Megan had a conference in Miami this summer, just a few weeks before the wedding. But being me, I egged her on to go anyway and tagged along when I found out the host hotel was a Kimpton property. The EPIC Hotel is located downtown and may not be the best option for tourists — there’s nothing to do downtown — but it could be a good choice for business travelers.
We booked it under my name because I got a status match to Kimpton’s Inner Circle earlier this year, and Kimpton has a very good track record for providing suite upgrades to its top elites. But as badly as I want to like this hotel, it has a few glaring issues.
We arrived at the hotel around 7:30 AM after taking a taxi from the airport. The hotel is located on the middle floors of a luxury condominium tower, the lower floors being taken up by a parking garage for all the beautiful cars coming and going all day. Despite the early arrival, we were greeted and escorted by a bellman to the check-in counter where they already had a junior suite waiting for us.
The suite was simply gorgeous! It had a spacious sitting room and room for a bed and desk (facing the view as I always like), with floor-to-ceiling windows giving us a view of the river and adjacent Hyatt Regency. The Hyatt didn’t look terribly appealing, despite me being a Hyatt fanboy. Our balcony gave us a nice place to sit and enjoy the warm weather, but if you want a view of the ocean you’ll need a full suite on the building’s other face. (Remember, always check the map on your door.)
Our bathroom was more impressive than the room (it included that odd triangular space next to our room in the map above, much like the junior suite on the left). With a huge shower, double sinks, and a spacious Jacuzzi tub, we had everything we needed. The robes were comfortable, the towels were embroidered with the hotel’s logo, and pleasant-smelling ETRO toiletries.
As an architect, attending this hotel for an architecture conference, Megan was impressed. The hotel had solid construction, nice furnishings, good hardware, and those large, flush doors you only see in Europe.
As a food snob, staying in a hotel that lets you choose your own welcome amenity, I was impressed, too. My Inner Circle preferences list a gin and tonic as my favorite liquid, almonds as my favorite snack, and chocolate as my favorite sweet.
Other Kimpton properties have gotten this a little off. I was once given gin and mineral water and two pounds of raw peanuts for a one night stay. But it’s a freebie, so I don’t complain. Much. I’m glad to say the EPIC nailed my request with two Bombay Sapphire minis and boutique tonic water (plus a handwritten card offered to bring me some ice), chocolate dominos, a small dish of roasted almonds, and some fresh fruit. No more than I needed, and quality, too! Bottled water and ice were provided each evening with turndown service.
Sadly, the good news ends there. What’s left to discuss is a series of disappointments. Not much in the way of horrible, awful things but disappointments because I knew this hotel can and should do better. It does everything else so well. Why half-ass the rest?
At check-in we were informed that the main restaurant was closed, so breakfast was being hosted in the lobby restaurant while lunch and dinner were served on the pool deck. This was unfortunate because service at the pool was not very punctual. It was supposed to open at 11:30 each morning, but it was delayed — twice — on the day of our arrival and didn’t actually open until 1:30 PM. We were starving and gave up, making do with the sorry attempts at French cuisine in downtown Miami.
Megan decided to change for a nap after lunch, but a very insistent maid barged her way in to check the mini bar — after I told her in the hallway as I was leaving that someone was still inside (I had previously shooed her off when we arrived that morning). Thankfully she never showed her face again.
I went to the pool at least once each day during our three-night stay, and while it was a decent pool, I think they must have been running out of money as they finished construction. The pool deck itself was very nice: lots of lounge chairs, umbrellas, a view, and even some rattan cabanas up for grabs. But the pool itself was covered in thousands of tiny blue tiles, of which about 10% were missing. I saw the same thing in the fountains downstairs. Tiles coming off everywhere. I’ve never seen quite so much wear in a hotel that looked so new.
And finally, the food. I don’t know what it is with Miami. After three trips, I have yet to find a good meal anywhere except Versailles, and they’re more of a coffee shop. Megan went out to party in the rain one night, so I stayed in and enjoyed room service with a view of the thunderstorm. My short rib and gnocchi were good, but I was surprised there was not a single garnish or vegetable on the plate. I would hope room service could at least warn me when I ordered. (And this was not cheap, either.)
Breakfast the morning of our departure was not any better. Well, it was better, but I don’t understand why a nice place would serve hash brown patties. Again, the food was good enough without being particularly inspiring.
Contrast that with the Vintage Plaza in Portland, where the toast was made with walnut bread and the omelet had foraged mushrooms. Or the Alexis Hotel in Seattle, where I had a choice of four different kinds of jam to enjoy with my beignets. This is why I can’t leave the West Coast. It’s the food, dammit. And for a company that calls itself Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant Group, I expected better.
So there you have it. This is a really nice hotel. Their treatment of Inner Circle members is really good. And even with the shoddy construction at the pool, I had a nice time hanging out there. But that maid almost ruined our first impressions, and the food left me with bad memories. I might consider staying here again in the future, but only after trying out a few other options like Kimpton’s Surfcomber in Miami Beach.