The Dream South Beach
1111 Collins Ave., Miami, Fla.; dreamsouthbeach.com; 108 rooms with winter rates from $279 (U.S.). No eco-rating.
Walking into the Dream South Beach feels like entering another dimension of art deco glamour, Eastern sensuality and Bollywood charm.
Open since July, the Dream South Beach brings whimsical Moroccan fantasy to Collins Avenue's fabled swagger. With a chic rooftop pool lounge and neighbourhood restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Geoffrey Zakarian, this gorgeous 108-room boutique hotel is the latest addition to the Dream brand (an offshoot of Chatwal hotels).
With properties in New York, Thailand and India, the Chatwal's hip luxury lifestyle formula clearly works. Like other Dream joints, this one feels authentic to local culture, but also subtly radiates jet-setting glamour and accessible urban cool. It's pleasantly quirky, too.
Vikram Chatwal, the 40-year-old son of hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, is the brand's founder. Well known for his personal life and global gallivanting, he has achieved some success as a film actor, yet in person he is a gracious, chilled-out host. At the Dream's opening party, he kept a low profile. Nicky Hilton was in attendance, as were fire-eaters and models sporting teeny gold shorts and Marie Antoinette wigs. And did I mention the vodka popsicles? Delicious.
Located behind the former Versace mansion, the gorgeous Dream merges two historic art deco hotels, the Palmer House and the Tudor Hotel, which opened in 1939. While creating their French Moroccan concept, design house Architropolis honoured the site's architectural legacy and preserved many existing features (the former check-in desk of the Tudor, a stunning marble surface, now serves as the bar of the Tudor House restaurant). Adjacent to the restaurant is an exotic, bright orange Moroccan lounge, with plush fabrics, rugs and sofas. It's eye-popping.
The second building houses the lobby, and the hotel's main entrance is a lovely courtyard between the two that is landscaped with bamboo, fountains and an underlit pathway.
Designed with Vikram Chatwal in mind, lush fabrics make the ornate two-storey penthouse feel tastefully decadent. A marble table was built specifically to be danced upon, and a massive hookah pipe is fully functional. Yet the Dream's crowning jewel is its rooftop infinity pool and deck, which doubles as local hot spot Highbar.
To say these rooms are made for after-dark high jinks would be an understatement. When you first walk in, blue backlight hits you and the dim halogen lighting – while less than ideal for makeup application and other grooming – is soothing, otherworldly and sexy. Blackout curtains stretch twilight to 24 hours a day. The bed takes up most of the room, so comfy you might never want to wake up.
Separating the bathroom and entrance area from the bedroom are white mirrored double doors carved with an intricate Moroccan pattern that creates a "jewel box effect." Sparkly crystal chandeliers add to the fantasy.
Now, for the open-concept bathroom: The toilet and shower are on opposite sides of the narrow entrance hallway, and while the loo has a door that closes, only transparent glass separates the shower from the rest of the boudoir. It's sensual and beautiful, but don't bring your mom here, or anyone else you don't want to see naked.
If you manage to leave the compound, the Dream offers beach towels and chair service through the Boucher Brothers' stand on the sand. In-house, complete concierge services are available.
Warm and personal, yet professional. Staff was warm, gracious and eager to go beyond the call of duty to take care of you.
The Tudor House restaurant features simple American cuisine (with Mediterranean accents) and indoor and outdoor seating – its casual, airy ambience makes it as much neighbourhood beach café as fine-dining destination. The restaurant provides room service and takeout, and the dishes I sampled were fresh, light and flavourful.
Magical. Nothing like some art deco glamour paired with Eastern sensuality and humour to spice up your South Beach sojourn. Plus, Dream's ideal location makes its restaurant a local hangout. My only complaint? The Tudor building only has one (slow) elevator.
Special to The Globe and Mail