this hotel offers breakfast on a moored yacht. Ask for a room overlooking the water. ££ BEACH HOUSE 9449 Collins Avenue (00 1 305 535 8600; fax: 535 8601; www.thebeachhousehotel.com). Sandwiched between the luxury Bal Harbour shops and the ocean front, the Beach House is the ultimate weekend home. The design is more Hamptons hideaway than Miami Beach and you’ll find a bar with live sea-horses, a pool lined with lounge chairs and brightly coloured cabanas, a topiary garden, an indoor/outdoor restaurant, a private beach with hammocks slung between palm trees and a decent sized gym. £££ DELANO 1685 Collins Avenue (00 1 305 672 2000; fax: 532 0099; www.morganshotelgroup.com; email:). Ian Schrager sunk $20 million into renovating this place. Philippe Starck’s redesign is cool, white, chic, has a funky pool and a garden that leads to the beach. Rooms are small, but you can hang out in the lobby. The pampering Agua spa offers a wide range of health and beauty treatments. £££ DOUBLETREE HOTEL 2649 South Bayshore Drive (00 1 305 858 2500; fax: 858 5776; www.doubletree.com). Quiet and a bit bland but in a good location. ££ FONTAINEBLEAU HILTON 4441 Collins Avenue (00 1 305 538 2000; www.fontainebleau.hilton.com). In 2005, the Art Deco grand dame Fontainebleau Hilton marks its 50th anniversary with a $600-million overhaul, including a new 460-suite tower with its own pool, spa and concierge services. ££ GRAND BAY 2669 South Bayshore Drive (00 1 305 858 9600; fax: 859 2026; www.wyndham.com). The flagship hotel in Coconut Grove is the Grand Bay hotel. Smarter rooms have sunken marble bathtubs and views of Biscayne Bay. ££ HOTEL ASTOR 956 Washington Avenue (00 1 305 531 8081; fax: 531 3193). Classic South Beach: small, stylish and Art Deco. An elegant retreat for sophisticated grown-ups. Go for Sunday brunch at Astor Place, when the diners clap along as singer Maryell Epts belts out gospel standards. On the minus side, there are no views, unless you count the shops on Washington Avenue. ££ HOTEL IMPALA 1228 Collins Avenue (00 1 305 673 2021, fax: 673 5984; www.hotelimpalamiamibeach.com). A classy alternative to the usual Deco style, thanks to Gianni Versace’s architect, Peter Hawrylewicz. Small rooms but considerable style. ££ HOTEL NASH 1120 Collins Avenue (00 1 305 674 7800; fax: 538 8288; www.hotelnash.com). A low-key base located halfway up Collins Avenue, a block from the beach and directly behind the late Gianni Versace’s mansion. It has 55 rooms and blends modern, pared-down style with an Art Deco exterior retained from the hotel first built on the site in 1935. There are three pools (fresh, mineral and salt water) and a popular restaurant, Mark’s South Beach. £ HOTEL PLACE ST MICHEL 162 Alcazar Avenue (00 1 305 444 1666; fax: 529 0074; www.hotelplacestmichel.com). Small, quiet, discreet, this is the nearest Miami gets to European style. Relaxed charm and a good restaurant. £ HOTEL VICTOR 1144 Ocean Drive (00 1 305 428 1234; fax: 421.6281; www.hotelvictorsouthbeach.com). The 91-room Victor, next to the Versace mansion, is a cleverly disguised Hyatt. Parisian designer Jacques Garcia has gone for opulence: royal blue, red and gold, velvet, satin and chenille. £££ INTERCONTINENTAL MIAMI 100 Chopin Plaza (00 1 305 577 1000; fax: 577 0384; www.intercontinental.com). A triangular tower providing spectacular views over the bay and city. Rooms can feel cramped. ££ MARLIN 1200 Collins Avenue (001 305 604 5000). A Chris Blackwell hotel with interiors by Barbara Hulanicki; popular with the music crowd. ££ MIAMI RIVER INN 118 SW South River Drive (00 1 305 325 0045; fax: 325 9227; www.miamiriverinn.com). A charming alternative to the usual beach-and-pool hotels, despite its slightly seedy surroundings. There are five white clapboard buildings featuring antiques, a veranda and a sense of history – built in 1906, this is the city’s oldest hotel. £ MANDARIN ORIENTAL 500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami (00 1 305 913 8288; www.mandarinoriental.com). The elegant lobby of the waterfront-based Mandarin Oriental is popular for drinks. There are 327 rooms, fitted with all mod-cons including high speed Internet access, Bose sound systems and in-house films. The 15,000 square foot spa houses 17 private