If there is one thing I have learned since my son left for college, it’s that food and a great hotel are the right combo to get him to hang out with us more when we visit him at school.
Wyndham’s newly restored jewel on Collins Avenue, the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach, is art-deco hip and South Beach cool. It is beachfront (or beachback really), and close to the famed Lincoln Road restaurants and shopping.
Everything about the Shelborne is cool: the hotel’s restaurant: Morimoto South Beach, owned by Iron Chef’s Morimoto, the Drawing Room Bar-Apothecary with spirited prescriptions created by Albert Trummer, the uniforms worn by the staff – designed by Hollywood costumer, Carol Ramsey, even the marketing manager, Jonathan, who came from hotel royalty to open the Shelborne.
Jonathan made it clear that the Shelborne was not renovated, it was restored. In 2014, the foyer and communal areas were all restored to 1940s Art Deco elegance. During the restoration they discovered art in the walls, literally. The shell that the hotel was likely named for had been covered in previous remodels.
The round couch in the library doubles as a quiet sanctuary to read and escape the heat and a hopping happy hour in the evening where locals and tourists came to fill their prescriptions at the Apothecary.
The Bar, aka Albert Trummers Apothecary
This bar is worth a visit whether or not you are staying at the Shelborne. Ingenious and original, the drinks are created with botanicals, herbs and elixirs in such a way that you believe one more cocktail will be good for you. Have a pain in our shoulder? A headache? Albert has just the right prescription.
On the list of Prescriptions, under House Medicine, then Health & Beauty, I chose the Shooting Star: a shaken mix of La Carvelle Champagne, aloe vera and whatever is in Elixir #4. It was delicious: mildly bubbly, not overly sweet and very refreshing.
If you are already feeling healthy and beautiful, you can choose from Pain Killers, Stress Relievers, Aphrodisiacs, Pharmaceuticals or a House Remedy that will be customized to cure your particular ailment.
Shelborne Grand Food
All food in the hotel, including the small café in the foyer, the poolside restaurant, room service and of course Morimoto’s signature restaurant, is overseen by Morimoto himself. That would explain the best gelato we tasted in South Beach and the tender and tasty rock shrimp tacos I ate at the bar. Of course the tacos were paired nicely with my watermelon elixir.
Shelborne Pool & Blue Harmony Spa
The pool is the only part of the hotel that did not need restoration. The 1940s diving board was left alone, maintaining a vibe that conjures images of high-waisted bikinis and bathing caps. The Shelborne offers food, drinks at the pool plus chair service at the beach, which is just out the back gate, behind the pool.
My daughter and I shared a mother daughter spa experience at Blue Harmony, which is down the spiral staircase on the lower level. The spa is on the small side and we did not have time to check out the relaxation room. Rose, an experienced massage therapist, provided my signature aromatherapy massage and my daughter’s teen facial (that included a neck and shoulder massage). We both gave Rose a thumbs up for making us comfortable and for providing excellent services.
Hidden Gem: On-Site Cabanas
Whether you’re a guest of Shelborne Wyndham Grand or not, you can head poolside and rent a cabana for the day. The cost is $250, which may sound a little steep, but it really isn’t when you realize that spending that amount at the cabana will completely cancel out the cost of the rental. If you prefer top shelf liquor the price can raise to $600.
What I loved about the cabana? Two separate areas (indoor and outdoor) for relaxing. The indoor room is air-conditioned- great for when the kids need a nap or you simply want to get out of the sun and read- and offers a private bathroom and shower area complete with toiletries like shampoo and other bath needs. It was perfect for my needs on the last day of my visit: instead of lugging my suitcase around town I hung out in a cabana and got a taste of the beach without having to step one foot into the sand.
Shelborne Hotel Rooms
Think Mad Men. Art Deco wallpaper accents, martini shaker and bar supplies, sleek lines and warm colors. The double queen room is big enough for a family of 4 and the bathroom is spacious, but I was glad to be able to spread out with 2 connecting rooms. We did not have a view but there were pool and ocean view options.
What I Didn’t Love
I was disappointed that the Apothecary bartender offered me a soda when I asked him for a virgin version of one of the prescriptions. He said there were no virgin options.
Planning for traffic. The location is perfect for everything EXCEPT college visits. It is not that far from the university but with notorious Miami traffic, it took us an average of 45 minutes to get to the University of Miami campus. The train is a decent option but it does not go all the way to South Beach from Coral Gables; you either have to catch a connecting bus or tram or take an Uber part of the way. That doesn’t count out the Sherlborne, just know that the real cost of fabulous restaurants and shopping is dealing with traffic on your way to campus.
We ended up spending very little time on campus and on the last day of our stay, we misjudged the traffic, which threw off our schedule. My daughter’s afternoon tour was cut short so that my son could make his tee time and we could hit the road to our next destination before the crush of rush hour traffic.
If you are going to Miami to visit someone at the U, don’t count out staying in South Beach, but do plan for it. Traffic consumes time you could spend together.
The Shelborne Grand gives new perception to the Wyndham brand. I have stayed in Wyndham hotels several times, mostly for business and it’s always been a comfortable and well priced option. I was not expecting the refined design and chic styling of the Shelborne. The history of the hotel, the shell, the restoration process and attention to detail makes the hotel stay an adventure.
The concierge knew every restaurant and correctly sized us up immediately as tourists who love local favorites, suggesting fab Peruvian hot spots that would not break the budget. The Shelborne is perfectly located blocks from Lincoln Avenue, and the beach and the boardwalk are directly behind the hotel. It’s a foodie’s beach dream and the room rates are comparable to other upscale locations on Collins Avenue.
Even if it costs a little more to stay here, do it. It captures the essence of art deco, South Beach in high style.