Travel: 24-Hour Room Service: The Delano, South Beach, Miami

BEHIND AN immaculately manicured hedge lies the Delano, arguably the most chic of the many Art Deco slabs in South Beach. Owned by Ian Schrager (the man behind the Paramount and Royalton in New York, the Mondrian in Los Angeles and, soon, four hotels in London), the Delano caters for the traveller for whom a perfectly mixed Cosmopolitan is more important than a free shoeshine kit.

A typical day may see Kate Moss in the lounge, Yasmin Le Bon and her daughters in the pool and a smattering of Hollywood starlets around the bar. The garden area even has giant mirrors propped against trees. How convenient.

Despite all this celebrity-spotting, the real star is the hotel itself. The public areas are calm and beautifully furnished, with oversized sofas, elegant bar stools and discreet chaises- longues. There is a "kitchen" complete with a long, communal breakfast table and a half-inside, half- outside dining area, the Blue Door, that offers everything from simple, grilled fish to mounds of fries. (A tip from Ms Moss herself; order the children's portions; they're big enough, and cheaper.)

It could be argued that all these beautiful people (including the staff) make lying beside the gently sloping pool or on an outdoor sofa a bit, well, intimidating. Not true: the poseurs are too self-interested to notice. The Delano is a great base for trawling the architecture, brilliant second- hand shops and night-life along Miami Beach. That is, if you can drag yourself away from the cocktails, beauty treatments, delicious food and sheer relaxation of the hotel.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The Delano is at 1685 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida 33139 (00 1 305 672 2000 or fax 00 1 305 532 0099).

Time to Miami international airport: about 40 minutes at busy times of day, but you can pass the time peering at the marinas and waterside homes of the rich and famous.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

If your idea of comfort is a nice chintzy pillow and pot-pourri, don't even check in. The rooms are white-on-white minimalism, which probably explains why guests even wear their shades inside. Rooms range from sleek, if small, standard to penthouse suites and two-storey poolside "cottages". These have balconies and double-height outdoor linen curtains that a cute bellboy draws each evening at 6pm.

Beds: Super-wide, with crisp white duvets and pillows. And the sofas in the cottages are large enough for an extra body to bed down in.

Freebies: At first glance, pretty minimal, but behind a cabinet door you'll find a mini-kitchen complete with an "ironic" snack selection - Cheeto's, corn chips and Hershey chocolate. A brushed steel wall-sconce holds a fresh green apple with the legend "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", and the lotions and potions in the bathroom beat anything at Boots.

Bathroom: White, natch. A free-standing bath with all-around shower curtain took a bit of getting used to, but it's clean and efficient, and a small plumbing problem was dealt with within five minutes of a call to maintenance.

KEEPING IN TOUCH

TV: The cottages have two: one up, one down - and they are cased in white to match the decor. All US channels are accessible (and compulsive) and videos are also available.

Radio: As above, and as befits a groovy young hotel, there are also two CD-players. The volume goes really high, too.

Phone/fax/Internet: Faxes are delivered on the hour from reception.

Newspapers: Your choice is delivered to the room and a discerning choice of papers, magazines and books is on sale in the hotel shop.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A standard city-view double room costs $345 (pounds 220) per room per night. If you want a partial view of the ocean, a double room will cost $395 (pounds 253) and a full ocean view will cost $450 (pounds 290). A poolside "cottage" costs $975 (pounds 625) per night and sleeps up to four people.

I'm not paying that: See Jon Winter's advice above.

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