Sometimes, the true treasures in life lie right under our noses. That’s the case for discovering most of Florida, which is about four different states in one. I’ve lived here most of my life, but had never visited the historical Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Until this weekend.
Most often compared to The Breakers hotel, it was built in the same time period, in 1926. That means the Mediterranean architecture is prevalent, with colorful tiles, beautiful stone work on the floors and walls, period lighting fixtures and grand gardens.
The beauty of the current Biltmore is fairly recent. It first opened to visits by royalty, celebrity and the infamous (Al Capone was a frequent guest) in its early years, including use as a southern White House by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Then the hotel eventually became a military hospital, closed for 10 years, was renovated and reopened in 1987. Another renovation followed in 2002, and a culinary academy was added in 2009.
Now it’s a first-class luxury hotel, with a Sunday Champagne brunch to match. Both are worth a trip to Coral Gables.
The brunch buffets in the Palme d’Or restaurant are set up on either side of a lush courtyard, with a big fountain and live music as entertainment. On one side are breakfast buffets (all kinds of egg dishes, sides, fresh pastries) and the dessert buffet. On the other side sits the open bar, raw bar, carving stations (pork, lamb, beef), sushi bar, caviar bar, pasta bar, tapas bar, smoked fish bar and deli bar.
Did I mention the unlimited Champagne, Bellinis, mimosas and Bloody Marys? Plus soft drinks, iced tea, etc.
Kids are welcome and seemed most happy when trotting by with plates piled high. Expect to spend a couple of hours here, just sampling a bit of this and a bunch of that. There are two seatings: 10 a.m.- 10:30 a.m., and then 1 p.m.-1:30 p.m. Cost is $90 per person for adults (gratuity is added to the bill) and $45 for children ages 5-11. Reservations are almost required, because this is a popular place for both locals and visitors.
The restaurant’s dining room is all glass, mirrors, gold fixtures, crystal lights and columns. White tablecloths and spotless glasses set the spot for pacing yourself at brunch. Standout tastes this Sunday included three kinds of caviar blinis (pictured above), with crème fraiche, chopped egg yolk, chopped egg whites, onion, capers, scallions and more topping. Tobiko wasabi caviar is from flying fish roe, is bright green, infused with wasabi brine, and has a light wasabi undertone taste. Normally seen topping nigiri sushi, it is a refreshing bite.
On the raw bar, there are stone crabs, oysters, Alaskan king crab legs, shrimp, scallop ceviche, smoked salmon, whitefish, mahi mahi and trout.
The dessert bar plate we assembled included cheesecake, tiramisu, crème brulee and a fruit tart. There were a dozen more choices; everyone needs a macaron for the road.
Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables; 305/913-3189; https://www.biltmorehotel.com/dining/brunch/