Floridians are full of Southern charm. So it wasn't at all surprising that we were greeted with genuine smiles. The pillars stationed at the entrance are supposed to look like giant faces, but to us they seem more like oversized potatoes. Past these bronzed-looking vegetables, though, is a marble-bedecked reception doused in crystal chandeliers. After a speedy and efficient check in, we were personally escorted to our rooms and told how to operate everything from the air conditioning to the television.
It's all business and no beach in downtown Miami. A big development push over the past five years means streets here are lined with glitzy high-rise condominiums and office towers. But because of the economic crisis, most of these multimillion-dollar structures are empty. Come evening time, there are few pedestrians, which can make for a harrowing experience if you are walking alone late at night. Beach lovers will be disappointed by the hotel's distance to the actual shore which, without traffic, is at least a 15-minute drive. If you're bent on keeping it local, just a five-minute walk from the Viceroy is Tobacco Road - a dingy, but authentic blues bar that serves BBQ ribs and lobster and stays open until 5am.
It's still early days for the Viceroy - it only opened in February of this year - which means service here, although full of good intentions, still had a few kinks. We were misdirected a few times to the gym/spa not only because of the absence of any signs, but even when we were inside the building, attendants kept sending us to the wrong floor. However the speedy 24-hour room service made up for the half an hour I wasted wandering through corridors. Absent-minded packers will be pleased to know that whatever you may have left at home such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, housekeeping has in its arsenal and is willing to dole out for free.
The decor - a sophisticated mix of vintage camel-coloured dining sets emblazoned with brass edges alongside oversized jade-tinted couches - is a kind of updated homage to the Rat Pack era. One doesn't have to stretch the imagination too much to envision the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Sammy Davis Jr swaggering around these suites with a cigar in one hand and a martini in the other. The mirrors lining nearly every wall means light from the windows illuminates every corner of the room. A sweeping balcony overlooks a nearby canal, but strangely there was no patio furniture. The highlight of the room was the white marble bathroom, which came with a large bathtub and a separate shower brimming with high-end aromatherapy products.
The restaurant, Eos, is the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Michael Psilakis and restaurateur Donatella Arpaia. The menu is packed with unusual tapas-sized dishes such as orange marlin sashimi with pistachio, speck and apricot (US$12; Dh44), and lobster and sea urchin risotto with caviar, fried herbs and egg yolk ($16; Dh59). There is al-fresco dining overlooking the swimming pool which is the size of a football field. For those who choose to dine indoors, there are views of the city's Biscayne Bay. The cocktail master, Sasha Petraske, from New York's Milk and Honey bar, recently devised the drinks menu here to include such novelty items as the "pepper fresh", which is comprised of hand-pressed spearmint, vodka, limes and extracted bell pepper juice ($14; Dh51).
The hotel has taken over the 50th floor of an adjacent building to set up Club 50 Miami. Jaw-dropping views, a small swimming pool and more of those delicious cocktails easily make this one of the city's hottest and flashiest nightspots. It's easy for hotel guests to avoid the stilettos and clouds of aftershave here because the entrance to the club has been separated from the hotel's. Those seeking a more mature ambience would fare better at Eos' bar.
The spa, once I found it, was ethereal thanks to the designer Philippe Starck. The gym, "water lounge", "floating library", and hot and cold plunge pools were all covered in a milky white marble with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay. Hidden behind billowy white curtains are 10 treatment rooms that offer such services as a "non-surgical facelift", which promises miracles without any injections. My room's four-poster bed and mattress were pretty much as good as it gets. I also liked the super-high thread count and plush down pillows. Getting out of bed in the morning was not easy.
There was a humming noise in my room, which sounded like a generator, from the moment I entered until I left. I tried turning the air conditioning off to see where exactly it came from, but no one, not even the staff, could identify it. The pool, which is supposedly the biggest infinity pool in the state, doesn't stay open after dusk. A shame considering it's one of the hotel's best amenities.
It's got glamour, inimitable style, and a gracious staff, but why come to Florida to stay in a near-vacant business district? Perhaps once the economy picks up, so will the neighbourhood. But for now the combination of the timing and the distance from the city's main asset - the beach - makes the Viceroy a tough sell, especially for those longing for a tropical holiday. That said, devout urbanites with a disdain for sand and bikinis will feel right at home.
Double rooms at Viceroy Miami cost from US$220 (Dh808) per night, including taxes. Viceroy Miami, 485 Brickell Avenue, Miami (www.viceroymiami.com; 001 305 50 34 400).