Vibrant and Historical Thompson Hotel Comes to Miami Beach
In 1940, the tallest building in Miami Beach was the 18-floor Lord Tarleton Hotel on Collins Avenue between 40th and 41st streets. Fifteen years later, Miami Beach architect Melvin Grossman added a second, eight-story tower, and the property began its run as a kosher hotel called the Crown. A renovation and restoration in 2003 saw the addition of a third tower and a conversion into 174 apartment units, still operating under the Crown name.
It is this storied history that hotel management company Commune Hotels & Resorts took into account during the property’s multi-million dollar construction to become its current incarnation: Thompson Miami Beach. Opened in November 2014, the 380-room hotel preserves the building’s Art Deco features and 1950s architecture thanks to the work of interior designer Martin Brudnizki, Kobi Karp Architects, and landscape architect Raymond Jungles. Everywhere you look you’ll find pops of color and casual glamour with a bohemian vibe.
After a full day of traveling, my guest room was a welcome oasis. I felt comfortable immediately, entering relaxation mode as I took in the yellow diamond-patterned carpet, the colorful pillows and white sheets on the cozy king-size bed, the balcony with its partial ocean view, and the bathroom offering a rain shower and products from CO Bigelow. It was at once both retro and contemporary, providing all the comforts of the 21st century (flat-screen television, dual USB and power outlets, and laptop-fitting electronic safe) amid mid-century modern artwork and furniture (my favorite was the vintage-looking bar cart, which served as the mini bar).
I spent two of my three mornings at the Thompson enjoying a quick breakfast from the hotel’s main restaurant, Seagrape, before heading to an exercise class on the 10th floor fitness deck. If only every day could begin with a flaky croissant and an almond-berry or green pineapple smoothie. The breakfast menu also includes heartier fare, such as the “Breakfastwich” with scrambled eggs, kale, caramelized onions, chicken-apple sausage, cava-aged cheddar, and brioche, and sweet treats, including pastry chef Max Santiago’s crowd-pleasing sticky buns.
Up at the aforementioned fitness deck, guests can take classes in boot camp fitness, circuit training, and yoga overlooking the hotel’s pool and the beach beyond. There’s also an enclosed gym with a wall of mirrors sitting opposite a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, so everyone can enjoy the ocean view.
The Spa at Thompson Miami Beach is located on the same floor, and guests are treated to a little something unique when it comes to a spa experience here. Though the reception area is indoors—along with the gym and a soon-to-open, ’50s-style salon from Junior & Hatter—the spa treatments are performed on an outdoor patio. My masseuse led me to a courtyard full of bright-colored chairs flanked by white cabanas, drawing aside one of the cabana curtains and welcoming me into my treatment space.
The treatment was 90 minutes of heaven, with the muted sounds of Miami providing background noise as the masseuse worked away the tension in my body and mind. I had opted for the resort’s Signature Red Roses Massage, which meant my skin was first treated with a cranberry raw sugar and Hawaiian sea salt scrub, then polished with rose petal powder and apricot seeds, and finally nourished with jojoba, borage, and linden multi-vitamins. As my skin soaked in all that goodness, the second part of my treatment began: a full-body Swedish and scalp massage with rose geranium, grapefruit, and frankincense anti-aging body oil.
Like I said—heaven. I was in a dreamy haze as I left the spa and made my way downstairs to scope out the pool and beach offerings. The Thompson has two rectangle-shaped pools that sit in line divided by a walkway from the hotel to the boardwalk and beach beyond. Both pools are lined with bright-yellow lounge chairs arranged in tiers—so everyone gets a view—and a trio of cabanas sits on the far side of each pool. Poolside bungalows can also be reserved for group parties or a bit of privacy. We lounged in our bungalow, sipping champagne and people watching as we dined on a light lunch of shrimp cocktail, Peruvian ceviche, and a selection of salads.
Eventually, I peeled myself from the plush pillows and couch in the shady bungalow and wandered to the beach for a bit of sun. To access the beach, guests pass through a gate to the boardwalk that runs parallel to the horizon line and cross it to get to a pathway to the sand. The Thompson’s signature bright colored lounges continue here, and there are plenty to go around for guests of the hotel. I made myself comfortable and enjoyed the end of a wonderful afternoon.
After my delicious experiences with breakfast and lunch, I was eager to pull up a chair in the Seagrape dining room for dinner. Helmed by James Beach Foundation Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein, the 267-seat, indoor-outdoor Floridian brasserie focuses on locally sourced ingredients and definitely does not disappoint. Chef Michelle, a Miami native, draws her inspiration from the Florida coast and works with local farmers to build her ingredient list and capture the essence of the area in her dishes.
Our first course set the tone for the night: uni toast with avocado, warm gougères with truffle fondue and sherry glaze, and stuffed squash blossom with shrimp mousseline, grits, and seafood nage. Next, I savored my entrée of braised short rib with Brussels sprouts and maple-vinegar glaze, while my fellow diners enjoyed yellowtail snapper, rigatoni vongole, and cassoulet of poulet rouge. The meal ended with a selected of desserts from chef Santiago, which are not to be missed.
One of my favorite elements of the Thompson Miami Beach property was 1930s House, a Mediterranean-inspired cocktail lounge set in an actual house from the ’30s. Originally located at a site nearby, the house was moved to this spot a few years ago and Commune decided to incorporate it into its newest hotel’s design. The result is a charming nightlife space where guests can sip craft cocktails and nosh on small plates at hi-top bar tables or comfy couches inside or outside on the patio. What’s even cooler is the 1930s House has a separate entrance from a street beside the hotel, so locals can join in on the fun (and it’s just $5 to valet).
Nightlife impresarios Karim Masri and Nicola Siervo of KNR Hospitality Group also had their hands in the design of the Crown Room, a book-themed lounge on the hotel’s second floor and a nod to the property’s former name. Miami’s master bartender Julio Cabrera and Thompson Miami Beach’s beverage director Michael MacDonnell designed a menu of rare spirits and fine wines, which guests and locals can enjoy in the intimate setting.
The Thompson’s Mid-Beach location means it’s a little quieter than the South Beach scene while still emitting an energetic vibe. It’s the perfect mix between a relaxing getaway and a vibrant Miami Beach experience, and plans are being set for additional entertainment options. A weekly pool party is in the works, as are plans to open another late-night venue and a second restaurant. The hotel is already fabulous, and there’s even more to come.