treatment rooms, including six stunning, split-level suites and have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay. On offer are a range of Chinese, Ayurvedic, Balinese and Thai treatments. Restaurants include the fine dining Azul, the less formal Café Sambal and the beach-side Barefoot At Oasis bar. The top-notch staff are discreet and helpful. £££ RALEIGH 1775 Collins Avenue (00 1 305 534 6300; www.raleighhotel.com). The recently renovated Art Deco Raleigh has 104 rooms and suites and a legendary 1930s pool, which comes into its own at the hotel’s Sunday soirées, organised by nightlife impresario Ingrid Cesares. The party starts at noon, reaching full tilt by early evening. ££ SONESTA BEACH RESORT 350 Ocean Drive (00 1 305 361 2021; fax: 361 3096; www.sonesta.com). Ideal for families. Nine tennis courts, private beach and large pool. ££ THE BILTMORE HOTEL 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables (00 1 800 727 1926; www.biltomorehotel.com). Opened in 1926, this hotel has a 300ft tower, marble from Italy, crystal chandeliers, an 18-hole golf course and a huge swimming pool. It is the epitome of Old Miami luxury and the famous Al Capone suite is the embodiment of what made Miami great. £££ THE HOTEL 801 Collins Avenue (00 1 305 531 2222; fax: 531 3222). The refurbished Tiffany Hotel, with interiors by Todd Oldham, has 48 fashion-conscious rooms with names such as Haute Couture. ££ THE SETAI 2001 Collins Avenue (00 1 305 520 6000; fax: 520 6111; www.setai.com). The 75-room Setai, managed by Adrian Zecha’s GHM Hotels, is housed in an exact replica of the 1930s Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel which previously stood on the site. The interiors, by Aman resorts designer Jaya Ibrahim, were inspired by Shanghai’s Art Deco period. Behind the hotel stands a glittering 40-storey tower with 50 suites, a penthouse and 173 serviced apartments (from $1 million each). ££££ THE SHORE CLUB 1901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach (00 1 305 695 3100; fax: 695 3299; www.shoreclub.com). Architect David Chipperfield’s first hotel is an Art Deco restoration with classic modern interiors. The pre-eminent celebrity hotel has 324 rooms, cabanas, with seriously slick service. One of its two restaurants is Nobu, but unlike its London counterpart, it doesn’t take reservations, so be prepared to queue. The hotel also boasts a state-of-the-art gym and chichi boutiques such as Scoop and Me & Ro. But the real star attraction is the swimming pool, lushly landscaped with palms and reflecting ponds, it is actually a complex of successive swimming pools leading straight to the beach. Request an ocean-view room for glorious blue vistas. ££ THE TIDES 1220 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach (00 1 305 604 5070; fax: 672 6288; www.thetideshotel.com). Quintessential 1936 Art Deco building, just 10 storeys high, with spacious, minimalist cream-and-taupe interiors. Situated at the top end of Ocean Drive, slightly removed from the worst excesses of party central in South Beach. Cleverly, all the corridors are at the back of the hotel so each room has an ocean view. ££ TOWNHOUSE 150 20th Street (at Collins Avenue) (00 1 305 534 3800; fax: 534 3811; www.townhousehotel.com). The 71-room Townhouse is a groovy hotel on South Beach with funky interiors and a trendy sushi-lounge in the basement. There is no pool, but residents can sun-worship on waterbeds on the rooftop deck or chill out in the Japanese Zen water tower. The Townhouse was featured in The Hot List 2001. £
Where to eat out in Miami
Miami is famous for its Cuban food. Wherever you go, be sure to try pork with dense crackling, arroz con pollo (baked chicken with saffron rice), bistec palomilla (thin-cut steak piled high with minced onions) accompanied by the inevitable beans and rice. Platanos (or fried plantains, which resemble bananas) are ubiquitous, as is yuca, a potato-like vegetable. Fast food includes a white bean soup with chorizo and pork called caldo gallego, or a Cuban sandwich, served warm: media noche with ham, pork and cheese is the best known. Batidos, tropical-fruit shakes made with mango, mamey and guanabana are delicious. Finish with a café Cubano, also known as a cafecito.
