The view from the top of the 20-floor W South Beach is sensational – how DID they get permission to build a new high-rise on the spot where there had been a Holiday Inn? Anyway, it is a sleek, beautiful building and oh the views… three lucky couples will be having rooftop views on the weekend of February 14-16, 2014. The luxury hotel’s Valentine’s special is so enticing that the gal, were she free, would be highly tempted (apparently there is still one slot going, so rush for it). You spend two nights in a two-floor luxury penthouse, atop the hotel. Climb up 21 steps to your own private rooftop, with its 240 sq ft plunge pool. You have, by the way, been helicoptered in from the airport.
That first night you might well want to try one of the hotel’s signature cocktails, an extremely more-ish Cucumber Collins, with cucumber-infused vodka. It has been specially designed by Scott Beattie, author of Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Season from the Bar at Cyrus. He is now owner- bartender at Goose and Gander, in St Helena CA, but he still has time to work with local Miami consultants, Karim Masri, Nicola Siervo and Rony Seikaly, working as KNR Group, which has a lot to do with W South Beach. There is a Mr Chow restaurant in the hotel, but guests cannot sign there. KNR is involved in the fabulous indoor-out all-day The Dutch, named because its menu designer, and big high overseer, is Andrew Carmellini of The Dutch in New York (interestingly, his grandfather ran The Surf Club, in nearby Surfside, in the 1950s – this has just been announced as a future Four Seasons).
Andrew Carmellini has created a special aphrodisiac menu for our three Valentine’s couples on their first night. They start with oysters, go on to 28-day dry-aged steaks, with organic salad. Purely in the cause of duty, I had one of these steaks and I have got to say, not having been in the USA for a few months, the flavour brought back all that intensity that somehow US beef has and nowhere else in the world can attain. I did not go on to the Valentine’s aphrodisiac desserts as frankly I needed to sleep. Next morning, our romantic couples will take seaplanes to West Palm Beach, for five-course eating on private yachts, and so on and so forth. Next morning, your honoured correspondent, by contrast, was delighted to find that The Dutch serves a splendid breakfast buffet – sorry, Breakfast Table – with a wide choice of Greek yoghurts, all flavoured, and lots of healthy fruits and great plunger coffee.
I then checked out some of the public areas of this four-acre estate. There is a hedge-shielded private grassy area, size of a tennis court, ideal for weddings (perhaps for a Valentine couple? bigger weddings, up to 250, can be held in the Great Room). As well as a mammoth, like 110-foot long, action-packed main pool, with a variety of private cabanas with safes and televisions, around, and high-fashion Beautiful Bods in day-glo strap-like bikinis (oh what a fashion), there is sensibly a second, private pool. Book this, Valentine’s Lovers, for absolute seclusion. There, at this smaller pool, you can look up at the hotel’s five bungalows. OK, bungalows are usually single floor, but these soar up, with private plunge pools on their third floor rooftops.
Perhaps our romantic couples want a hard workout after all their eatin’n’drinkin. The hotel has a serious gym, with a great view south down Collins, and there is a Bliss spa. Perhaps they want some shopping. Cleverly, the hotel has arranged that, any time, anyone booking a VIP Suite package can call in five brands, who will personally bring round wardrobe selections, and fit and alter as required. What is impressive, too, is that one of the quintet is Berluti, an under-the-radar shoe label that LVMH’s Bernard Arnault bought way back in 1993 but only now, under Arnault junior – Antoine Arnault, father of Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova’s forthcoming fourth child – it is being expanded into a, if not the, major uber-luxury brand for guys. There is also a nice hotel-run store in the lobby (W Hotels do this rather well: I also admire the open-plan boutique in W Santiago).
There probably will not be time for our couples to do justice to the $30 million-worth of modern American art put into this soaring hotel by one of its owners, but I certainly admired some of the pieces – do these driftwood chairs count as art? They are outside, on a rear terrace, between a most agreeable deck-floored Grove, based on a Provençal ideal, and the marble-lined, water-wall smoking area, specially for the many South Americans, some who are guests, some owners. All 408 hotel rooms are condo, owned by investors, and there are also lots of owned residences not in the letting pool. All those owners seem to have a good deal. They have all the facilities of the hotel, they can order Cucumber Collins to their hearts’ content and, honestly, they have some of the nicest concierges, sorry Insiders, in the business.