Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Thompson Miami

19 Feb 2016 by Jenny Southan

BACKGROUND

Dating back to the 1940s, the sizeable hotel has since had two extensions – one built in the 1950s and a second in 2007. After a US$80 million revamp (it was previously the Crown at Miami Beach – the original sign can still be seen outside) it opened as the Thompson in November 2014.

Anyone who’s stayed at a Thompson hotel before (there are ten others including properties in Toronto and Chicago) will know that the brand has an emphasis on nightlife, so if you are looking for peace and quiet this might not be the best option. That said, this is Miami Beach, so there’s no escape. You may as well embrace it (the rooms are well soundproofed).

To read a review of the Thompson Toronto, click here.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Unlike many top-end hotels such as the nearby Marriott Edition and chic 1 Hotel South Beach, the Thompson doesn’t infuse the lobby with a signature scent. (After spending time in these two hotels I thought the fresh fragrances improved the arrival experience.) The Thompson, on the other hand, has a faint smell of cooking wafting from its restaurants.

The interiors have been designed by Martin Brudnizki, who also did Sexy Fish restaurant in London and Soho Beach House in Miami (among many other prestigious projects). The design studio describes the property as presenting “a strikingly vibrant bohemian-beach chic concept that re-establishes the ideals of 1950s glamour”.

It says: “Located in a building that is one part art deco, one part Miami Modernism, one part 21st Century design and with a touch of Spanish revival, the interior reflects a rich architectural history. The design takes influences from the mid-century resort style of the city’s heyday and fuses it with the texture, colour and comfort of the tropics to create a stylish and eclectic Miami Beach look.”

There were aspects of the hotel that I really liked, such as the buzzing pool area at the back and Seagrape restaurant’s al fresco terrace, but something about the retro design of the rooms simply felt outdated. The colours are deliberately faded (pale yellows, sea greens and golds) but the bold patterned curtains, mismatched floral upholstery and vintage-style hardwood furniture in the bedrooms contributed to an aesthetic I didn’t quite warm too.

I could appreciate the intentions behind it, though, and if staying in a room with a sea view, the effect could work better (I was on the side of the tall building). Everything was immaculate and interiors finished to a high standard so it’s probably a matter of personal taste.

WHERE IS IT?

On Collins Avenue, the long north-south road that runs all the way down Miami Beach, by the sea. Like the many other hotels lined up along this stretch, they have access from both the street, where you will be dropped off by car, and the beachside boardwalk on the other side, for pedestrians.

It is about 20 minutes’ drive from Miami International airport. Overnight valet parking is US$39, while day use is US$25. You can come and go as much as you please within this timeframe at no extra cost.

ROOM FACILITIES

Room are spread across all three parts of the building, with the North Tower featuring 16 floors, the new South Tower with 12 and the 1950s Tower with ten. Each block is connected by internal corridors and accessed by separate lifts. Some rooms have sea views, while others have partial or city vistas. Although freshly revamped, the kitsch décor is styled to evoke another era, with yellow diamond-patterned carpets, dark blue curtains and custom-made drinks trolleys in the 380 rooms and suites.

Entry-level Deluxe rooms are 23 sqm and have city views, minibars, laptop safes, workdesks, 42-inch flatscreen TVs, beds bed up with 400-threadcount Sferra sheets, and tiled bathrooms (fairly small) with rainshowers and bathrobes. Higher category rooms offer the same facilities but more space and/or better views and balconies.

I was pleased to find my Partial Oceanview room came with a balcony just big enough for a couple of chairs – if you sleep with the door open, beware that you will likely be woken in the early hours of the morning by the sound of rubbish trucks. The beds are firm and comfy though, and there is air conditioning if you prefer to use that. What was really handy was integrated USB sockets by the bed for charging devices. I was impressed by how friendly the luggage porter who brought my case to my room was.

A US$25 per night resort fee includes beach lounges, basic wifi (high-speed is US$9.95), newspapers and fitness classes.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS

For civilised meals with clients, there is Seagrape, a softly lit open-plan restaurant off the lobby (partitioned by an ugly wall of breeze blocks) with a sunny al fresco terrace (it has an awning over the top so you can sit out here in the rain). Decked out with Scandi chairs with mint-green cushions, wooden tables and baby olive trees in pots, it has a lovely garden feel to it. (However, the lighting was far too bright in the evening – it would have been more atmospheric with lanterns or candles.)

