Southern Hospitality: West Palm Beach Hotels & Dining Spring Into High Gear
West Palm Beach is approaching a new level of chic, with Related Companies investing heavily in the area, and high-end condos popping up everywhere. Even one of New York’s most beloved upscale restaurants, Milos, is opening on the formerly lower rent side of town, and apartments are selling as high as $30 million on Flagler Drive.
There are already wonderful restaurants in the area. La Sirena is a cozy, family-run Italian spot with exceptional classic dishes like pillows of ravioli filled with chunks of lobster meat, double cut pork chops with demi glace and shiitakes, and whole local snapper. Prices are a little gentler than on the island, but the quality is every bit as good.
There are also hotels in the area that are excellent value, which is a challenging find in the current economic climate, and in addition to enjoying the places in West Palm, you can easily stroll over the bridge to Palm Beach island. Canopy by Hilton opened just before the pandemic, with stylish rooms, a lovely restaurant, friendly staff and an impressive atrium lobby containing a six-story living wall and huge Banyan tree.
There is a larger Hilton in West Palm, just across from The Square, which is filled with shops and restaurants. The hotel itself has rooms and suites with dramatic city views and a giant pool. At Galley restaurant, on the property, Chef Guillermo Eleicegui not only prepares his own head-turning wood-grilled items, he partners monthly with a visiting chef to create a food and wine event at the hotel called Parrilla con Amigos. Hilton guests also get discounts for the Norton Museum, water activities from Visit Palm Beach and the Anushka Salon and Spa, which offers massage and facials along with hair and nail services.
Dining options across the street at The Square include vegetarian mecca Planta, Sweetgreen and City Cellar, which has something for everyone and a big selection of wines by the glass. The owners of City Cellar have also opened a hopping 100-seat outdoor tribute to Latin street food called Barrio at the Square.
There is a coffee shop trend in Palm Beach hotels — The Colony opened its adorable Pink Paradise Café, The Hilton has its bustling Provisions, PGA has the lively Market, and the Eau just unveiled it’s chic little shop in partnership with Oceana coffees, which is roasted in small batches. Apart from lattes, cappuccinos, drip coffee and loose leaf teas, there are housemade pastries worth swooning over.
The lobby of the Ambassador hotel might be unassuming, but the rooms are so beautifully renovated you’ll be asking for the contractor’s number, and some corner units have large windows close enough to the ocean, that you feel like you are sitting on the beach before you even get out of bed. The restaurant, just off the pool, is low key, but the food is fresh and simply prepared, and it’s a great alternative to more hectic spots on the island.
Start your morning with a heady lavender latte served with a sprig of fresh flower, which immediately puts you in a spa state of mind at the luxurious Four Seasons Palm Beach resort. After enjoying a beachfront yoga class and a dip in the new tranquil adult pool, you can head to the actual spa, which has some of the best massage therapists in town (you can’t go wrong with David or Jade). Facials use the cult favorite Biologique Recherche products, or the Seed to Skin natural line from Tuscany, which is rich in natural oils. In the evening there is no need to venture off property; Florie’s is a partnership between the hotel and Chef Mauro Colagreco, whose kitchens have earned three Michelin stars, and the locally sourced food is some of the most artfully prepared you will find in Palm Beach. The chef has a love of gardening (even the cocktails are garden driven), so veggies are at another level. Start with cauliflower, softened in the tandoori oven and served with cauliflower puree, buckwheat and yogurt; or heirloom tomato and plum carpaccio. Yakitori options include black cod with rice cream and kabozu lemon; and wagyu with ginger and red pepper; while stone hearth oven selections range from cioppino to salt-crusted Mediterranean dorade.
No setting is prettier than the grounds of the Brazilian Court — it’s hard to believe the lush greenery, flowers and fountains that fill the courtyard are situated right in the middle of town. As a guest, you can stay in sophisticated rooms appointed with mahogany, leather and brass, and swim in the pool surrounded by palms. Otherwise, visit Café Boulud for breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks, and experience the elegance for a couple of hours.
The Breakers is expanding its retail area, Via Flagler, located on Royal Poinciana Way. The latest: a Sisley Paris boutique, where you can pick up the latest in luxe skincare before popping over for lunch at Henry’s.
