There must be a million mojito muddlers in Miami, but I’m nominating the crew at the Metropolitan by COMO hotel as numero uno bar team.
No, I haven’t had one too many; it’s a fact that the staff at this hotel pay so much attention to every detail that I can’t imagine getting a finer, fresher drink north of Havana. The ingredients are the same as you find in other drinks, but they hand-select the leaves of mint picked the same day and squeeze fresh limes to do the muddling. Then they deftly mix the light rum, soda and simple syrup in just the right blend to give a refreshing tingle on its way down.
And it helps that the setting is a throwback to the days when happy hour could only mean cool cocktails served on a palm-lined terrace. The Metropolitan retains the streamlined look of the 74-room Art Deco showplace it was built as in 1939. After more than a year in restoration, it’s been revitalized as a chic showplace blending retro and modern, health and hip. It’s a unique alternative to a chain hotel before or after a cruise from South Florida.
As the logos in the original terrazzo floors attest, the Metropolitan was originally the Traymore, a showplace hotel that attracted celebrities because of its oh-so discreet pool club and private access to the beach. Singapore-based COMO Hotels and Resorts has made it their first U.S. property.
They’ve restored not only the look but also the vibe of the fashionable hotel on the prime Collins Avenue beach strip. The interior design by celebrity designer Paola Navone keeps the Art-Deco theme of the building. The high-ceilinged lobby is dominated by big white columns dramatically lit from above. Their fluting is echoed in the corrugated finish of the walls in the rooms, done in the hotel’s original color scheme of sea-foam green with white terrazzo floors, in place of carpeting.
It’s part of a larger trend on the fringe of South Beach which is seeing fantasy hotels from the 1930s and 40s that had been neglected in the rush to higher rises getting serious restoration as the retro-modern style has become vogue again.
The seven-story Metropolitan is marketed as an urban resort and spa rather than a business hotel. Its large suites are ideal for extended stays, with plenty of shelves and hanging spaces within closets whose doors are upholstered in tufted white leather. The bed linens are from Frette and the toiletries are made exclusively for the Como resorts.
The only drawback I found in my retro room was the awkward placement of power plugs. The hotel was originally built with few electrical outlets and I found the ones that have been added in the upgrade are in hard-to-access locations. My computer has a plug so large that the only place I could charge it was in the bathroom. Even the hair dryer supplied in the room had a plug too wide to fit in the power outlet that pops out from the wall over the desk in the bed room.
I had no qualms at all, though, about COMO’s focus on health at all its resorts: The top floor of the building is devoted to the Shambhala spa (named for COMO’s resort in Bali), with four treatment rooms for body and face treatments and detoxing from indulging in Miami’s late-night party scene. The roof terrace with its big hydrotherapy pool and steam room has a great view of the city and the Intracoastal Waterway as well as a panorama of the beach.
In the restaurant, there is a Shambhala cuisine menu of gluten-free, organic vegetarian and raw foods that are anything but austere. The menu by executive chef Jonathan Lane focuses on local sea foods, such as grouper, snapper, wahoo and scampi with the emphasis on fresh.
I chose a plate of Key West shrimp with an ajillo (garlic) sauce that were the most tender I’ve ever enjoyed. Then I turned to a sampling of desserts, prepared by an in-house pastry team.
One of the classiest dinner locations on a warm Miami night has to be the rear patio of the hotel, whose sleekly curved retaining wall resembles the prow of a ship, portholes and all.
By day, the place to hang out and get pampered by the staff in crisp shirts and designer shades is a lounge chair around the long pool that, unlike other hotels that line the beach boardwalk, is surrounded by a privacy fence.
The Metropolitan is a small fry on a stretch of beach that’s going higher rise and that makes it more exclusive.
I’ll have another please.