The holidays in the Hamptons are officially over and it is time for those of us that can to dodge the cold and snow and head to the shores of Florida for sun and sand. There is no resort community as closely associated with the Hamptons as Palm Beach and to that end Hamptons.com has made another visit to our sister resort in the south just in time for the start of their season. As usual our choice of airline was Jet Blue out of LaGuardia to Palm Beach International with great service, great staff, and without a doubt the most reasonable fares available.
Two years ago our visit focused on two of Palm Beach’s most classic and legendary in-town hotels, The Chesterfield and The Brazilian Court. This year we went oceanfront and this three-part series will feature three fabulous sea side resorts, The Breakers, EAU Palm Beach, and the Tideline Oceanfront Resort, which was formerly the Omploy.
THE BREAKERS, PALM BEACH
When one thinks of legendary hotels The Breakers must be considered in the rarefied air of truly iconic and historic American properties like The Plaza in New York or The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angles. Of course, The Breakers is so much more than just a hotel; it is a world class resort that must be experienced to be believed.
From the moment one turns on to the Palm lined Main Drive one is struck by the sheer majesty of the absolutely regal façade of The Breakers. Modeled after the Villa Medici, it is an American castle rising from the sand with the mighty Atlantic as its backdrop, stunning in its symmetry and understated architectural elegance.
As breathtaking as its exterior may be, one is immediately struck by the stunning woodwork and ceiling of the 200 foot lobby upon entering the hotel. The detailed design work continues throughout all the first floor public spaces and crescendos in the artistry of the four ballrooms, each unique in theme and reminiscent of the Gilded Age. The hotel is built around a beautiful Mediterranean Courtyard, with center fountain, statuary, and manicured landscaping.
The Breakers is in its third reincarnation after fires in 1903 and 1925. Henry Morrison Flagler, a founder of the Standard Oil Company, literally opened up southern Florida to tourism and was the architect of what we now know as Palm Beach. As a tribute to him the present building was constructed by his heirs with the intention of making it the greatest resort hotel in the world as a testament to his vision and to that end 75 Italian artisans were brought from Italy to help create the masterpiece that is The Breakers.
Our ocean front room was large and beautifully appointed, with full sofa, desk, dresser, and over-stuffed reading chair. The king bed was of excellent quality with absolutely luxurious linens and bedding. The marble bathroom had separate tub and shower, along with The Breakers private label toiletries, lush bathrobes and slippers. Of course, there is WiFi throughout the resort and each room has a flat screen TV, DVD player, mini-bar, hair dryer and electronic safe. The resort completed an $80 million renovation of all the guest rooms in 2011 and it certainly shows.
No amenity is over looked at The Breakers and one could literally arrive by taxi and never find a need to leave the grounds, perhaps short of a shopping trip to Worth Avenue. Even then, The Breakers’ lush Palm Courtyard is surrounded by a dozen boutiques like Ralph Lauren, Lilly Pulitzer, Guerlian, and the resort’s own signature offerings “Match at The Breakers” and “Mix at The Breakers,” just to name a few.
On-site shopping aside, The Breakers boasts four oceanfront pools, including one exclusively for adults. Among the eight restaurants on the immediate property, The Ocean Grill and The Beach Club Restaurant are poolside with cocktails and food service delivered directly to your chaise lounge. Private bungalows are also available, particularly stunning along the South Pool and there is, of course, shower and locker facilities. At The Breakers an array of water sports are offered to guests, including snorkeling excursions to a magnificent reef a quarter mile offshore.
Non-aquatic facilities include tennis with The Breakers voted by Tennis Magazine as one of the “top 50 tennis resorts” boasting 10 perfectly groomed Har-Tru courts, including lighted courts for evening play, a comprehensive pro shop, and world class private instruction and group clinics. Golfers will relish the absolutely stunning 140 acre Ocean Golf Course. First laid out in 1896 by Alexander H. Findley, the Ocean Course was redesigned in 2000 by Brian Silva, Golf World’s 1999 Architect of the Year. Requiring strategy rather than length, the course weaves between sand hazards, ancient palms, beautiful flowering tropical trees, and six distinct ponds. The course also contains a short game warm-up facility, a putting green, and the John Webster Golf Academy. Tennis players and golfers alike have access to the amenities available at The Breakers Ocean Clubhouse adjacent to the courts and course.
The Spa at The Breakers offers extravagant treatments and massages including their signature Orchidée Impériale Facial with Guerlain’s Orchidée Impériale cream and masks and “The Walk on the Beach” pedicure featuring an organic deep sea refining exfoliation and seaweed-enriched mask. The Breakers has just completed a renovation of their fitness facility creating the 6,000 square foot state-of-the-art Ocean Fitness Center overlooking the Atlantic.
To say the least, The Breakers is kid friendly! There is a full schedule of daily events, tours, camps, and classes for your children from tots to tweens to teens, along with an extensive outdoor play area surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and a family friendly entertainment center. Many scheduled daily events at the resort are full family designed; the Historic Bicycle Tour of Palm Beach, for example, is a must for the entire tribe.
As previously noted, there are eight distinct restaurants on the immediate grounds of The Breakers with a wide range of cuisine, along with two off-site restaurants, The Flagler Steakhouse which is just across the street in the Ocean Clubhouse and Echo located a few blocks north of the resort offering contemporary Asian cuisine. We dined at The Flagler Steakhouse our first evening and it was as exceptional as any culinary experience I have had in all my years as a travel writer and restaurant reviewer.
The Flagler Steakhouse has gone through a recent renovation and the results are stunning, it is an understated classic white linen dining room with the perfect combination of accent décor and a beautiful oak bar. We chose to dine alfresco on the smoker friendly wrap around terrace overlooking the Ocean Golf Course with the West Palm Beach skyline as a backdrop.
We started with Blue Crab Dumplings and the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake which we followed with a shared Caesar Salad that included the too often missing fresh anchovies, all three plates were absolute winners and beautiful in presentation. I will never pass on a Steak Au Poivre and the Flagler version has a brandied cream pepper sauce that was superb with a sweet start that grew with intensity with each bite. Lily’s Blackened Ribeye with Calabrian Chile Sauce had more heat than the average blackened steak, which suited us just fine, and both steaks were cooked to perfection. I must also note, with my regrets to both Peter Lugar’s and The Palm, the Flagler Steakhouse has the best Creamed Spinach I have ever tasted, period! Our shared dessert sampler consisted of NY Cheesecake with strawberry sauce, the signature Breakers Key Lime Pie, and the evening’s dessert special, Warm Chocolate Brownie with a mini Root Beer Float, each one a winner!
My congratulations to Chef Thomas Laimo for a culinary experience that was exceptional in taste and plating, bravo! Restaurant Manager Caleb Anderson has assembled and trained a phenomenal staff. I would like to offer up special praise to our waiter Josh Hawn who was charming, attentive and superbly versed in each selection of the well balanced and creative menu. Finally, the Flagler Steakhouse has an award winning wine list that includes each of the First-Growths and our Sommelier Christina Lisi was beyond exceptional in the selections, descriptions and presentations of the personalized pairings she created for each one of our courses. From top to bottom she did a magnificent job and the dessert finale of Ferrari-Carano, “El Dorado Noir” Black Muscat was the perfect conclusion to a truly memorable evening at what must be considered one of the best steakhouses in America, The Flagler!
Our second evening of dining during our stay was at what has become the hottest night spot in Palm Beach, HMF! Designed by Adam. D. Tihany and eponymously monogrammed for The Breakers founder Henry Morrison Flagler, the hotel’s expansive and stunning tea and breakfast lobby is transformed each evening into a dining nightclub that is bespoke of the classic Palm Beach cocktail parties of legend. Romantic and candlelit, one dines from overstuffed lounge chairs and loveseats in an atmosphere that is, frankly, magical.
Whereas the atmosphere is classic, the menu created by Chef Joey Tuazon is absolutely modern and creatively askew. As eclectic and ingeniously eccentric as any menu I have every experienced, it is filled with small plate selections that combine interesting takes on some classic global standards, seasonal South Florida farm-to-table, gourmet food truck movement phenomena’s, and a heavy dose of modern Asian. In all frankness, I am not going to even try and review any single dish; it is simply a menu that must be experienced in its totality to be appreciated. The portions are perfectly sized and priced so that a couple could literally combine a dozen choices and feel like they have taken a culinary trip around the globe without leaving their sofa.
The legendary Breakers’ wine list is available and the resort’s Master Sommelier Juan Gomez did an excellent job pairing the very varied plates, suggested by our wonderful server Maria Lopez, from what must be considered one of the most extensive and varied wine-by-the-glass menus I have ever experienced. However, cocktails are King at HMF, with a bar staff that is versed in all the classics like the Brandy Alexander and Grasshopper that are featured on the menu. There is also a fine choice of Single Malt Scotches, Armagnacs, Cognacs, Ports, Grappas and Calvados, along with a dozen craft beers. Most nights feature live entertainment from DJs to solo guitarists to jazz combos and their cigar humidor contains almost two dozen fine brands. HMF is must stop when in Palm Beach, whether staying at The Breakers or elsewhere.
One final note on dining at The Breakers must include a mention of the Seafood Bar. This stunning oceanfront restaurant with fantastic views of the Atlantic is open for lunch and dinner, but I highly recommend a stop in for lunch and find a seat at the extraordinary aquarium bar rather than at a table. The entire bar top is a fish tank with hundreds of tropical fish swimming below your afternoon martini. The menu is superb with a dozen varieties of fresh seafood delivered daily, but the real star of the Seafood Bar is the afternoon bartender Eric. Trust me on this one and when you see him say, “Hi from Harrington and Lily!”
Beautiful, sophisticated, intelligent, charming, and accommodating are all the virtues I look for in a great woman, to that end let me say, The Breakers is a “Great Dame” of a hotel! Truly one of the world’s classic resorts, The Breakers should be experienced at least once in any traveler’s lifetime. Of course, once experienced, you will want to return again and again!