It's a members' club. It's a hotel. It's a restaurant. And above all, it's Miami Beach's coolest new hangout. Overlooking golden sands, the hybrid that is Soho Beach House opened last October in an area north of South Beach that had fallen somewhat off the fashionable radar.
As the name indicates, this is an offshoot of Nick Jones's Soho House empire that started in London in 1994. The Miami Beach property is the most recent of his US ventures, which include a club in West Hollywood and a club-hotel in New York. Only here, laid-back urban insouciance is recast as mellow beachside glamour, as devised by Chelsea-based designer Martin Brudnizki, who has worked with Jones on several projects.
You arrive at a pleasingly proportioned Art-Deco building with a small oval driveway and a neon banner announcing that this is the Sovereign Hotel. The doorman explains to any mystified new arrivals that the property's original sign has been retained in accordance with Miami Beach's conservation code ("It's a Miami Beach thing") as he ushers you in.
That's the end of any immediate formality as you enter a club-style lounge furnished with comfy sofas and chairs and wood-panelled walls hung with stylised photographs and prints. A late family breakfast was taking place along sofa-backed tables when I arrived, while to one side a couple of casually chic women were dawdling over coffee, Jimmy Choos kicked off, feet tucked up on the leather chairs.
The club-and-hotel reception is in a discreet annexe to the left, while on the right is a desk taking bookings for the already hugely popular Cecconi's restaurant. Offering an upscale Venetian-inspired menu, it is set under retractable awning in a pretty patio area. For all the carefully evoked mood of club intimacy, these are the public areas of Soho Beach House. You need to be a member (or one of their guests) to use the rest of the property.
Happily, hotel guests are treated as members for the duration of their stay, which means they can lounge on the eighth-floor roof terrace with plunge pool, curl up in the library with ocean views and eat at the second-floor Club Bar restaurant, which evokes 1940s Cuba (buzzing on the night I was there and serving the likes of lamb chops and chimichurri sauce at $20/£13). There's also sunbathing by the 100ft pool in the garden – should it get too hot, the waiters will turn on one of the fans – and a host of treatments at the signature Cowshed spa, plus complimentary club events such as movies in the screening "snug" and morning yoga or exercise sessions at the private beach area.
While guests chill out, staff exude energy and enthusiasm. Those I encountered evidently took great pride in the property, explaining how the refurbishment of the old Sovereign Hotel took five years and pointing out which elements have been retained – the lounge flooring, Art-Deco light fittings – and those which are new, including the 16-storey tower at the back of the property, conceived to harmonise with the original building. Their big challenge, they acknowledged, is in blending the services of a sleek, boutique hotel with the club atmosphere.
Soho Beach House is about 15 blocks north of the South Beach strip – and a world apart from its razzle. It sits next door to the renowned and sprawling Fontainebleau Hotel in an area that in the 1940s was regarded as something of a millionaires' row – but which until recently had become little visited.
You can, if you're feeling energetic, walk to Ocean Drive and other South Beach highlights from here. The small garden beyond the main pool gives directly on to Miami Beach's lovely two-mile boardwalk down which a 40-minute stroll will take you to the area's party heart. Across from the boardwalk are quiet golden sands with the Soho Beach House's dedicated seaside club area.
The 50 bedrooms are comfortingly decorated in blues, browns, greens and ochre and are equipped with free Wi-Fi as well as iPod dock, flat-screen TV and DVD player. Most feature furniture in keeping with an overall mood redolent of the Art Deco period, from well-worn leather armchairs to huge mahogany beds.
My room had an old cocktail cabinet lavishly filled with Hudson single malt whiskey, Bombay Sapphire gin, Grey Goose vodka, fresh lemon and a cocktail shaker. To add to the stylishly homely mood, there were period leather suitcases under the bed and a bookcase filled with an eclectic mix of reading matter, from a manual on furniture maintenance to a hardback of Philip Mason's Kipling: The Glass, the Shadow and the Fire.
Soho Beach House
4385 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida, US (001 786 507 7900; sohobeachhouse.com)
Double rooms start at $299 (£200) for members, room only and $492 (£328) for non-membersReuse content