In a city that rivals Las Vegas for new hotel openings, the Thompson Miami Beach is up there with the best of the latest batch, having pipped Ian Schrager's new Edition to the post when it opened in November.
It is the largest and first ocean-front, resort-style property for a hotel group whose existing locations include New York, Hollywood, Chicago, Toronto and London.
The hotel is divided between three white towers: one is 1940s Art Deco; another is 1950s glass and steel (formerly a kosher hotel); and the third was built in 2007. The porte-cochère is wave-shaped, in a nod to the Atlantic crashing ashore at the rear of the hotel, and the air is heady with perfume (all Thompson hotel entrances are spritzed with fragrance), but the exterior is otherwise unremarkable in a city awash with pastel and white Art Deco structures.
Inside, it's a different story. A vast white crystal chandelier shimmers high above the low seating of the lobby, and behind the reception desk is a mural depicting 1930s Miamians running in one-piece bathing costumes.
Sweep left to Seagrape restaurant, a large space with cosy corners and window seats, serving the bright, Floridian-style dishes that Miami-born chef Michelle Bernstein is known for. Fresh and locally sourced means attractive plates of kale, sprouts, beetroot and oranges. My shared tasting menu provided dish after dish, from delicately stuffed squash blossom to tender braised short ribs, whole snapper and crispy goat's cheese croquettes. The al fresco terrace looks out on to the gardens and across to the palm tree-lined boardwalk and the ocean.
The tropical gardens are home to two outdoor heated swimming pools with nautical striped cabañas for rent, and the 1930s House, a hacienda-style venue with orange clay floors. It was built in – you guessed it – the 1930s and later moved into the hotel's grounds from across the street, brick by brick. It's a low-key venue for cocktails and tapas-style small plates such as ceviche and crudo.
Climb two sweeping staircases to the Crown Room, a clubby book and antique-lined cocktail bar with a herringbone ceiling and leather armchairs. It specialises in historic cocktails such as the blinker, a 1940s mix of rye whiskey, rasp-berry syrup and grapefruit juice.
Up on the 10th floor, the spa is a hidden highlight. Instead of dimly lit treatment rooms there are six open-air cabañas on a turquoise tiled terrace, decked with cacti in citrus-coloured ceramic pots. My massage was probably the best I have ever had – deep but not painful and the first time a masseuse has sat me down afterwards for a lifestyle chat and advice session. Similarly, my facial, using high-end Swiss brand Luzerne, smoothed away a face as creased as the clothes in my case. I was smitten.
The Thompson is in up-and-coming Mid Beach on Collins Avenue, the Art Deco-lined stretch of road that runs along the coast. This neighbourhood is quieter than party-central South Beach. One sunny Sunday morning, I set off along the boardwalk to Lincoln Road, the heart and soul of South Beach with its pedestrianised shopping streets, nosing into the "backyards" of some of Miami's most famous hotels.
For culture, and a contrast to all the glitz, Wynwood Walls is 15 minutes' drive away. This former warehouse district is lined with colourful graffiti, and free art walks on the second Saturday of each month showcase new works.
The hotel has 380 rooms and 31 suites but there are no duds here. The 20 room categories include the entry level Deluxe Double, facing the Intracoastal or city skyline, with showers (no baths), while Signature Thompson Suites have private living rooms and vintage furniture.
Despite the location, British-based designer Martin Brudnizki hasn't gone for the obvious beach-inspired decor. The interiors are a cheerful 1950s homage, with vivid bursts of colour, from lime greens to paprika reds and yellows. Floral-patterned chairs and cute drinks trolley mini bars add character, and the bathrooms also have a homely, retro feel. My room, an Ocean View Balcony King, looked out over the grounds and the beach, still glamorous, a hundred years on.
Thompson Miami Beach, 4041 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida (001 877 793 8519; thompsonmiamibeach.com)
Doubles from $450 (£300) excluding breakfast.Reuse content