In a class by itself

With South Beach overrun with spring-breakers and currently under curfew, the smart (and quiet) money is in Coconut Grove.

I swing my rented Toyota Camry onto the forecourt of Mr. C — Coconut Grove Luxury Miami Hotel, so excited to be here finally after my long drive up from Key West, that I narrowly miss sideswiping a midnight-blue Rolls Royce and a matching Bentley. That, I have to say, would have been a most inauspicious start to my stay. 

Mr. C is the hot new hotel in what is currently one of South Florida’s most sough-after districts, where old world charm and quiet money meet Miami style and zing. And where, demurely parked side by side, those handsome cars could easily be a synonym for Mr. C itself — sleek, glamorous and highly polished.

Outside the hotel entrance, a gorgeous guy in a vivid pink shirt and bright-white panama hat is chatting languidly with a gorgeous girl in a white sheath dress so sleek she must have been poured into it, and while a bellman removes my battered, 20-year-old Bric’s weekender from the trunk, a parking valet whisks the Camry silently away.

I head for the front desk, which like everything at Mr. C is custom-made and perfect. But not so quick. Because, between the street door and the desk there is, rather sensibly, a small bar and, almost before I realize it, a white-jacketed female bartender has thrust a Bellini — the signature drink of the Cipriani empire — into my hand. It is a cliché, undoubtedly, but if only all clichés were as delicious as this one.

At the desk, meanwhile, manager Rafael picks up my credit card with such delicacy, you’d think it was made of gossamer and hands it back along with the key card for my room. “Did you like the Bellini?” asks the head bartender, who wanders over as I wait for the elevator, and whose snazzy, cerulean blue suit I feel I could commit a terrible act to acquire. “Yes, I like it,” I reassure him. “That makes me very happy,” he says.

The Mr C hotels, of which there are now three — in Los Angeles, New York and Miami – are the brainchildren of fourth-generation “hospitality leaders” Ignazio and Maggio Cipriani. The Cipriani restaurant name and legacy really need no introduction here. Suffice it to say that inside every restaurateur is a hotelier longing to get out. Mr. C hotels? It was only a matter of time.

My fourth-floor guest room, with its duck-egg blue walls, is like a berth on an oligarch’s yacht — a tasteful oligarch, with an impeccable yacht. London-based designer Martin Brudnizki has pursued a nautical theme with so much understatement that the effect is almost subliminal. The room is a gallery of exquisite objects and handmade cabinetry, including a lacquered, pale ebony desk and built-in closets with drawers that glide. A luxurious headboard in the softest two-tone blue fabric and an abstract blue carpet with matching ikat curtains continue the maritime trope.

At the end of the desk, there’s a cocktail bar, with half-bottles of gin, vodka, rum and whiskey, along with six pre-made cocktails, including a Negroni and a macho-sounding, tequila-based Matador. Honestly, you could drink yourself silly here, or hunker down for a siege. And you could also wear Mr. C’s ineffably chic, freebie slippers to The Met Ball and people on the world’s best-dressed list would be ogling them and asking their publicists to find out where you got them.

Up on the fifth floor — the top floor of this low-rise new build — in Mr C’s restaurant, Bellini (what else could they have called it?), they are dispensing their namesake drinks as if they are going out of style. Being perverse, I opt for a Vodka Roger instead, white peach juice with vodka (as opposed to the Bellini’s prosecco,) which has me right back there at Harry’s Bar in Venice. O Sole Mio!

With its eight-branched, Murano-glass chandeliers, its snowy table linens, its exquisite crystal and flatware and Perfidia purring plaintively on the sound system, this restaurant is so innately elegant, all Covid-cares — indeed, all worldly cares — are at least temporarily banished. Max, the maître d’, who moved here from New York to open the property in 2017, and who tells me he has not had one moment of regret since, runs the show with élan, while our Colombian head waiter is so simpatico, so attuned to your every need, you wish he were your primary care provider.

You can eat outside up here too, on Bellini’s narrow terrace, best enjoyed on a balmy Miami night, when the heat and humidity of the day have gone.

A few steps up from the terrace, is Mr. C’s small but perfectly-proportioned pool, where guests hang out by day, soaking up the South Florida sun on what are arguably the world’s plushest, most comfortable chaise lounges, gazing out through Bulgari sunglasses across Biscayne Bay.

Back at ground level, there is even more outdoor space, tables and chairs for lunch or a light snack in front of the main entrance, as well as an utterly enchanting terrace, Il Giardino, adjoining the lobby. I want to call this space a corte sconta, a hidden courtyard, because it sounds so much lovelier in Italian, a plant-filled, walled garden to relax in over a morning cappuccino.

As I finish mine and return to the elevator on the second day of my stay, I again see the cars I almost pranged when I arrived and wonder who might drive such slick, expensive machines. But Mr C is a case of class over flash cash, and these fourth generation Cip-kids are the great inheritors of a family name and brand that has always paid at least as much attention to style and finesse as it has to mere dollar signs. 

Later in the day, as I prepare to depart, the cars have gone, but have been replaced by two gleaming, blood-red Ferraris. “With all these smart cars, my Camry is a bit embarrassing,” I joke with the female valet, to which she replies, “Wheels is wheels, sir, and at least you don’t have to worry about where you park a Camry.” An old head on young shoulders. 

The car is brought around in three minutes flat. Rafael, the front-desk manager, waves goodbye and the bartender mouths across the lobby, “Come back and see us soon.”

Soon? Tomorrow if I could. Then again, why ever leave? Heavens — I’m just coconuts about this hotel.

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