A BlackBook Weekend at the Newly Jazzed Up W South Beach
As we fitfully try to regain our sense of pre-2020 normalcy – a goal which as of this moment seems to be destined for another setback – travel is enthusiastically, if cautiously, back on the agenda. Last week we actually felt a tingle of excitement walking through the quite splashy new terminal at LaGuardia – and we’re pretty sure that’s never actually happened to us before at a New York airport.
Our destination was Miami, via an invite to check out the splashy, newly remodeled W South Beach. Since opening in 2009, the W has arguably been the standard bearer of chic decadence on the SoBe strip, its Wall Lounge club a destination for the global DJ set and their devoted acolytes, The Dutch restaurant (alas, closed in 2019) a buzzy magnet for the expense account set. And the hotel’s décor reflected the night owl vibe of the place, all dark wood and dim lighting, with plenty of alcoves to sneak away to. We confess we did some sneaking in our time.
But after a decade plus of non-stop partying, the place needed a refresh; and in what turned out to be inspired timing, a redo was planned for early 2020, with the doors reopening in time for the holidays. The W SoBe is now both shiny and new, and comfortingly familiar. Everything is in the same place as it was prior, from the lobby sofas to the gift shop, but it all sparkles anew. If the previous decade was the hotel’s teenage years, we readily welcome the more adult version in the still unfolding decade ahead.
The change was immediately noticeable on strolling through said lobby to the elevators. For one, the hotel’s art collection, which was always impressive, has been notably expanded upon, and now its many Warhols, Basquiats and Tom Sachs’ are together valued at more than $100 million total. In fact, a trio of Warhols now greets at the check-in desk, so guests are immediately made aware of the W’s cultural gravitas. From there we headed to our smartly remodeled 17th floor suite, now light, airy, and beach house like, with a wall-length view of the ocean, and a prodigious selection of adult beverages (for the record, we’re definitely not down with the new “wellness” trend of booze free mini-bars).
For the next couple of days, we hardly left the confines of the hotel. With a fabulous, newly made over WET Deck pool, multiple bars and restaurants, and that amazing art collection to keep our attention, why would we? And of course there’s the beach – SoBe’s really is one of our faves. But back in the shade we indulged in a lunch of delectable covina ceviche with rocoto, red onion and corn, and a Wet Mule, poolside at the aforementioned WET, enjoyed some mahi fish dip with grilled sourdough and jalapeños at the hotel’s lobby resto RWSB, and did movie night in the outdoor green space. We even got in a couple of sets on the 4th floor tennis court. (For really physically ambitious sorts, there’s also a full-size basketball court – which you’re definitely not going to get at the Four Seasons.)
Of course, one can’t swing a yoga mat without hitting a designer hotel spa these days; but at W, looking after guests’ health has always been considered a hallmark of the brand. And during quarantine, the wellness center at W SoBe underwent a lavish transformation to what is now the luxurious AWAY Spa, which is managed in house, rather than by an outside entity. It’s serene, impeccably well designed, and transformative; and though there are such elaborate sounding treatments as the Urban Anti-Pollution Stress Facial, the Extreme Hydration Body Treatment, and the Full Body Exfoliator, we went with the straight up Stress Release Decompression Massage – and could veritably feel a year-plus of pandemic anxiety melting away.
Admittedly we kept so busy that we actually forgot to mark some time at the W’s ever fabulous Mr. Chow restaurant, a regular haunt of ours over the years. But honestly, after all the stresses of the last eighteen months, it was just great to be back in one of our favorite cities and at one of our favorite hotels – which we can definitively report, is looking better than ever.