John Gregory-Smith discovered a booming foodie scene and the slick new Epicurean Hotel in Florida.
Sipping a margarita on the rooftop bar over looking the city, on a blissfully warm evening, surrounded by a very glam crowd and tucking into small plates of spicy crab cakes, tuna tartar and gloriously rich lamb meatballs, was not what I expected to be doing after just hopping off my BA flight from Gatwick to the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa. Yes I had flown to Florida to go to Tampa and not Miami, and it was wicked!
The Epicurean Hotel, opposite the famous Bern’s steakhouse, is at the centre of a new food revolution in the cool, young city. The hotel looked, as lots of things do in America, very unassuming from the outside, but as we fell out of our taxi and into the hotel lobby, it was chic and contemporary, with wine boxes framing the reception, stunning art on the walls and a kick ass wine shop on site.
In the hipster district of SoHo, the new hotel is all about great local food and wine. Partnered with Bern’s steakhouse over the road (one of the most extraordinary places I have every been to in my life), which has over 100,000 bottles of booze on site and around 500,000 in a warehouse, you are spoilt for choice in the hotel. They have a wonderful restaurant and roof top bar that is one of the coolest bars in the city. Cookery demos and classes from local producers are held at their cooking theatre, allowing guests to soak up the local foodie scene.
Located on the Bay of Tampa, Tampa is a beautiful city and perfect to explore for a few days. You can borrow bikes from the hotel and cycle around the picturesque tree-lined streets, discover the hidden gems of Seminal Heights and eat in some of the awesome restaurants in Ybor city.
The Epicurean Hotel made the perfect base, with lovely bight rooms, massive beds, a great in-room wine selection and ginormous shower that was all perfect to flop into after a long day in town. They have an outdoor pool, where we found ourselves for a few hours most afternoons, soaking up the rays and drinking mojitos.
South Beach it was not, but with such so much going on, it is the perfect entry point for Florida and well worth it.
For more information visit epicureanhotel.com
British Airways offers seven nights at the 4* Epicurean Hotel, Autograph Collection, from £1339 per person, for travel in August. Including return flights from London Gatwick to Tampa. For reservations visit ba.com/tampa or call 0844 493 0758.