The Hamptons South
Eau Palm Beach began life in 1992 as a Ritz Carlton. Built by the Simon family, wealthy shopping mall developers who needed it as a place to house their friends. Apparently, their nearby home, the former Vanderbilt mansion, was not large enough.
Fast forward to 2002 when a UK family trust took over. They ran it as a Ritz till 2013 when it was rebranded Eau Palm Beach. Why such a confusing name, we asked Nick Gold, the property’s director of PR. Turns out that the establishment’s Eau Spa already boasted a high profile so they expanded the name to encompass the entire resort.
But that’s not the end of the history. Seems that a swank private club inhabited the spot before the site became a mecca of luxury hospitality. Called La Coquille Club, guests included such A-listers as the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
The five-star resort is located on the sea a whisper from the Palm Beach border in the town of Manalapan, declared by Forbes to have the wealthiest zip code in the country. And we thought the Hamptons held that distinction. Here, where reside the likes of Billy Joel, Tony Robbins and Yanni, you can buy a house for $195 million.
Renowned designer Jonathan Adler, designed all 309 guest rooms and suites. “We felt his take on luxury meshed with the look we wanted – fresh and sunny.” Indeed, my room with its whimsical headboard, quirky lamps and splashes of yellow attest to that sensibility. “He thought about his favorite places to travel – Capri, Santorini and Palm Beach – and married them to come up with a palette and design,” says Gold. “He chose everything from carpets to artwork.”
Eau is filled with families having a blast. There is even the occasional spotting of a dog. Canines up to 25 pounds can stay for a fee, a portion of which goes to to a local rescue organization.
Eau Spa takes a different approach than most spas, being less about carrot juice and more about cupcakes and champagne, both of which are offered upon arrival. Its motto is “Pause, Play, Perfect” (as a verb) and it’s all about “letting your hair down” says Gold.
Of the four restaurants, my favorite is Breeze Ocean Kitchen, right on the water. With its yellow-and-white striped umbrellas it’s obvious that Adler helped in the design. An entire wall is devoted to the artist’s custom-made ceramics, mostly of happy sun faces. It’s a true treat because there are few places you can dine on the ocean in Palm Beach.
Cucina opened in December and became known for its light-as-air pizza crusts leavened with champagne bubbles instead of yeast. Seated on a pretty terrace overlooking an avenue of illuminated Royal Palms, we enjoyed super crunchy fried oysters with crème fraiche, tiny black fish roe on a layer of mashed potatoes and pappardelle with short ribs, wild mushrooms and garlic crumbs: both winners.
Move over Ritz. For Afternoon Tea at the Chesterfield we are seated in wing chairs in the library where we are feted with assorted sandwiches by the executive chef and confections by the pastry chef. A chicken salad sandwich is edged with sliced almonds while a smoked salmon sandwich comes with a dilly cream cheese. The piece de resistance is the cucumber-mayo version, veddy English indeed.