If you are riding your bike on the lake trail and you look north, you can see Singer Island, gifted by the sewing king to his wife and home to the Palm Beach Singer Island Marriott. The oceanfront property has two pools — a lagoon style that’s perfect for families, and a large heated rectangle that most swimmers will love. Don’t miss the SiSpa here, with such facials as the Si of Youth, which promotes collagen production and helps restore volume and elasticity using infusions of oxygen, vitamins and peptides. The restaurant, 3800 Ocean, has some tasty offerings and the chefs give a nod to diners’ health concerns, using rice to thicken lobster bisque, rather than roux or cornstarch. Freshly cooked lobster is also used in a pot pie, the black grouper with coconut rice and mango crab salsa is not to be missed, and desserts are Instagram-worthy.
The Boca Raton, a reincarnation of the old Boca Resort is decidedly elevated after a multimillion-dollar renovation. As always, it’s a wonderland of activity, from tennis and golf to a range of classes including yoga on the bucolic lawn, and a fun mix of ballet, weights and Pilates. Dining options are a foodie’s dream. Some, like the soon-to-open Italian spot, Principessa, and the lively steakhouse, Flamingo Grill, are colorfully designed by the talented David Rockwell with concepts conceived by Major Food Group, the force behind New York’s Carbone. There is also an oceanfront Mediterranean restaurant called Marisol, that’s definitely worth a visit (the local fish preparations and labneh with squash are not to be missed), and a nostalgic supper club, MB, that’s ideal for a more elegant night.
Just across the Intracoastal is an intimate hotel, the Waterstone, where each room has a balcony with a water view. The hotel just re-opened its Boca Landing patio and lounge last week. It sits on Lake Boca, has live music and a weekend pop up menu by Pizza Paradise, along with small plates such as truffle street corn and edamame hummus. The resort also offers an array of water activities, including classes from the Paddle Diva.
The Wyndham, located in the heart of Boca, has a wellness focus. In addition to a large pool, Meso Fit Studio, which offers a range of classes, is right in the building, as is Trend tea lounge, while Farmer’s Table, on the grounds, has a wonderful health-oriented menu and a mandate of using one third less salt and butter than at traditional restaurants.
Don’t let the crystal chandeliers and elegant décor fool you — even the most buttoned-up Palm Beach people cut loose at Le Bar Au Vin. Various entertainers hit the piano and the crowd gets up, sings along and dances, while enjoying an impressive list of wines and Champagnes, including many low dosage varieties which contain smaller amounts sugar and give you less of a hangover.
Over in Delray, The Seagate Hotel will be undergoing a renovation to the guest rooms, restaurant and public spaces, starting in May. Even now it is a great resort to visit, with a beach club, country club, tranquil spa, a spectacular pool and the restaurant Atlantic Grill.
Across the street the Opal Grand’s new restaurant, Drift, is not to be missed. It provides a perfect perch to watch the Atlantic Avenue street parade from a lofty distance, and dishes like black grouper, oven baked oysters, lobster avocado toast, and rack of lamb with goat cheese polenta are expertly prepared. Go early and treat yourself at the resort’s new Tammy Fender Holistic Spa, which has a salt room — particularly good if you are having any respiratory issues — and several facials and massages. Try the jade hot stone.
There actually are some laid-back restaurants in Delray and one to head to for lovers of simply prepared Mediterranean cuisine is La Cigale. It’s been there for decades and is a good choice for a romantic outing.
One of the biggest hits of the season is Butcher’s Club at the newly renovated PGA National Resort, which showcases prized cuts of meat and seafood, but James Beard nominee Lindsey Autrey is about to introduce her full menu at Honeybelle, the resort’s main restaurant, which serves breakfast lunch and dinner. She will include a larger version of her famous fried chicken, that will be presented family-style with lots of trimmings. Don’t miss her melt-in-your-mouth Key West shrimp cocktail, zesty with lemon, lime, orange and cilantro. If you want to work up an appetite first, or lose some calories after, the resort, famed for golf, also has tennis and a fitness center with classes in everything from ballet sculpt to aqua Zumba!