Miami, Florida

We recently returned from our first stay at the Intercontinental Miami, and it won’t be our last.

IHG is a brand with hotels that include Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Indigo and – my favourite – InterContinental hotels. We’ve stayed in InterContinental hotels such as New York’s Barclay, Toronto’s InterContinental Yorkville and Washington, DC’s Willard. We regretted bypassing the chain’s Mark Hopkins during last year’s stay in San Francisco, and have learned that we can consistently rely on this brand when travelling to parts unknown. Our North American experiences have been that, with some exceptions, you’ll find yourself situated in the heart of a city’s business district, with ready access to all the fun and entertainment you wish.

With that in mind, travel in the next quarter will include stays in Porto’s Palacio Das Cardosas, Paris’ Le Grand Hotel and, next week, the InterContinental Montreal. With the InterContinental, you know that your travel day will see airport or other travel frustrations slip away as you pull up to an older building of character and substance where there’s a focus on customer service. You may enter the smallish lobby of a boutique hotel, or a more lavish space with gorgeous floral displays, but you can typically look forward to rich woods, understated but impressive service, and great sleeps in stellar locations.

Walking into the InterContinental Miami marked a departure from our other IHG experiences, but not to its detriment. Here, returning from a day in the sun, you’ll be surrounded by cool marble rather than woods, and the results of the hotel’s approximately $30M renovation a couple of years ago are substantial. You’ll find Miami’s affinity for neon on full display both inside and outside the hotel, so don’t let the rather conservative exterior by day fool you. For, as dusk falls, you’ll see a whole new element to the building’s profile. As we pulled up to the hotel very late in the evening, the cabbie who rescued us from the train station broke into a broad grin as we were greeted by 19-storey tall neon images of dancers. Here, in the heart of the business district, the hotel held auditions in November 2013 to replace what I think was the original dancer, and it would appear that they had more than a few from whom to choose. Drivers coming home from an evening of fun in South Beach will have views all the way from the MacArthur bridge.

There’s more substance to the hotel than its neon, however, and TripAdvisor travellers rate the InterContinental fifth among 131 Miami hotels.

Accommodation and Service

We were offered water on arrival and, as IHG members, received a room upgrade. Room 2301 had great views of Biscayne Bay, and we chose against using smartphone alarms and the bedside window shade controls; instead, it was lovely to be woken by spectacular sunrise each morning.

You’ll see marble everywhere you turn, including the bathrooms. In our case, the bathroom was more generously proportioned than some condo bedrooms; we had a closet and safe, an open-shelved cabinet with towels and room for toiletries for six, and both a tub and much appreciated walk-in shower. There’s so much to explore in Miami that we spent little time in the room, but we appreciated that it was spacious and attractive.

The next morning we made a quick stop to see the Concierge, and Martin quickly had us teed up with the best tickets we’ve yet had to a baseball game. At Marlins Park, the new home to 37,000 seats for baseball lovers, we were mere feet from the Washington Nationals’ (Nats’) dugout along the first base line.

Getting Around Miami, and While You’re There

Here, you’re 11 km / 7.5 miles from Miami International Airport (MIA), and a heartbeat from places whose names are familiar, but which you’ve yet to visit: Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, South Beach in all its Art Deco Glory (watch for more in another post), and more. You’re a quick cab ride from Marlins Park, and less than five minutes by foot to dining and shopping at Bayside Marketplace. Along the way, take a soothing stop at the calming little strip of beachfront that was developed, not by nature, but certainly to the delight of local business people and travellers alike.

Business Travel

The hotel has 641 guest rooms and suites and more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space. If you’re without your own hardware, or want to print something, you’ll find two compact but private business centre options just to the side of the Concierge desk.

I was unsurprised to read, a couple of weeks ago, that IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) was enjoying high levels of activity on the stock market. The company announced a $750M dividend to shareholders based on two factors: this UK-based brand, which is the world’s largest provider of hotel accommodation, increased revenues per available room (“revpar”) by six percent over the previous year and, in news that caused momentary concern, IHG has sold the Mark Hopkins and an 80% share of the Barclay. Not to worry, though; these sales represented continuance of a decade-long trend of selling and then operating hotels rather than increasing revenues through further acquisitions.

 Amenities and Restaurants

The InterContinental has mySpa and a fitness centre, with his and hers facilities. We didn’t visit this time ’round, but may make time on a future visit.

You have three restaurants in the hotel: Ole is on the lower level, and Blue Water Restaurant is poolside, on the fifth floor and overlooking Biscayne Bay. You will want to make time for a visit to Toro Toro, just off the main lobby and home to delicious Latin cuisine and and innovative drink choices. With GM Natalia Todorovic at the helm, it’s little wonder this restaurant and bar received Open Table’s Diners’ Choice awards for both 2014 and 2013. This is also the  restaurant Trip Advisor diners have rated first among more than 3,000 restaurants in downtown Miami.

After a day in the sun, we popped down to the restaurant for a slightly delayed happy hour. While we’d originally intended to sample two or three of the restaurant’s highly regarded small plates, we decided to place ourselves in the capable hands of the gracious Robert – and were glad we did. We began the evening with the smoked swordfish dip, which came with what was rapidly becoming a favourite, plantain chips.  You say you like crispy shrimp? Order the Chicharron De Camarones.  My favourites included arroz congri, a simple but classic dish of rice,  black beans and chimichurri, and the parmesan crusted sea scallops.

If you’re out on the town for a truly special evening, ask Robert or whomever else is taking care of you for the Churrasco Skewer for two. Before you know it, your server will be tableside, carving picanha steak, prime ribeye, lamb chop, chorizo sausage and achiote chicken for you, all cooked to your preferences. If you’ve been very active earlier in the day, or plan to work it off later dancing to live music in a club or at Bayside Market, a five minute stroll along the waterfront, you may decide to give in to the temptation of La Bamba, which is relatively new to Toro Toro but already ranked among Miami’s five most over-the-top desserts. Seen here in before and after photos, you may understand why the servers enjoy presenting this treat just as much as diners enjoy savouring it. We heard that a special variation was planned for the hotel’s Easter brunch, and can imagine the fun that was had.

Sustainability

The InterContinental Miami participates in IHG’s Green Engage program.

Rates

Pricing will depend on the time of year, the view and type of room you wish, and how organised you are. While your preferences can easily drive the price upward, a quick check online today shows rooms available in mid-June for as low as $153 US plus taxes.

Perspectives

Perspectives are entirely those of the Exceptional EA, who stayed at the Intercontinental Miami in April 2014, where she was the hotel’s guest at Toro Toro Restaurant.

Exceptional EA Visits Tuwanek Hotel (exceptionalea.com)

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