How times have changed. In the 1970s, office towers and banks dominated Brickell, an area in downtown Miami. If you worked here, you did your time, then left for your home outside of that core. Thankfully, the area has been evolving over the last decade with more mixed-use spaces springing up and more residents buying condos, bringing new life.
Helping to fuel the renaissance are developments like Brickell City Center, a billion-dollar project built by Swire Properties, a large Asian corporation. The development includes retail space and the company’s first-ever North American property, EAST Miami, operated by Swire Hotels.
Opened in June 2016, it occupies the top 40 floors of a tower and blends the breezy laid-back style of Miami with feng shui principles focusing on harmony and positive energy. The lobby incorporates key elements like a water, copper, bronze and wood. It has a bright airiness that beckons locals and guests inside. Domain, across from the reception desk, does double duty as coffee shop by day (serving Miami’s own Panther brand) and hip bar with carefully crafted cocktails by night.
The gorgeous guest rooms (352 in total) keep the harmonious vibe going, courtesy of interiors by New York firm, Clodagh Design. Soft greys, light green, stone and wood create a palette that is soothing but never boring. Every room features a balcony – a rarity. It is put to good use for sipping morning espressos and watching the sun rise and set over the city with the shimmering waters of the harbor in the background.
Even if you don’t go outside to catch the views, you can enjoy them from the comfort of your bed. Floor-to-ceiling windows let the sun shine in to the max and provide plenty of excuses to take Instagram-worthy selfies against the dramatic cityscape.
Getting out of bed is difficult. You have so much at your fingertips, thanks to the wealth of technology in the room. Control the lights while you’re huddling under the cozy duvet, change up your electronics with the USB outlets and built-in cables, and put on the Do Not Disturb indicator. Then snack on White Rabbit candies in a jar on the night table and stream your favorite tunes through a Bluetooth wireless speaker provided.
The rooms are a good size, equipped with plenty of drawers and cupboards to stash your stuff, plus hidden compartments for the coffeemaker and bar fridge to keep things looking tidy – even when you’re not. You’ll also want to swipe all the toiletries you can get your hands on. EAST offers luxurious products from Appelles Apothecary, an Australian company that uses locally sourced, organic ingredients.
Guests can also expect keyless entry, paperless check in and check out, a native app with insider travel tips, art exhibits, health and wellness programming and array of other happenings.
Chill by the pool on the fifth and take in the skyline views, which includes the Brickell City Center’s signature Climate Ribbon, an architectural canopy made of steel, fabric and continuous glass surface. It looks very cool, but it’s not there just for its beauty. The elevated trellis costing $30 million spans 150,000 square feet. It protects pedestrians from the rain, provides shade and collects water used to irrigate greenery. Its design also encourages the breezes to flow through the concourse to make those scorching Florida summer days manageable.
In true Miami-style, EAST entices guests to stay and play with extraordinary restaurant and bar offerings. Quinta la Huella taps into the same love of grilling featured at Parador La Huella, Uruguay’s top restaurant and one of South America’s best.
The Miami version features an eclectic menu that covers surf and turf with sushi and fish, grass-fed beef from Uruguay, thin-crust pizza and pasta. Pair the mains (some served on wooden platters) with a perfectly cocktails, like a pisco sour. It’s an inviting space with plenty of outdoor tables to take advantage of those gorgeous Miami nights.
Service is outstanding. As I shivered under the air conditioning, a thoughtful server came by and placed a cozy wool shawl across my shoulders. I was already smitten by the food – grilled octopus, spicy tuna roll and a thin crust pizza, but this clinched the deal. I was happy to return for breakfast where the buffet is an elevated experience with ham and cheese empanadas, buttery croissants, smoked salmon, granola, yogurt, cheese and freshly squeezed juices.
In the evening, Sugar, the Asian-inspired rooftop bar, becomes the center of the action on the 40th floor. Lushly decorated with plants and seating areas, it attracts many locals who don’t mind lining up for access on a Friday or Saturday night. The panoramic views of Miami and its waterways give it an enchanted feel. Meanwhile, those in the know may also be invited to a secret bar hidden behind an unmarked black door. (I can’t share any more details than that, lest I ruin the mystery!)
The only letdown is inconsistent service. While it was stellar in the dining and bar areas, it lacked attentiveness by the pool and housekeeping didn’t show up until 4:30 pm to make up my room. But it’s still early days for EAST, those hiccups will happen and guests will be forgiving of many of them for a little while. But the grace period is limited, so those rough edges need to be polished as soon as possible. Miami has a number of luxury properties so visitors to the city has high expectations for service provided.
When all is said and done, EAST is a beautifully designed property that offers so much, whether guests seek an urban getaway that can be jam-packed with activities or strictly relaxation. And it serves as a reminder that Miami is much more than just South Beach. Its downtown core is now a must visit, too.
Michele stayed as a guest of EAST Miami, but as always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos courtesy of Michele Sponagle and EAST Miami.