The phrase “historic grande dame” can be overused, but this elegant señora with a tower modeled after Seville’s famous Giralda fits it to a T. The imposing neo-Spanish-colonial pile, rising regally over a 150-acre Coral Gables spread and dating back to city founder George Merrick’s original plan in 1926, has seen a lot of history (glamorous and otherwise) since, to this day regularly hosting heads of states, CEOs, and celebrities. Backdrops include the huge, statue-lined pool and atmospheric period lobby with columns, bird cages, and ceilings part coffered, part star-spangled (you might well stumble across a boldface name, or at least a semi-celeb; on my last visit it was a pair of cable news talking heads, lunching poolside). Room decor is classic, in keeping with the vintage feel of the place, but amenities are certainly up to date. The serpentine basement gym in particular boasts the latest equipment and one of the buzzier hotel gym scenes I’ve seen, thanks to local members. The courtyard restaurant is a charmer, with a Sunday brunch known as one of South Florida’s best. The classy Palme d’Or, meanwhile, does a creative job with la cuisine française under chef Gregory Pugin, a veteran of Joël Robuchon and Le Cirque, whose signature concoctions—such as a sea urchin, fennel, ginger, and lemongrass gelée—are a revelation.
- David Paul Appell