Sexy flamenco paintings, heavy-mail fixtures, bursts of burnt orange and fine leather furnishings decorate the rooms and public areas of the newest hotel on St. Pete Beach, Hotel Zamora. Miami-based Cuba-Fernandez Design orchestrated the $20 million transformation from demolition site to Spanish hacienda, which debuted June 13, 2014. It’s top chic, yet as I watched a Saturday afternoon dwindle from my arch-framed balcony, revelers in casual summer threads began to arrive by the boatload.
Literally. Zamora’s bayfront docks and lively, handsome Castile lounge and restaurant have quickly won the hearts of locals, who saturate the fashionable digs with an attitude of party-time gourmandizing that seems to prevail in this playful town.
City vs. Beach
Fronting the peninsula that holds St. Petersburg — the sister town to Tampa, Florida, just across the bay — St. Pete Beach has always played the beach bum to downtown’s more serious museum and arts connoisseur. Sure, it has its venerable, pink castle Don CeSar resort to rival downtown’s Vinoy – both grande dames of the 1920s. But for decades, St. Pete Beach has maintained a reputation for old-school, rowdy beach town. In recent years, however, the always youthful island that fronts the Gulf of Mexico to the west is slowly gathering a certain cast of maturity.
That began as resorts got face lifts, and a couple of more polished products came on board. And now there is Hotel Zamora, which grew from the demo of two former old motels on the bay, across Gulf Boulevard from the beach scene. Started as recession crashed down on Florida, it sat partially built for two years before a new infusion of capital brought it to the June 13, 2014, finish line. The hotel’s 50 modern, roomy units include 22 sleek suites with glass walls separating the bedroom and living area.
Influenced by the architecture, design, and cuisine of Zamora, Spain, its exterior makes an exotic statement of archways, iron-trimmed balconies, medieval-looking lanterns, stucco, and brick. The bay-facing swimming pool loops in and out of the sun, furnished in sleek style and always bubbling with the mirth of people at play.
The attractive pool deck, the boat docks, and the fine-dining Castile restaurant make it popular with the local party crowd. Later this fall, the hotel will open its fifth-floor rooftop bar for still another venue for dining and partying with a view of bay and gulf. The talented Executive Chef Ted Dorsey, a Gulf Coast native, has married the finest Spanish food traditions and products to local seafood and farm fare for a result that makes tastebuds dance the flamenco.
Tapas such as lobster fries or baked oysters with lump crab demonstrate complexity and perfection, along with entrees like seared diver scallops with creamed corn casserole and candied pancetta and a brunch specialty I shall never forget – Spanish sausage and boniato sofrito hash with duck eggs. Hotel Zamora, indeed, plugs into St. Petersburg’s reputation for the finer things in life – including an esprit of relaxed comfort and unpretentious fun.
For more information on Hotel Zamora, call 727-456-8660 or 877-798-2434.