Grove Isle Club and Resort
A Different Miami, Just Minutes from the Action
Frommer & Jeff Schock
View from Pool facing Biscayne Bay
|Miami in August is hot! And the South Beach scene is hot all year
round! We love it, but there is more to Miami than the steamy bustle
of Ocean Drive, the art deco of Collins Avenue or the shops on
Lincoln Road, there’s a different Miami just 15 minutes from the
Tranquil and a world
away from Miami’s maddening crowds, Grove Isle (www.groveisle.com)
is a small hotel and resort built on a private island just off-shore
from Coconut Grove in scenic Biscayne Bay.
Getting there is a bit
tricky so pay careful attention to the directions provided by the hotel.
It’s just a few turns off Bay Shore Drive, through residential Coconut
Grove, and over a bridge before you’re cleared through a security gate
and directed to the hotels circular drive way at the end of the island.
Surrounded by water,
yachts and lush tropical gardens, it’s a romantic respite with the laid
back atmosphere of a private club, where couples can luxuriate in hammocks
while being serenaded by uninterrupted music piped throughout the grounds.
A throwback to British colonial days in the tropics, Grove Island
and its restaurant Baleen are two of Miami’s best-kept secrets.
With romance on the mind, we settled in for three sumptuous nights
and surrendered to the many charms of Grove Isle.
Sunrise at Grove Isle
|Catering to the non-tourist, Grove Isles attracts a worldly
clientele comprised of individual business travelers, couples
desiring a convenient get-away, or guests with an appetite for
culinary adventure. During our stay, we met a couple from Boca
Raton who had ditched the kids and were down for romantic weekend, a
businessman from Brazil, and a successful couple on their honeymoon
who decided to stay stateside without sacrificing the paradise found
beyond territorial waters. Grove Isle is one of 20 “boutique
properties” owned and managed by the privately held Nobel House
Each property represents the unique personalities of
its locale environ, all share a common theme: fire and water. When night
falls, Grove Isle is dramatically set aglow by blazing torches stationed
around the pool area and along the open-walkways, which wrap around the
Guest Room "floating" atop
|All Grove Isle rooms are moderately spacious with terra cotta
tiled floors and contemporary blonde-wood & granite-topped
furniture. Adequate bathrooms are stocked with Bulgaria
amenities. Comfortable sitting areas and large terraces face
the bay - a great perch for reading or in-room breakfast. The views
are spectacular, particularly the sunrises if you are up and
about. In our room the elevated king-size bed was placed
against a headboard of picture windows. If you rest your chin on one
of the soft pillows you’ll fell the sensation of aviating the
Biscayne azure with your coveys. Rates can range from $
99 for single rooms to over $400 for suites -- depending on the
season and occupancy.
|The swimming pool, only a few feet from the bay, provided us with
an afternoon of bliss sustained by soft, plush lounges and relaxing
music piped through speakers hidden in the gardens. We swam a few laps and enjoyed the hot tub/Jacuzzi. A modest
gym is available to guests and Island residents as well as, the
tennis courts. The outdoor bar, reminiscent of a South Pacific hut,
offered an array of tempting tropical concoctions, and interesting
conversation in several languages.
Poolside at Grove Isle Club and Resort
the temptation for poolside libation, however, as we had a date for
cocktails that evening with Grove Isle’s Public Relations Director,
Rebecca Kollaras. A fashionable Miami native, Rebecca is a wealth of
information, and her specialty is creating imaginative travel packages
tied to the local area.
Life Package,” which took place during Coconut Grove’s world famous
Art Show is one such artful escape. It included a three day-Two night
stay; an artist set with a selection of watercolors and an “8x10”
stretched canvas, paintbrush, and tabletop easel for guests to create
their own artistic visions.
package for art lovers was described as “The Museum Pass Escape,”
which offered three day-two nights with a pass to the Vizcaya Museum.
“Coconut Grove is the heart of artistic activity in the Miami area,”
Rebecca told us, “so it was a very appropriate tie-in. The hotel is
filled with art; the hotel’s charity of record is the New World School
of the Arts.”
had a hand in creating the alternative “Star Bar” promotion, which
appeals to guests interested in limiting their desires for mini-bar
temptations. “We removed anything that they might consider an
indulgence, not just alcohol, but caffeine, chocolate or even soda.
We’ve found this to be very popular.” Should one want diversions of
their own design, Coconut Grove and it’s commercial epicenter, the famed
Coco-Walk, is just a few minutes away from Grove Isle. We spent an entire
afternoon wandering Coco-Walk’s many art galleries, shops and
Monkey Business at Baleen.
|That night we experienced another very popular Grove Isle event,
dining in the award-winning restaurant: Baleen. Its festive mood is
enhanced by some serious monkey business, artifacts of monkeys that
is – You’ll find them everywhere throughout Baleen’s whimsical
décor, and in the titles on the menu. The moment we were seated at
our spacious banquette, a piping hot loaf of “Monkey Bread”
swooped down to the table and kept us company while we thought about
what to order. Our knowledgeable waiter Virgil explained the Baleen
theme: “Monkeys are not only cute and fun but they bring out the
restaurant’s tropical flair.”
We started off
with jumbo shrimp the size of langoustines imported from Vietnam followed
by the freshest oysters we’ve had in quite some time. Hand-towels were
then presented, and the deck cleared as we awaited Baleen’s signature
entree: Chinese fried snapper with coconut rice. The artfully
prepared yellowtail snapper has taken first prize in many competitions
with trophies to numerous to mention. We savored every last drop of the
sweet and spicy sauce; the coconut rice puts a nice spin on the tireless
staple. Some other signature dishes include: a three pound lobster
cooked over a wood burning fire made sweet and succulent, fresh mahi-mahi,
filet mignon with a Roquefort crust cooked to pink perfection, deep Dover
scallops and an incredible lobster bisque.
Baleen's Chef Extraordinaire, Robbin
1999, Nobel House approached one of Miami’s hottest chefs, Robbin
Haas, and succeeded in luring him away from his wildly successful
South Beach endeavor Red Square, to champion Baleen into the
echelons of South Florida’s great restaurants.
who lives just down the road in Coconut Grove, dropped by to share some of
the secrets of his success. Bountifully energetic, Robbin started his
career 12 years ago at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach. His culinary vision
is summed up and maintained in two words: “Consistency and simplicity.
I cook for the restaurant the same way I cook at home.” He went on
to tell us about the grilled chicken with risotto he had just whipped at
home before coming over to the restaurant to meet us. His initial idea was
to create an up-market American Steak House that serves seafood.
“I imagined New York City meeting South Florida – a steak house, a
fish house, with best attributes of both worlds. ” Hence, large
steak-house sized portions married to consistent and inventive preparation
make Baleen a study in contrasts: clubby yet formal, American yet
|The Grove Isle success has led to the advent of new Baleens
opening soon in Naples, Florida and San Francisco, California.
Baleen’s boast many satisfied customers who return frequently,
from celebrity out-of-towners to locals in the know, Robbin has the
Midas touch, and will undoubtedly capture more fans as his Baleen
monkeys find new markets to play in.
Our last night was spent alfresco, back at Baleen’s. Our meal
was exactly as Robbin Haas likes it – simple and consistently
great! The wine, a Blassen D’dassan Margeaux 1996; the meal, filet
mignon with a Roquefort crust, roasted chicken, creamy mashed
potatoes complimented by bib and ceaser salad.
Baleen's Dining Room, formal, yet
The writers dining al fresco at Baleen
|We toasted yet another great meal on this island oasis. This was
our last night on the island, and the next morning would find us up
at dawn and off to the airport.
We lingered at Baleens sipping our espressos spiked with Sambuca,
again lost in the tranquility of Biscayne Bay. In the channel
a pair of motor yachts slipped silently into the night, as the
lights of Miami Beach beckoning from across the bay. We looked at
our watches and smiled with the same conclusion: South Beach was
just minutes away and still sizzling with some of the best dance
clubs on the planet, tomorrow would just have to wait! We
ordered two hot espressos to go and called for the car.
Isle Club and Resort
Grove Isle Drive
Grove, FL 33133
Phone: 305-858-8300 or 800-884-7683
Frommer & Jeff Schock
are a wife and husband team specializing in Caribbean and
Mexican travel and cuisine from a multimedia perspective.
Frommer is a Marketing Executive for one of America’s leading
teen magazines and former Vice President of Entertainment for Sony Music.
Schock is writer and television producer who creates entertainment
programming for networks such as MTV, HBO,
and the Disney Channel.
Frommer and Schock are currently at work
on an in-depth feature on the influences of music on Cuban culture.
You can reach the authors at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This Article is Copyright © 2003 by
Frommer & Jeff Schock.
All rights reserved worldwide.