Soho House first took cool to the English countryside; now it's injected its sex appeal into the seaside. OK, so South Beach was never lacking in allure – graced with vacationing celebrities and supermodels, glittering clubs and gourmet restaurants – but what’s the harm in a heaped serving of laid-back London nonchalance on the Miami scene? Five years in the making – the restoration of the art deco Sovereign Hotel by the Soho House Group was a Herculean task. But worth the wait.
Our cab pulls up and the exterior impresses. As we enter, we get the same reassuring feeling of familiarity and comfort you experience when you see a future home for the first time and know instantly it’s the one. In spite of checking in at the tail-end of a fire drill, we are shown to ocean view room with good cheer and efficiency. And boy what a room – it’s larger than most New York apartments.
Here art deco meets old world Havana with colourful floor tiles, vintage dusky patterned fabrics, a happy miscellany of ornaments and interesting books, and a huge mirrored Thirties’ bar so glamorous and enticingly well-stocked, it would challenge the staunchest Mormon. A beamed concrete ceiling somehow works perfectly, and a sliding door reveals a marble bathroom that is also more sizeable than many Manhattan pads. The wet room and freestanding bathtub are flanked by an antique wardrobe, drawers and leather armchair, and an abundance of Cowshed products adorns every surface. We’ll take it. And Dorian Grey portraits must lurk somewhere, because even with all eight lights on full, Mr Smith agrees we both still appear 10 years younger. Or maybe that is just the booze haze courtesy of the aforementioned bar, with its cocktail list imploring one to enjoy ‘One While Changing’ to be mixed by an in-room bartender.
The quirky attention to detail proliferates. A wood-panelled drawing room houses an extensive art collection curated by ‘Dazed & Confused’ art editor Francesca Gavin, not to mention a grand piano and Cuban coffee bar (boasting numerous cigars, naturally). Amenities are in abundance. Cecconi’s is the main restaurant, set here amid olive trees, particularly magical at night with sparkling lights intertwined with the branches, and live jazz that inspires spontaneous sporadic applause.
The Italian eatery is open to the general public, but hotel guests have exclusive access to members-only sanctuaries in the Snug Screening Room (which shows the latest releases), a plunge pool on the eighth floor, the Cowshed Spa and Gym, the Club Bar, and the Tiki Bar that sits amid a lush garden that appears as though it’s been there for years. Both are but a step away from the 100-foot pool and the white sands of South Beach. Here there are numerous swings and beds, and just as many waiters to personably and speedily tend to our every need (although we hear they’re thinner on the ground during the week). Beware the security: it’s no joke, with paparazzi constantly skulking around the back, so ensure you have your keycard at all times.
After a day of pure relaxation on sand and by pool, we’re drawn to the burgeoning art scene of the Design District. As the sun set, the folks come out in droves to line the streets. And it’s all about the street: street food, street turntables, folks rapping and scratching, and of course: street art, with Futura and Shepard Fairey the stars of this wonderful carnival. Their large-scale murals adorn the walls of the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar – especially worth a visit on nights that they have music or art performances on their huge patio. Just down the road, the Rubell Collection is a must for the more serious art collector, and the playful FriendsWithYou’s Studio & Boutique, the darlings of the art fairs, bring out the inner child in all.
A full body massage in the Cowshed Spa is as outstanding a start to a Sunday as I’ve known – with a speedy mani/pedi perfect for anyone keen to get outdoors. The shops on Lincoln Road and lower end of Collins Avenue beckon today. The cab ride is 10 minutes, but we opt for a 45-minute stroll along the leafy boardwalk perusing the hotels backing onto the beach. Appetite worked up, we stop at the Blue Door at the Delano. Cool monochromatic silver elegance, it’s all mirrors, candles and billowing white curtains – the perfect backdrop to a staggering meal from French chef by way of Brazil, Claude Troisgros. Beef tenderloin and Beaujolais-poached pear are sustenance for the big shop at Barneys Co-op, Taschen and Kiehl’s. Two stores exclusive to Miami which grab our attention are Base, owned by British tastemaker Stephen Giles, and the Webster, a vast luxury multi-brand boutique in a renovated deco hotel, with acclaimed Parisian restaurant Caviar Kaspia, and a gallery for pop-ups and special events.
If it’s a flashy events programme you’re after, you needn’t stray far. Back at the Beach House there’s twice-daily yoga, kid’s art, cookery, photography and literary talks, wine-tasting and tattooing with the charismatic Darren Brass from TV show ‘Miami Ink’. There’s even a splash of WI thanks to a flower-arranging tutorial. But the activities are unobtrusive. If you like to socialise and make friend, you’ve found the Holy Grail; equally if you want to focus and fly solo, it’s just as easy and acceptable to keep to yourself.
So what distinguishes Soho Beach House on SoBe? ‘It’s understated nobility,’ offers Mr Smith. Indeed, in spite of being a members’ club, or perhaps because of it, this hip hotel manages to avoid the ostentatious high-heeled, silicone-pumped set. The clientele is as wonderfully eclectic as the decor: literary and arty types sit alongside actors, musicians, families with kids, and folks of all age, race and demographic, and no one seems to have anything to prove. British roots, Miami setting, sultry Latino flair: Soho Beach House could teach classes in cosmopolitan cool.