Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
This style-heavy hotel attracts a young, trendy crowd.
With the help of $45 million, celebrity designer Philippe Stark has transformed this historic Art Deco building on Collins Avenue into an oddball dream world. The property’s daring new design may dazzle -- and possibly overwhelm -- the senses with a patchwork of competing styles. The reception area feels like a woodsy lodge with an oak check-in desk, kayak light fixture, and vintage camp photos on the walls. Steps away, a restaurant features a mounted bull’s head wearing a hot pink mask, walls covered with calligraphy, and black and white headshots of unspecified women. The stylistic mishmash gets even stranger upstairs, where the hallways are painted pitch black, and the rooms are almost pure white with classical French flourishes.
The hotel’s edgy style, high-profile restaurants, and hot spot pool scene appeal to a young, affluent crowd. So far, the SLS has attracted celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Derek Jeter, Rumer Willis (who performed with her band during the opening party), and Lenny Kravitz, who designed two of the penthouses. The small, sexy rooms -- with two-person occupancy limits and mirrors above the beds -- clearly weren’t designed for families.
Despite the media hype surrounding its opening, the the sexy party scene that Philippe Starck envisioned, with guests dancing on tables, isn't the daily norm. But if the scene hasn't heated up yet, guests can head to the pools at other nearby hotels, such as the hopping Delano next door -- also designed by Starck.
An ideal location right on the beach and a short walk from South Beach's many bars, restaurants, and clubs.
The hotel is located right on the beach, in the center of Miami's Art Deco Historic District. The area is packed in every direction with dozens of bars, restaurants, and attractions, all within easy walking distance. Some of South Beach's best dining, drinking, and shopping can also be found at the Lincoln Road outdoor mall, just two blocks away.
To the north are popular, high-end nightclubs at hotels such as The Perry or Fontainebleau, along with some of Miami's most exclusive clubs, such as Mokai. To the south, things get less exclusive and more populist along the famed Ocean Drive, with its busy boardwalk, outdoor bars and cafes, and more affordable boutique hotels.
All-white rooms are lovely, but small.
Nine of the hotel’s 14 room types have less than 270 square feet of space -- remarkably small for the price -- plus tiny bathrooms. There are also no closets to speak of. The Surfcomber Hotel, next door, has the same size rooms at about a third of the cost, but they lack the novelty of being designed by Philippe Starck.
Larger rooms -- Suites, Penthouses, and Villas -- run from 504 square feet to 1,117 square feet, but they come with a hefty price tag (two of the penthouses were designed by Lenny Kravitz, after all).
The strikingly white rooms come with sexy flourishes, such as mirrors above the beds and snacks in boxes labeled “saints” and “sinner.” Other highlights include flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, iPads with SLS Hotel mobile apps, and well-stocked minibars with over a dozen types of liquor, beer, and wine. The rooms’ wallpaper and chandeliers are reminiscent of aristocratic French decor. The bathrooms are tiny and sleek, with showers that have especially nice rain showerheads.
Rooms fit a maximum of two guests. Less than half the rooms face the ocean, so guests that want a good view should book early.
Two large pools with pricey cabanas and high-end bars
The Guest Pool is lined with comfy lounge chairs and features a 10-foot-tall ducky statue. It also has two types of cabanas for rent: simple white canopies with privacy curtains and sofas, and 600-square-foot lounges that are larger -- and more expensive -- than most of the hotel’s guestrooms.
Beyond the Guest Pool lies Hyde Beach -- a pricey, exclusive lounge with a pool, bar, and artificial beach area with sand. Designer Philippe Starck described his vision for Hyde Beach as “a sexy hell where beautiful bad girls and bad boys are dancing on the chairs, on tables, drowned in the music, in the heat, in the sweat.” As lovely as that sounds, I didn’t see any sweaty people dancing on furniture during my visit. A few people sipped on cocktails in the bohemian Hyde Beach Bar, while the pool area was mostly deserted. Then again, it was a Wednesday afternoon.
Guests can order from a poolside menu offering burgers, ceviche, fruit platters, “cocktail push pops,” and an assortment of rolls from Katsuya. At night Bar Centro opens next to the Guest Pool, providing more options for food and cocktails.
Both pools open late, so don’t count on an early morning swim.
Modern fitness equipment and classes on the beach
Three restaurants and two bars are trendy and expensive.
Jose Andres, a well-known Spanish chef, is the mastermind behind most of the food at SLS. The Bazaar and Terrace restaurants serve his dishes, and -- rather confusingly -- The Bazaar (which is only open for dinner) also serves “food by Jose Andres” during the day.
The only restaurant not overseen by Andres is Katsuya, which is the creation of sushi chef Katsuya Uechi. It is open for dinner and serves sushi and hot dishes such as chicken teriyaki and lobster.
The Bazaar serves a blend of gourmet Asian, Spanish, and Latin foods. Typical dishes include delicacies such as bone marrow with truffles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with foie gras, and Japanese eel tacos.
Bar Centro is located outside, next to the Guest Pool. It opens in the evenings and serves a limited menu from The Bazaar. Many of its pricey specialty cocktails go the distance to be unique, such as its caipirinhas with sugar frozen by liquid nitrogen and margaritas with not salt but a “salt air” infusion.
The Terrace restaurant is located at the front of the hotel and is open for breakfast and lunch. It serves an expensive breakfast buffet, typical breakfast foods, sandwiches, and fancy lunch specialties such as “Wild Alaskan Salmon Veracruzana.”
Poolside massages, a beauty salon, and free beach chairs
Since its star-studded opening party in November 2012, the SLS South Beach has become a hot hotel to see and be seen in Miami. The 140-room property features direct beach access, two large pools, two high-profile restaurants, two bars, and a great address on swank Collins Avenue. Celebrity designers Philippe Starck and Lenny Kravitz designed the rooms, which are stylish and sexy, but remarkably small for the price. The Surfcomber Hotel, next door, has the same size rooms at about a third of the cost. Still, the SLS isn’t about relaxing inside -- it’s about soaking up the scene at the pools, restaurants, and beach.
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