CAFÉ TU TU TANGO
CocoWalk Shopping Center, 3015 Grand Avenue (00 1 305 529 2222). Very New Grove. Go for people-watching, best done from the second-floor outdoor patio. Reservations not accepted.
1700 James Avenue, Miami Beach (00 1 305 673 1010; www.casatualifestyle.com). A hidden gem in a Mediterranean-style villa where the beautiful terrace provides the backdrop for some of the best Italian cuisine this side of Amalfi Coast. Try the tagliolini with ossetra caviar and crème fraîche, sounds simple, but the rich flavour and incredible texture are to die for.
EAST COAST FISHERIES
360 West Flagler at North River Drive (00 1 305 372 1300). A Miami classic that is unprepossessing, but offers up to 150 seafood dishes. Daily lunch and dinner.
1656 Alton Road, Miami Beach (00 1 305 672 1861). Epicure has the freshest of everything, from fruit to fish to flowers. It is really is the only place on South Beach to get the very best ingredients. And if you don’t want to cook, the hot deli serves up full gourmet meals.
377 Alhambra Circle (00 1 305 445 3555). Smart yuppies gather here. Cool and classy, with tables spilling on to the street. The waitresses – also cool and classy – earn up to $100 a night in tips. Closed Sunday. Live jazz Saturday nights.
1933 South West 8th Street (00 1 305 649 2015). Serves simple Nicaraguan food.
285 North West 7th Street (00 1 305 649 0440). Equally casual and authentic, offering seriously good Cuban food. Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner.
JOE’S STONE CRAB
11 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach (00 1 305 673 0365; www.joesstonecrab.com). World-famous Joe’s has been open since 1913, some locals have been going there almost daily since before World War II and wouldn’t consider anywhere else. It gets busy at lunchtime and dinner throughout the Stone Crab season (Nov-May), and doesn’t take reservations; but the wait is always worth it, even if you may not get a table for more than an hour.
LA ESQUINA DE TEJAS
101 South West 12th Avenue (00 1 305 545 0337). Loud and lively place which serves great Cuban food. Ronald Reagan wooed Latin voters by eating here – and the owner has shown off the seat he sat on many times over. Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner.
LARIOS ON THE BEACH
820 Ocean Drive (00 1 305 532 9577; no reservations). Owned by Miami’s local heroine Gloria Estefan, this place offers nuevo (lighter) Cuban cuisine.
LE BOUCHON DU GROVE
3430 Main Highway (00 1 305 448 6060). Perenially packed hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the middle of Coconut Grove. The owner, Georges Eric, is the heart and soul of this very boisterous bistro. And the tarte tatin is one of the best outside Paris.
1439 Alton Road, Miami Beach (00 1 305 532 5463; www.limefreshmexicangrill.com). The queue around the block every night gives this one away, as locals flock to sample Lime Fresh’s famous burritos, tacos and salads, all made with the freshest, high-quality ingredients.
2550 South Bayshore Drive (00 1 305 858 1431). A Miami institution, offering both an expensive restaurant and the dockside Raw Bar. No reservations for Raw Bar.
915 Lincoln Road (00 1 305 534 5979). Less chic but lively. Serves Asian/Pacific Rim cuisine. Daily dinner.
PRIME ONE TWELVE
The Browns Hotel, 112 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach (00 1 305 532 8112; www.prime112.com). This latest success for owner Myles Chafetz is great for people-watching – from real-estate developers to nightclub impresarios and rock stars (Lenny Kravitz is a regular). And the food lives up to the celebrity-fuelled hype.
700 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach (00 1 305 673 1115). You may notice the distinctly Latin flavour of Miami as a whole, the most prevalent being definitely Cuban, the result of a huge, local Cuban population. For a taste of Havana cuisine (without a trip to Coral Gables or Little Havana, of course), Puerto Sagua is as authentic as it gets.
SUNDAYS ON THE BAY
5420 Crandon Boulevard (00 1 305 361 6777). Provides live reggae at weekends, lots of yachties (but well behaved) and a 200-item Sunday brunch menu. Plan to spend most of the day there – the service is relaxed. Reservations for Sunday brunch only.
819 Fifth Street (00 1 305 672 2898). This place, named after Haiti’s colourful buses, offers lively music on weekends and Haitian art shows. Have a Barbancourt rum at the bar before dinner and a little chayote goat (lightly spiced).
TAQUERIA EL MEXICANO
1961 South West 8th Street (00 1 305 858 1160), a hole-in-the-wall lunch counter, which is friendly and loud. Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner.
THE BILTMORE’S COURTYARD CAFE
1200 Anastasia Avenue (00 1 305 445 8066 ext 2400). Serves a generous brunch – waffles, pancakes, granola, eggs, muffins and tropical fruits – in an elegant setting. Reservations are a must.
THE GREEN STREET CAFE
3468 Main Highway, corner of Commodore Plaza (00 1 305 567 0662). With tables on the pavement, offers uncomplicated American and Italian dishes; try the pasta.
THE LATIN AMERICAN CAFETERIA
2940 Coral Way (00 1 305 448 6809). Open all night, and lit like Wembley Stadium, this is the place where artisans with wicked knives slice up joints of ham and cheese to stuff inside giant loaves.
THE NEWS CAFE
800 Ocean Drive (00 1 305 531 0392). Whatever you eat or drink, Versace’s last port of call before he was shot, is the place to see or be seen. No reservations.
2340 South West 32nd Avenue (00 1 305 445 1313). Provides exceptional Cuban food and a cabaret in a lush setting. Reservations recommended. Daily lunch and dinner.
501 Lincoln Road (00 1 305 532 9822). Also nuevo. In this case YUCA is a play on words, since it stands for Young Upscale Cuban-Americans.
BOOKS & BOOKS
933 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach (00 1 305 532 3222; www.booksandbooks.com). This small bookstore café has surprisingly good food (the black-bean houmous is excellent), which you can enjoy while ogling the svelte young mannequins going in and out of the Wilhelmina Model Agency next door.
318 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables (00 1 305 441 0700). After more than 15 years, Nino Pernetti has ensured that this family-style Italian restaurant in the heart of Coral Gables is still the place to be seen. The menu features northern Italian specialities such as snails with polenta and penne alla grappa.
1058 Collins Avenue & 1654 Meridian Avenue, Miami Beach (www.davidscafecom). A must for anyone who hasn’t already tried Cuban coffee. Its strong, sweet flavour is a kick-start to any day. The Colada, for example, is so strong that an espresso-sized shot comes with thimble-sized cups to share with friends.
1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach (00 1 305 673 0047). Adjacent to the Deco-style Colony Theater, this serves some of the best coffee and cocktails, while the ingeniously placed tables provide excellent opportunities to enjoy the Lincoln Road catwalk at any time of day or night.
The best nightlife in Miami
1116 Ocean Drive (00 1 305 672 6604; www.casacasuarina.com). Casa Casuarina used to be Gianni Versace’s private home; it now hosts a private club catering to Miami’s most fashionable and wealthy crowd. Membership is steep: $30,000 upfront, plus another $3,500 annually for the privilege of seeing the mansion almost as Gianni left it.
Miami Airport Hilton, 5101 Blue Lagoon Drive (00 1 305 262 1000). Marvel at the pros at the longest-running salsa venue. Open Wednesday to Sunday.
Fontainebleau Hilton, 4441 Collins Avenue (00 1 305 672 7469). Where high camp meets Old Havana.
107 NW 25th Street (00 1 305 594 3717). Go where the Latins salsa till they drop. La Cavocha can hold up to 1,000 (and does, at weekends) who come for salsa, merengue and Latin hip-hop. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
MANGO’S TROPICAL CAFÉ
900 Ocean Drive (00 1 305 673 4422). This cafe on South Beach provides tamer salsa for the tourist crowd.
1235 Washington Avenue (00 1 305 531 5535; www.theopiumgroup.com). The fashionable Mansion club, housed in an old theatre space, has staged a gig by Velvet Revolver, a La Perla fashion show and a VIP party host by Outkast.
