Miami – One of the worlds most popular holiday destinations and renowned for its fast cars, bikini clad girls, and flashy way of life. Made famous in the ‘80’s by the cop show Miami Vice, you may think Miami is not the place for you! Think again, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The Biltmore Hotel, a luxurious and historic five star Hotel in the elegant Coral Gables area of Miami, an architectural masterpiece, and a great alternative to the party-loving hotels over on South Beach. Built in 1926 the Biltmore was one of the most fashionable resorts in the entire country. Hosting royalty of both the European and Hollywood variety. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, The Roosevelt’s, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby were all frequent guests – The Biltmore was a Jazz Age celebration of continuous glamorous galas and pool parties.
Talking of pools, The Biltmore pool is in a league of its own – boasting one of the largest pools in the USA, measuring approximately 23,000 square feet, surrounded by sun loungers and private cabanas, hidden away amidst palms, hibiscus and bougainvillea. Each is elegantly furnished with teakwood chaises and loveseats, banana leaf ceiling fans, lounge chairs for sunbathing, and outdoor rain showers, making them a great place to lie back and sip cocktails.
There are 273 guest rooms at The Biltmore, these include 133 suites, My room a Tower Suite had spectacular views over the pool and lushly landscaped golf course. A vast space encompassing a separate living/dining room area with sofa and chairs, a writing desk and 42” LCD TV in addition to a second 32” LCD TV located in the bedroom, luxury stone-tiled floors wireless high-speed internet, mini bar and walk in wardrobe – everything here is on a grand scale with a mixture of luxury and traditional elegance.
The fete de accompanie of rooms though is the Everglades Suite, At the height of absolute luxury a two storey two bedroom suite that is a one-of a kind, featuring hand painted ceilings depicting scenes from Florida’s Everglades, a baby grand piano and a floor to ceiling stone fireplace that if you look closely you may just be able to spot the bullet holes left from the prohibition period, when rumour has it legendary gangster Al Capone took residence in this suite, an argument broke out with gangster Thomas J “Fatty” and Al Capone shot him dead!
The culinary delights are just as impressive as the rest of the hotel, offering four distinctive restaurants all offering world class cuisine and service that combined have created an internationally renowned culinary legacy – it’s a foodies heaven.
Whether it’s the green landscaped Fontana courtyard restaurant, with its lavish fountain and Mediterranean architecture serving guests a Northern Italian menu, the 19th Hole sports bar and grill, with panoramic views of the Biltmore’s Donald Ross Golf Course, the Palme d’Or French restaurant or Cascade, an al fresco restaurant offering poolside dining for lunch and afternoon tapas, the choice is yours.
There are 2 foodie experiences that if you stay at The Biltmore you MUST experience and I can’t decide which one is my favourite they are both jewels in the Biltmore’s Crown
Sunday Brunch is an extravagant affair, rated the number 1 brunch in South Florida. Serving delicacies such as, carved meats, fresh sushi, seafood, pastas, cheeses, salads, a caviar bar and so much more, washed down with champagne, champagne and more champagne (the champagne is bottomless). In case you hadn’t realized. This isn’t your ordinary brunch – you can sample everything you like (as many times as you like). Just a little word of warning – save space for dessert, prepared to perfection by executive pastry Chef Olivier Rodriguez. There are miniature offerings of all the classics including: tiramisu, carrot cake, chocolate mousse, crème Brule, strawberry tarts and lets not forget the chocolate fountain and even more champagne – A real feast to your senses. (Tip: wear loose fitting clothing!)
Can it get any better on this gastronomic journey, Oh I do believe so with a visit to the award-winning Palme d’Or French restaurant, reminiscent of a1920s-era dining room decked out with tropical foliage and flowers, with mirrored columns and ornate light fixtures. The best way to experience the different dishes is to indulge in a tasting menu; a sensory experience of culinary delights, taking you on a journey of perfectly paired flavours.
I have to point out, I’m not a lover of French food, so I was a little apprehensive at the six-course menu I was about to embark on. That fear however disappeared as soon as I started my culinary journey with an Amuse Bouche of avocado, caviar and apple followed by La Terrine De Foie Gras Aux Kumquat (Foie gras terrine, Kumquat chutney, granola and brioche toast) it literally melted in my mouth – an absolute delight to eat as was the rest of the dishes that followed, including the Le Cabillaud D’Alaska (Alaskan Black Cod) and Le Poulpe de Mediterranee (Spanish Octopus). Service and presentation was faultless. Each dish was divine and created a real explosion of textures and tastes that were exquisite to the taste buds – to finish was Black Forest Gateaux – how can this look spectacular? Simple, you make it look like a work of art that tasted just a s good as it looked.
The Biltmore’s reputation for exquisite cuisine is further added to with their Biltmore Culinary Academy – the only recreational cooking school of its kind operating in North America. Taking place in a fully equipped professional kitchen it is great fun for adults and kids alike, allowing you to showcase your cooking skills and create a delicious meal under the guidance and watchful eyes of the chef.
No trip to Miami, would be complete without a visit to the Everglades National Park, lush subtropical wetlands that occupy 1.5 million acres of sawgrass prairies, hardwood hammocks, saltwater marshes and a diverse population of wildlife that includes bald eagles, white-tailed deer, and of course the alligator.
Having recently partnered with Dragonfly Expeditions, the Biltmore can offer guests a bespoke selection of excursions that showcase Miami’s culture and history. Each tailor-made adventure unveils an unexpected and “wild’’ place in Miami where few visitors typically venture to.
If you only do one excursion it has to be the Everglades airboat tour. The airboat takes you several miles into the Everglades with the wind in your hair and your headphones on (to drown out the noise of the airbus), you bounce up and down as you speed along marshlands catching glimpses of alligators as they pop their heads out of the water to say hello!
We stopped at a couple of remote Miccosukee island camps, where our guide let us get up close and personal to a baby alligator (how brave was I at holding it) and a little turtle that looked so cute until our guide told us he was a snapping turtle and would snap your hand off in the blink of an eye, something he demonstrated with a piece of wood. Hopping back on the airbus our next island was where we got to learn all about the Miccosukee families (a Native American tribe) and how they have lived for years on these remote islands, protecting the heritage that they believe in.
The was a truly exhilarating experience, that not only gave an insight into Miami’s wild side, but also gave you chance to admire the beauty of an unrivalled landscape.
After all this exploring, what better way to relax than a visit to The Biltmore Spa, situated on a high floor in the hotel, offering a tranquil escape with an array of treatments to choose from. It seemed only right that I should opt for the hotel’s signature Chardonnay massage, that uses Swedish techniques to increase circulation, reduce tension and induce deep relaxation. Featuring French Chardonnay grape seed oil, one of the most powerful antioxidants found in nature, this proved to be a truly blissful experience.
If you’re feeling a little more energetic than me you can always pay a visit to the state-of-the-art Fitness Center that has separate areas dedicated to different components of fitness, it serves as one of the most prestigious health clubs in the affluent Coral Gables neighbourhood.
It is easy to see why The Biltmore Hotel is at the top end of elegance; there is 5 star luxury everywhere you turn, making it the perfect escape for those seeking an elegant retreat in palatial surroundings.
Enjoy 4 nights for the price of 3 at The Biltmore Hotel in a Tower Suite Including daily breakfast based on two people sharing in September 2017. Taxes and resort fees are excluded.
British Airways return flights to Miami from Heathrow Airport start from £575 per person in September 2017.