Seagrape’s “Floridian brasserie” menu has been created by award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein. I didn’t have the chance to eat dinner here but in the morning I had an outstanding a la carte breakfast (bagels with cream cheese, house-made granola, yoghurt and fresh berries). Other options include Bourbon vanilla French toast with blueberry compote; egg white frittata with avocado, tomatoes and spinach on multi-grain toast; and an epic-looking breakfast burrito with chicken chorizo, scrambled egg and Jack cheese. My waitress was a delight.

In the evening I returned for a Frozen Margarita Picosa made with Avion Silver tequila, Canton ginger liqueur, agave syrup, lime and cayenne pepper. (Note that there is a happy hour Monday to Friday from 5pm to 7pm when beer is US$5 and cocktails US$7.) You can also retreat to the cosy embrace of 1930s House. It’s a historic bungalow (pictured below) that is now an event space and bar. It also has an outdoor terrace by the pool area.

Talde, meanwhile, dishes up casual Asian-American street food in a dark, graffiti-splashed venue off the right-hand side of the lobby. You enter through a passage designed to look like a derelict alley and enter into a heaving, hipster-style restaurant rich with the umami-aromas of wonton ramen and Korean fried chicken.

It doesn’t feel like its part of the hotel, and appears to do well in attracting locals and guests alike. On the Friday night I ate there it was really noisy – in fact, just as my food was served, a girl at the table next to me decided to give a speech (over the volume of a DJ set) giving a gory account of the birth of her son.

Determined not to be put off, I ordered the yuzu guacamole, which was a fantastic creation, served on pillows of fried sushi rice (crisp on the outside, chewy in the middle) and topped with slivers of dried seaweed (US$13). I also sampled the samosas filled with sweet peas and served with kaffir lime yoghurt and golden raisin chutney (US$11). Dishes are designed to share and helpings can be generous so if you’re on your own you might not be able to finish everything. That said the food is really tasty so you might just manage.

For the main I went for Buddha Noodles (US$15) with market vegetables and sesame dashi, and a side of Brussels sprouts with green sambal (amazing). There was also skirt steak with wasabi chimichurri (US$36), lemongrass pork chops (US$26) and charred salmon with black bean brown butter (US$26). As well as house cocktails with an Asian twist, there is sake, wine and beer including Sixpoint Crisp from Brooklyn and Sapporo from Japan. Talde is open from 6pm every night, until 4am Thurs-Sat.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES

The Thompson has 4,366 sqm of indoor and outdoor event space for hire, all located in the North Tower. Vista Terrace can host up to 180 people, while 1930s House can accommodate 100 delegates. There are also two airy meeting rooms (Tarlton and Crown) for gatherings of 100 to 120 in each. Century has a living room vibe with colourful couches and access to the terrace. There is free wifi throughout.

LEISURE FACILITIES

If you have time for relaxation, there is a tenth-floor rooftop spa, salon and well-equipped gym with outdoor showers. Down on the ground, surrounded by palms, are two swimming pools (one of which is heated) surrounded by loungers.

You can order food and cocktails here, and at the weekend there is a real party atmosphere. You can access the beachside boardwalk through a gate, and there is a private section on the beach for guests. The boardwalk is great for running or taking a stroll up to Ocean Drive.

VERDICT

I had mixed feelings about the interior design but with lively restaurants and a glamorous pool scene, the Thompson Miami is a good choice for younger professionals with money. (That said there was an eclectic mix of people there when I stayed.)

There is a lot of competition along Miami Beach, not only from the chic art deco boutique hotels in South Beach but from the dozen or so other new high-end properties that have opened in the last 18 months around here. The Thompson seems to be doing well in holding its own, though.

Not perfect but a fun alternative to a conventional business hotel in downtown. The location is excellent – just make sure you get a room with a sea view.

FACT FILE

  • HOW MANY ROOMS? 380 rooms and suites across nine categories.
  • HIGHLIGHTS 1930s House, breakfast on Seagrape terrace, access to the boardwalk and the buzzy pool scene. The gym is also pretty cool.
  • PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in March started from US$380 for a Deluxe room.
  • CONTACT Thompson Miami, 4,041 Collins Avenue; tel +786 605 4041; thompsonhotels.com

Jenny Southan

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