Nobu at The Shore Club, 1901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach (00 1 305 695 3232; www.noburestaurants.com). If you only try one cocktail, make it the Lychee Martini at Nobu in The Shore Club, which are stronger than their incredibly fruity taste might suggest.
1905 Collins Avenue (00 1 305 538 7171; www.rokbarmiami.com). A 2004 addition to Miami’s club scene, Rokbar is a shrine to rock, with holographic prints of rock chicks on the walls and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee as co-owner. Expect plenty of door attitude, plus a celeb or two.
SALSA LOVERS DANCE STUDIO
Blue Banquet Hall, 9843 South West 40th Street (00 1 305 220 7115). Don’t know how to salsa? The Salsa Lovers Dance Studio offers classes (in Spanish only) at all levels. Call for times and classes.
SKY BAR AT THE SHORE CLUB
1901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach (00 1 305 695 3100; www.shoreclub.com/skybar). Lying on a bed or hammock under a clear starry sky, surrounded by Moroccan-style lamps while stunningly beautiful women serve delicious cocktails: what could epitomise Miami better?
801 Collins Avenue (00 0305 531 2222). Designed by Todd Oldham, the hip rooftop Spire Bar at The Hotel has views of the ocean and Miami Beach skyline, cheery painted floorboards and plump white sofas. Tropical cocktails include an alarmingly fluorescent Martini.
626 South Miami Avenue (00 1 305 374 1198). For an old-style Anglo hangout, try Miami’s oldest bar, Tobacco Road. Great for burgers, blues and jazz.
For the latest buzz on Miami’s nightlife, consult the Weekend section of Friday’s Miami Herald or the New Times, published each Thursday and available free from red newspaper racks.
What to see in Miami
Downtown Miami is six blocks of government and municipal offices that mix old architecture with skyscrapers and cultural centres, including the Philip Johnson-designed Metro-Dade Cultural Center (which comprises the Miami Art Museum and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida) on West Flagler Street. Nearby is the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 147 East Flagler Street (00 1 305 374 2444), with its grandiose 1920s interior.
Brickell Avenue has more international banks than any other place in America, and a parade of spectacular condominiums, including the Atlantis building (which feature in the opening shots of Miami Vice). At the downtown end of Calle Ocho, you can watch the old men playing dominoes in Maximo Gomez Domino Park. They take it very seriously. Also taken seriously are the shrines to la causa, such as the Brigade 2506 Memorial commemorating the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Alpha 66 Headquarters, which is dedicated to the overthrow of Castro.
In Coconut Grove, the Barnacle State Historic Site, 3485 Main Highway, has a trail leading to the former house of the Grove’s founder, Ralph Munroe. Another taste of ‘old Miami’ is Villa Vizcaya, 3251 South Miami Avenue (00 1 305 250 9133), an Italian-Renaissance mansion built in 1916 as the winter home of James Deering, co-founder of International Harvester. There are rooms bought in their entirety from Italy. The Alice Wainwright Park, Brickell Avenue, south-west of the Rickenbacker Causeway, is ideal for picnics and as close as you can decently get to Madonna’s house.
In Coral Gables, George Merrick’s International Villages begin at the 400 block of Vizcaya Avenue. His other ‘must-see’ is the Venetian Pool, 2701 De Soto Boulevard (00 1 305 460 5356) with its limestone outcrops for diving platforms and few visitors. Meanwhile South Beach boasts more than 800 examples of Art Deco, Streamline Moderne and Spanish Mediterranean Revival styles. Tours by the Miami Design Preservation League (00 1 305 672 2014) and Deco Tours (00 1 305 531 4465).
The best way to get around Miami
Miami sprawls over vast distances and hire cars are cheap. At peak times, book in advance. Public transport is a joke. Neither the Metrorail train system nor the Metrobus will take you anywhere useful. But downtown is served by the Metromover, an elevated monorail which is safe, air-conditioned, inexpensive and generally empty. It also provides unparalleled views of the city.