Hotel Beaux Arts
255 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Miami; 305-421-8700; www.hotelbeauxartsmiami.com. 44 guest rooms, including 11 suites. From $550. No eco-rating.
The U.S. economy may be off to a sputtering start, but in Miami the outlook is sunny and hoteliers have taken note. The downtown business district was, for a long time, culturally bereft, rarely enticing the workers to hang around after the closing bell, but cultural projects such as the Adrienne Arsht Center and a couple of hot new restaurants and hotels are aiming to wrangle Brazilian financiers, their wives and their money away from neighbouring South Beach. Two properties, the JW Marriott Marquis and the boutique hotel nestled at its crest, the Hotel Beaux Arts, are the latest to occupy a glassy waterfront tower.
The former is a high-end business-minded accommodation with dude-friendly amenities such as an NBA-approved basketball court, and the latter is a discreet three-floor retreat that shares JW's perks but keeps a staff and vibe to itself.
Considering check-in is on the 39th floor, there's no grand lobby, just a desk and sofa. With only 44 rooms, there's nary a wait. The contemporary interiors are defined with planes of white and black stone, stainless-steel accents, silvery or white-leather banquettes and too many flat-screen TVs. Thankfully, the intimate proportions make it feel clean and clubby, not cold. Rooms echo that palette and add a glossy lacquered surface that sheathes part of the ceiling near the floor-to-ceiling windows, adding the unexpected reflection of the most impressive design detail of all: views of the Miami River, harbour and, of course, adjacent towers. Design surprises were few but thoughtful; sculptural Villeroy & Boch cutlery was one.
The room felt luxurious with a handsome sitting area that has terrific views and sleek but comfy seating, a perfect perch for listening to tunes on the Bang & Olufsen surround-sound speakers or a game on the pivoting TV. The hotel is more an ode to technology than fine arts (as the name suggests) and the in-room iPads are an elegant alternative to the ubiquitous leather-bound hotel guide. I made a brunch reservation on it while reclining on a heavenly bed with wonderfully starchy white sheets. The easy technology ended there. Bathroom taps are controlled via touchpad and use coloured lights to signal hot (red) and cold (blue). The remote-controlled curtains and phones remained baffling throughout my stay.
A big, beautiful high-tech gym with water views puts 98 per cent of hotel fitness centres to shame - and it's open 24 hours, as is the sauna. Hotel Beaux Arts shares these and an array of over-the-top facilities - pool, basketball court (which converts to a tennis court), "virtual" bowling and Jim McLean Golf School - with the parent hotel, though the concierge can book the latter upon request (and will charge an hourly fee). No jock chief executive officer should stay elsewhere. Those who revel in more cerebral delights, such as a national newspaper for example, are out of luck; two days of requests turned up nada.
Hospitality pros will tell you staffing is a struggle in Miami and this property rarely proved otherwise. Advice was always well intentioned ("The hotel across the street might have newspapers") and sometimes downright delightful: Turndown service included fresh chocolate-dipped biscotti and an aromatic herbal "sleep mist" at the bedside. But a recent new-hotel quirk - a brief 4 a.m. fire alarm - found my husband and me dressed and roaming an empty hotel searching for staff. We didn't drift off to sleep immediately as one pair of guests admitted, or walk down 38 flights of stairs as another couple did, but kept calling the operator until she confirmed a false alarm. In our super-high-tech room, was it too much to get an apology via intercom? We received a mea culpa at checkout.
Being able to recline upstairs after an indulgent evening at DB Bistro Moderne is reason enough to book a room here. Daniel Boulud's mid-range restaurant offers an interesting menu, exquisite cuisine and wonderfully attentive service in a Yabu Pushelberg-designed series of glamorous, unique rooms. A chat with the ace sommelier and the basket of mini-madeleines served warm were memorable.
The handsome rooms and easy online access make in-room work sessions a pleasure - you can iPod, iPad and channel surf simultaneously from a swank aerie in the sky. And there's dining and sporty fun at your doorstep when it's time to switch off. But the staff should prepare to accommodate requests more demanding than a morning paper if it wants to attract the CEOs and celebs it's setting out for. And fingers crossed those CEOs hail from Internet start-ups or the front desk will become indistinguishable from a tech-support call centre.
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