And to go with the pretty pictures and video, here's our experience of SLS South Beach in a nutshell of pros and cons:
Design Plus Comfort: Often, design-driven hotels are anything but cozy and user-friendly. This is an exception. The entry-level rooms are small, but they make good use of space, and we never felt claustrophobic. Two people can happily co-exist—as long as you're close. In other words, it's not really for sharing with a colleague. (Unless you want to try out that ceiling mirror with said person.)
The day bed: This made the room seem larger in a weird way, by giving you more options for sitting, curling up to watch TV, work, or even nap on. Ours did not have the pretty striped cushions we saw in photos on the SLS website. But we did spy them through the door of other rooms.
The Ciel Spa amenities: A sophisticated, spicy, fresh scent. A new instant favorite.
Friendly service: From check-in to phone calls from Guest Services checking that our room was OK to the restaurant and pool staff outside, everyone was warm and approachable. No too-for-school attitude whatsoever. Not all boutique hotels with this much buzz can say the same. We hope everyone is just as friendly in six months time when they've settled in.
The Food: But more on that soon!
The Cocktails: Likewise!
The Location: A block from Lincoln Road, with beachfront access. You can't get better than that.
No iPad in our Room: We didn't have an iPad in our room. Since we failed to remember that they were promoted as in-room feature on the hotel website, we didn't even realize it was missing so didn't call to ask for one. We did wonder where the hell the 'hotel guide' book was, and even looked for it on the TV, since some hotels keep that info there. But no luck. Bummer. We expect this was just an opening weekend glitch but hope it doesn't happen to anyone else. We hear from friends who experienced the iPad that you can order room service from it, make other special requests, or just peruse hotel restaurant deets and other local info. Plus, you can use it as a regular iPad and even take it to the pool with you.
Beach Chair & Umbrella rental: It's $25 a piece, unless you're VIP enough for them to waive the fee.
Spotty WiFi access: Well, it was free. That's music to our ears. We had to call the front desk to get a password, which worked fine the first time we used our (personal) iPad, which we brought along. But later on, the same password failed to work. We tried several times and called to see if they'd changed the password. Nope. The hotel was sending someone up to assist us, when—voila!—the original password worked again. Isn't that always the way?
No Lobby Hang Out Space: When you walk up the red carpeted stairs and the doormen welcome you inside, you basically enter The Bazaar by Jose Andres immediately. There is no lobby as such—you take a hard left from the front door into the alcove room housing the Front Desk. (Which is very cute and camp-inspired, as promised.) The room you walk into is the Rojas Room of The Bazaar, and you can see the open kitchen beyond the bar. Staff seemed quite happy for people to mill about here when waiting for someone but it's not the same as having a regular, large lobby space to hang out in, check your email, or spend any serious length of time. Assuming there was space available, you could however do this on The Bazaar Terrace, outside.
The Bottom Line: SLS South Beach is a welcome addition to the Miami scene, and manages to be both comfortable and sexy. If it can maintain its laidback vibe, we'd happily stay here again. The pricing may seem a little high, but it's on par with its competitors in the boutique beachfront category. New is always good, and as you'll see when we get to it, the Jose Andres and Katsuya cuisine alone gives SLS a huge edge over its neighbors.
We paid the special Amex rate of $381.36 including tax for a City View King Room.
[Video & photos: HotelChatter]