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First Look: Miami's Shelborne South Beach Hotel

Walking down Collins Avenue in South Beach last weekend, the
first thing that came to mind (besides not getting the memo about wearing
five-inch-heels) was that—minus those name-bearing neon signs—the hotels
essentially look the same. This didn’t
come as a surprise, of course, since the art deco style of the 1940’s has been
so well preserved—but I’d never
really thought about how hard hotels need to work to distinguish themselves on
the inside.

It was with this in mind that I stepped into the gleaming
white lobby at the Shelborne South Beach,
a landmark hotel since 1940, when Ava Gardner was a regular. It recently reopened
following a $20 million renovation spearheaded by hotelier Keith Menin (whose uncle
has owned the hotel since 1983). Some highlights: 50 redesigned rooms (50 more
will be completed this spring), GuyandGirl Boutique (selling South Beach
essentials like sunglasses, swimwear, and eco-friendly sunscreen), and the
speakeasy-style Vesper
Café
(the only way to enter is through the kitchen).

It was a bit early for dinner at Vesper Café (another Miami memo: don’t go out to eat in South Beach until 9 p.m.), so I had the
entire 70-seat restaurant to myself in which to sip something from the James
Bond–themed cocktail menu (try the Octopussy, with Cîroc red berry vodka, lime
juice, blackberry purée, and prosecco). The food wavers between heavy comfort
food and more delicate fare; I went for a combo: chicken wings and tuna
tartare; followed by shepherd’s
pie of Kobe beef, whipped potatoes, and melted cheese; and Chilean sea bass
with bok choy. The finale was a very "light" dessert of doughnuts and fried Oreos.

I somehow fit into a bathing suit the next day to take advantage
of the new infinity pool, lined on one side with private cabanas. The
blue-and-white, wood-paneled hideaways—yours if you commit to spending $250 on
food and drinks—come complete with private bathrooms and showers. The pool’s
playlist is what my friend aptly described as “tranquil
trance”—perfect for napping or mingling. The music picks up at around 5 p.m.—but we didn’t stick around for happy hour: I had some
high heels to buy before my last night on the town.

Booking Tip: For the best rates at the Shelborne (not
to mention all Menin Hotels), check out secret-rates.com.

Other Hot Hotel Openings in Miami:

SLS Miami
A dream team of hotelier Sam Nazarian, chef José Andrés, and
Philippe Starck are behind this highly anticipated property that’s opening in April. Lenny Kravitz even
lent his hand, designing the penthouse suite and a bungalow overlooking the
pool.

Surfcomber
This 186-room oceanfront property is technically not new,
but it reopened in December as a Kimpton (it was previously a Doubletree) after
undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation. 1717 Collins Ave; 800-994-6103.

The St. Regis, Bal Harbour Resort
Opened on Jan. 19, this grand, design-centric resort (rock-crystal
chandeliers; antique mirrors; godflower marble) has 243 rooms and suites, all
with ocean views; a Remède Spa; and a first-class art collection. 9703
Collins Avenue; 305-993-3300
.

Brooke Porter is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.

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