The five-star St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort was recently named the best hotel in Florida and Miami Beach by U.S. News & World Report, a nationally recognized publisher of consumer advice and information. The 4-year-old resort was also recognized as the 34th best hotel in America. More than 2,500 luxury hotels across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean were ranked based on a combination of expert and guest reviews.
Although Bal Harbour is technically its own city, the creators of this particular list considered it part of Miami Beach. Sunny Isles Beach is also its own city; however, the Acqualina Resort & Spa ranked fourth in the state and second in Miami Beach. The Mandarin Oriental on the shores of Brickell Key came in at fifth place in Florida but got the top spot among hotels in the city of Miami.
Naturally, a hotel's food and beverage program plays a big part in these rankings, but according to Oliver Key, general manager of the St. Regis Bal Harbour, service comes first. "I think an award like this certainly recognizes our amazing food and beverage, but at the end of the day, I think it’s about our overall service. A hotel can be beautifully luxurious with the finest cuisine, but if the service is not amazing, people will not return time and time again. We have the best staff in Florida who are dedicated to delivering five-star service day in and day out."
The St. Regis' dining options include the upscale J&G Grill, created by internationally renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (though he's no longer involved with the restaurant). What's more, the hotel's executive pastry chef is none other than Antonio Bachour. His level of artistry and skill makes him one of Miami's best and, along with plans to open a sweets shop in Brickell, he will debut a patisserie shop at the hotel in 2016. "Our guests absolutely love his desserts, so we will offer them a dedicated place to experience them here at the resort," Key says.
The Bal Harbour hotel also recently unveiled BH Burger Bar, where customers can essentially build their own burger in a laid-back space. The eatery is helmed by chef Edison Mays. "Since we are a resort hotel, we wanted to add an additional restaurant concept that was a bit more relaxed and family-friendly. We also excel at personalizing our guests' experience, and a build-your-own gourmet burger concept really aligned to that," Key says.
Come fall, the hotel will roll out another restaurant, Santorini, which is being billed as an "indoor/outdoor Greek/Mediterranean concept." According to Key, the St. Regis' food and beverage program excels because its employees work with the best suppliers and partners and because nearly everything is made in-house from scratch, including the breads, pastries, and even the ketchup at BH Burger Bar.
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Another local hotel that fared well in the rankings is the Carillon Miami Beach, formerly known as Canyon Ranch and before that the Carillon Hotel. The North Beach resort, which has become a landmark since opening in 1958, scored seventh place on the Miami Beach list and 46th place in Florida. The 150-room hotel was acquired by Z Capital Partners in early 2015 and has undergone significant rebranding under managing director Lester Scott.
Part of the Carillon's makeover includes the launch of a fresh dining concept called Thyme. The new food and beverage director, Fritz Zwahlen, and his team have developed a seasonal menu that reflects the hotel's commitment to healthful living. Expect to find organic meats, locally caught fish, and gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. February 21, Thyme will debut brunch, featuring an à la carte menu with sweet and savory options, plus a $45 bottomless buffet of bloody marys, mimosas, a raw bar, a sushi station, charcuterie, and desserts. A live jazz band will perform every week.
Asked about the Carillon Miami Beach's standings in the list of top hotels, as well as its new restaurant, the hotel's managing director, Lester Scott, says, "This award showcases the level of service that we pride ourselves on — and a large part of that can be attributed to our food and beverage program, which has been reinvented with the addition of a new main restaurant concept and other enhancements over the last year. We’ve assembled a superb team that consists of industry leaders in all areas of spa, fitness, wellness, and, of course, culinary, all who have played an integral role in elevating the property to national acclaim."