By Hope Katz Gibbs
Inkandescent Public Relations
When I opened our new Inkandescent Public Relations office in Miami in April 2011, I wanted to stay in a hotel that faced the ocean, had a balcony, and would let me do a little entertaining of our new employees and potential clients.
My first pick: The Eden Roc on Miami Beach, which has been run by general manager Greg Cook since 2009. What appealed to me was the fascinating history of this five-decades-old establishment at 45th Street and Collins Avenue on Miami Beach, which has attracted such notables as Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Sean Connery, Barbra Streisand, George Clooney, and Madonna.
Of course, before plunking down a small king’s ransom to reserve a room with a beachfront balcony, you’ll want to scroll down to “reservations” for information about staying at The Eden Roc. But first, here’s a look into the fascinating past of this luxury resort.
The Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach, a Marriott International property, was originally designed by famed architect Morris Lapidus, who also designed the Fontainebleau next door and the Americana Hotel (which is now the Sheraton Bal Harbour).
Back in the 1950s, he was a newcomer to hotel design, having spent 20 years (1929 to 1949) specializing in the design of retail storefronts, including Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.
When he met Miami Beach real-estate moguls Ben Novack and Harry Mufson, all that changed. The pair was planning to build a monument of a property called the Fontainebleau, and although they had been presented with a design from another architect, they weren’t pleased with it. After their first meeting with Lapidus, he was hired on the spot and soon began crafting a design with giant, sweeping curves that would thereafter become his trademark.
Soon after, Mufson bought the property next door. Then known as the Warner Estate (it belonged to one of the Warner Brothers), he promised to build an even grander property, which he planned to call Eden Roc. In doing so, however, he made an enemy of his former partner. What’s more, Mufson is said to have told Lapidus: “I don’t want any of that French stuff you used at the Fontainebleau. That’s for kids.”
To research the new project, Lapidus traveled to the elegant Eden Roc in France, which was one of the Kennedy family’s favorite vacation spots. While touring Europe, he purchased statues, marble, and Venetian glassware for use in designing the hotel that would later be deemed a vision of the Italian Renaissance.
The Stuff of Legend
Completed in 1956, The Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach is now regarded as Lapidus’ most lavish design. In the years since, it has attracted a steady stream of celebrities of the day—some of whom have had rooms named for them.
For instance, guests can request the “Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Suite,” where the Hollywood couple stayed while filming several episodes of “I Love Lucy.”
All of this attention, however, didn’t sit well with Mufson’s old business partner. In a jealous rage, he erected what today is known in the community and the legal books as the “Spite Wall,” a 17-story building on the northern edge of the Fontainebleau property line.
Lore has it that the 365-room structure was built with the sole purpose of casting a shadow over The Eden Roc’s pool area by noon during the winter months. It had no windows or balconies facing The Eden Roc, except for one: Ben Novack’s apartment.
In the spirit of tit-for-tat, the Spite Wall controversy gave rise to the construction of The Eden Roc’s second pool, located seaside on the northeast corner of the property, as well as its lavish restoration and the construction of a new 21-Story Ocean Tower. Touché.
Indeed, these new rooms are actually suites, complete with sitting areas, nicely appointed desks that are perfect for those who need to work while away from home, and bathrooms featuring Jacuzzi tubs.
Like many beachfront hotels on Miami Beach, rooms range from $309 to $550-plus a night, but there are deals to be found—especially during the off season.
Regardless, be careful about the date you choose to travel to Miami Beach. Unless you are looking to be part of a giant party—be sure to ask if conference or convention attendees have reserved the bulk of the rooms. Also avoid the major holidays like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and especially Spring Break.
I made that mistake, but fortunately, it was the last night of Spring Break when I checked into the hotel. So despite explicitly reserving a room with an ocean view—I was assigned a room on the 6th floor, next to the elevator, with no ocean view. And it was a Saturday night. After an hour of trying to muster through, I finally called the front desk.
“This is like trying to sleep in a train station—next to the track,” I cried. It took about an hour, but by 1 a.m. I was moved to another room on the 4th floor. While big, clean, and with a great view of the Collins Canal, this one was facing busy Collins Avenue, a thoroughfare with persistent traffic.
With another promise to find me an ocean-view room in the morning, I finally fell asleep. At 1:30 a.m., however, I found myself getting acquainted with my hotel neighbors as we stood on Collins Ave., waiting for the fire bells to stop ringing. Apparently, a college student had pulled the alarm.
True to their word, the next morning I checked in with the front desk and the receptionist had indeed found me the room I had requested.
As I turned the key in the lock, and walked into my new room, all frustration melted away. A giant king-size bed covered with a white duvet cover sat in the middle of the room, facing the big, blue Atlantic Ocean.
The only thing between me and the sea was a large balcony complete with a comfortable purple sofa and divan, chair, and small table perfect for working at. I was home.
Now, it was time for lunch.
Eating out at any hotel is never a cheap proposition, and that’s certainly the case at The Eden Roc.
Choose from two restaurants—the uber fancy, crazy expensive “1500”; or the poolside “Cabana Beach Club,” which isn’t cheap either, but the view of the aqua blue Atlantic couldn’t be better.
Also on-site is an insanely chic “see-and-be-seen” bar, which sits in the center of the lobby. Just inside the front door there’s also a full-service Starbucks, perfect for the hangover you are certain to get after a night spent partying on Miami Beach.
So cast aside your frugal ways, and try them all. After all, you are on vacation!
Eclectic: Complete with overpriced contemporary cocktails and gourmet bar food, this Hollywood Glam bar feels like a set out of a 1950s film. What makes this a “must-have-a-drink here” hotspot is the fact that you never know whom you might meet. When my Miami Art Director Cindy Seip and I sidled up to the white lacquer bar top late on a Sunday night, we happened to sit next to a physicist from Boston who shared his twist on Richard Feynman’s theory of quantum electrodynamics. Whodathunk?
The Cabana: If you are mixing work with pleasure, the Cabana restaurant is a great spot to bring your laptop and get a little sun, as you enjoy the signature Cobb Salad (a personal favorite). Known for its other “Floribbean” cuisine, additional recommendations include the Caesar Salad with Grilled Salmon (huge and delicious), or the Grilled Jumbo Shrimp, which includes five large marinated shrimp on a bed of rice with mango salsa on the side. Wine starts at $9 per glass, and the bartender’s signature cocktails, starting at $10 each, are worth trying. Happy Hour starts at 4, and there is live entertainment Thursday through Sunday.
1500°: If money is no object, reserve a table at this beautifully appointed hotel restaurant, which is run by TV’s Hell’s Kitchen celebrity chef Paula DaSilva. Guests sit beneath hand-blown chandeliers and fresh sunflowers, as they choose from items on a menu that changes daily and according to season. Small-plate offerings ($6-$9) range from roasted beets with seared goat cheese, and jumbo lump crab cakes with cilantro slaw and Old Bay aioli, to charred baby Brussels sprouts with mustard sauce and teriyaki beef skewers. Those seeking a steak ($24-$94) will find eight selections from which to choose. Main plates ($25-$42) include Florida red snapper with mushroom risotto, wilted arugula and aged saba vinegar; locally raised half-chicken, cooked on the rotisserie, served with Carolina rice, black bean puree, and mustard greens; hickory rubbed Palmetto Creek Farms pork-loin chop with creamy polenta and roasted lobster with celery root puree, hearts of palm, and Florida fruit salsa. There’s also an ever-changing, three-course chef’s tasting menu, priced at $35 per person/$45, which is served with paired wines.
For more, visit www.edenrocmiami.com.
Photos courtesy of Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach.