Even though it's high summer, you may be thinking about a winter escape to Florida. You should consider staying at the Betsy, in South Beach, where David and I have stayed and where, in the interest of preserving the legacy of poet Hyam Plutzik, the people behind the scenes have established the Writers Room to support writers.
Since its official opening in April 2012, the Writer’s Room has hosted over one hundred writers—poets, novelists, journalists, playwrights among them— during which these writers have presented readings of their work, published or in-progress. The Betsy Hotel makes the room available to visiting artists and writers working a wide variety of domains and disciplines, at many project stages, but with a hyper-focus on poets during final-stage efforts.
The hotel itself is a stunner. With the graceful symmetry of its Georgian architecture, the Betsy Hotel stands in proud contrast to the Art Deco neighbors that typically define the historic area of Miami known as South Beach. First opened in 1942 as The Betsy Ross, the hotel had gone through several incarnations until 2009 when it was renovated top to bottom and reopened as luxury accommodations, with 61 rooms and suites, a BLT Steak restaurant, a pool, spa, and a superb rooftop lounge with expansive ocean views.
The lobby, with its palm trees and Terrazzo floor, captures the sultry atmosphere of the tropics so convincingly that I half expected Bogart and Bacall to walk in off the set of To Have and Have Not. Ceiling fans turn lazily overhead and the capacious sofas and wing chairs invite you to order a cocktail from the bar and settle in for intimate conversation or hours of reading, or simply to watch the parade of international guests making their way to and from the hotel’s nearby beach.
David and I booked a “Superior” room that overlooks the courtyard pool. Though the room is small, the amenities elevate it beyond the usual: king-size bed with luxury Frette linens, plush bathrobes, cult brand (Malin+Goetz) toiletries, and flat screen TVs in the bedroom and bathroom. Suites double the space, with separate living rooms and sofa beds.
Immediately after check-in we headed to the bar for a LaBrava Cooler, a refreshing combination of Hendricks gin, St. Germaine, sage simple syrup, and cucumber. Nearby, a couple enjoying the final night of their stay devoured hamburgers with a tower of onion rings along with the BLT Steak signature popovers, which they nicknamed “crack-overs.” I was soon to discover why. Served warm, they are addictive; oversized, eggy, and topped with Gruyere cheese.
Dinner at BLT Steak the following evening was a relaxed affair. The restaurant had introduced its new menu, the star attractions of which, in my book, were the charred octopus over silky sous vide pork belly, lentils, and saffron-lobster broth, and the perfectly grilled Wagyu steak with an herbal chimichurro sauce. The key-lime panna cotta dessert provided a not-too-sweet palate cleansing finish.
As luxurious as the accommodations are, The Betsy is set apart from other hotels in its class by the owner’s commitment to the arts. Descendants of the acclaimed poet Hyam Plutzik (1911-1962), owner Jonathan Plutzik and his sister Deborah Briggs support the arts by sponsoring and hosting events year-round and by making available The Writers Room to which writers and artists can escape -- gratis -- in order to work. One wonders why more hotels don’t carve out such spaces. -- SDH