Pros:Beautiful rooms with perfect views. Stellar public areas. Flawless housekeeping.
Cons:A dull location unless you're in Miami for business.
The Bottom Line: The Mandarin Orientals in North America seem to be geared toward the business traveler. Nonetheless, the Miami property is a superb--and surprisingly romantic--hotel for anyone desiring a worthwhile splurge.
I first stayed at the Mandarin Oriental in August, 2001. I was in a particularly foul mood when I first arrived at the hotel. Miami was typically--but still dreadfully--hot and humid. The traffic was as bad as Bangkok's congestion. The noise level from construction work and honking horns made me want to flee back to the green hills of Arkansas. Then I got to the hotel. All the heat and noise disappeared the moment I walked into that wonderfully tranquil and gorgeously appointed lobby. This is the key as to why the Mandarin Oriental is the best new hotel I've experienced: It is the perfect, serene oasis in what can be a very chaotic city.
The lobby is a great introduction to the hotel. It's a large space with floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the Miami skyline. At night, the lobby is quite magical as the ambient lighting is very soothing (to best showcase the beautiful skyline) and there's usually a very talented harpist playing. It's a wonderful place to quietly lounge with an exceptionally well prepared martini.
Reception was very efficient. My luggage disappeared the moment my taxi arrived. Within 10 minutes I was checked in and escorted to my room (where my baggage awaited). Minimalism is a big trend in hotel decor nowadays. The rooms at the Mandarin are sleek but with some fun Asian influenced twists. You'll find some wonderful artwork in some unexpected places. Even the fruit arrangements are done artfully. Enormous bathrooms are another trend in hotel design and the Mandarin's are no exception: HUGE bathtubs that are open to the room and the view--though there is a pull-down screen for more modest types. What sets the Mandarin's rooms apart, though, is the lighting. I arrived back in my room quite late that first night. The lighting was so beautiful. It gave the room a tranquil ambiance that I have never seen so successfully done before. Housekeeping (which was flawless throughout my stay) made the atmosphere perfect by setting the Bose radio to a most relaxing jazz station (though I soon set it to Miami's alternative (commercial-free!) community station.) My only complaint with the room: No CD player. Nonetheless, this was the most romantic hotel room I have ever experienced. Pity I was alone.
I hate trendy restaurants. I especially hate eating alone in trendy restaurants. The Mandarin's Azul is certainly one of the trendiest restaurants in Miami. So I was delightfully surprised by my treatment there. Even though I was alone and the place was packed, I was given a wonderful table and had SUPERB service. The food is typical of trendy urban restaurants: Innovative, beautifully presented but very skimpy. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Obviously, I think very highly of the Mandarin Oriental. There were a few jarring notes, however. The spa was as beautiful as the rest of the hotel, but the quality of service was not worthy of the cost. And the concierge station in the lobby appears to be made out of plywood. This is a silly observation, but it was a glaring aesthetic fault in an otherwise magnificent space. Oh, a word of caution if you dine at Sambul, the other restaurant at the Mandarin. It is certainly very nice with a wonderful outdoor terrace. I very much enjoyed dessert on that terrace with some friends...and with some mice. The staff were mortified that a couple of the little critters were frantically roaming around the terrace. Personally, I thought they were rather cute as they scurried about to enjoy the crumbs on the floor. But yes..I can see how this can be quite disconcerning to many.
To me, the Mandarin shares a major fault with its sister hotel in San Francisco. LOCATION!! It's a great location if you're in Miami for business. The business district is just a pleasant walk over the causeway. Otherwise, there is NOTHING of interest close-by. Miami Beach is a rather expensive cab ride away. Still, the Mandarin is a great hotel. And it's greatness does make up for it's rather severe location.
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