Malibu Farm started as a simple pop-up eatery. Now, it’s poised to become the next farm-to-fork foodie empire. Model-turned-restauranteur Helene Henderson has taken her local, seasonal, sustainable concept—a cult favorite among the ‘Bu’s locals, celebrities, and tourists alike—first to Hawaii and currently to Miami (and she’s planning two more openings in 2018, too!). With Malibu Farm’s Miami Beach restaurant slated to open around September in the new Nobu Hotel Eden Roc, Henderson’s been spending plenty of time in south Florida.
So where does the woman whose food embodies Malibu’s laid-back yet sophisticated palate go to eat, drink, relax, and more in her rare downtime? We tapped her for recommendations in both Malibu and Miami.
LUXURY RETREATS: Tell us about the newest Malibu Farm location in Miami Beach, Florida. Why did you choose to expand there?
HELENE HENDERSON: Meir Teper, one of the owners of Nobu, was one of our first customers at Malibu Farm and became a friend and mentor. We wanted an opportunity to work together and the Miami project seemed like the perfect fit. The location is a dream come true: It’s right on the boardwalk with amazing ocean views. Although it’s part of the Nobu Hotel Eden Roc, it’s a free-standing restaurant you can access from the beach or from the public parking lot next door without having to go through the hotel. And it has amazing interior design by Vanessa Alexander.
LR: How will the Malibu original and new Miami location differ?
HENDERSON: Many of Malibu Farm’s classic dishes will be available in Miami too, but we’ll have local specials as well. We’re super-excited about our wood-burning pizza ovens, and we are doing a lot of family-style dishes from the wood burning ovens too. The Miami restaurant also has a huge bar as a center piece, and we can’t wait to introduce our all-organic and agave-based cocktail program to the community. Plus, Malibu is a pretty early-night sort of town. Locals refer to Malibu’s “midnight” as 9 p.m., so I’m pretty excited to stay up ’til the ‘real’ midnight while in Miami.
LR: What’s your favorite dish or drink at Malibu Farm in Malibu?
HENDERSON: I’m all about breakfast in Malibu. After my morning run I head to the pier and I have our coffee, a kale apple juice, and a turmeric shot. Then, I will either have one of our salad ‘omelets,’ which I love, but I’m also a sucker for old-school Swedish pancakes with berries and cream. I indulge in those more often than I should.
LR: What’s your favorite dish or drink at Malibu Farm in Miami Beach?
HENDERSON: I love everything out of the wood-burning pizza oven, as we don’t have one in Malibu. Chef Thomas Buckley developed an excellent pizza crust for us which is chewy, crispy, and delicious. My favorite pizza is the callaloo spinach—it’s amazing. We also have a super-refreshing organic agave-based watermelon cocktail.
LR: What’s your favorite place to eat in Malibu (other than Malibu Farm, of course)?
HENDERSON: Malibu is a pretty small town, and there isn’t a lot of restaurants here. I either go to Nobu or Soho House [Little Beach House, a members-only club] both which are very close to the Malibu Farm on the pier. At Nobu, I always have the shiitake mushroom salad with mixed greens, and sushi, sushi, sushi (more is merrier!). At Soho House I usually have the avocado dip, the chia seed flat bread and the ‘forbidden’ rice bowl.
If I actually leave Malibu, which is seldom, I love all of Travis Lett’s restaurants. They are so cool and delicious, I can’t stand it! Gjelina and Gjusta are especially amazing, and he just opened his third restaurant Mtn [Mountain] that I can’t wait to check out.
LR: And what about Miami—where’s your favorite place to eat there?
HENDERSON: I love 27 Restaurant for their unique funky style. I’m all about their whole daily catch. It was grouper when I was there last, which you seldom see in Los Angeles.
LR: Where do you go to relax in Malibu?
HENDERSON: I am the ultimate home body, but I aspire to check in for a getaway at The Ranch Malibu, a luxury retreat nearby. It feels silly to check into a resort so close by, so I have yet to do it. But one day I’m going to make it happen.
LR: And when in Miami, where do you go to relax?
HENDERSON: I love Miami’s Soho Beach House [a members-only club]. It’s very close to the Nobu Eden Roc, so when I want to escape from the work environment, this is just a skip and a hop away. I go there often for breakfast, read the paper, and sit on the patio to relax. The spa there is amazing, the Soho people have amazing style in everything they do. I also want to check out The Standard Miami Spa one day, but I’ve not yet had the chance.
LR: Where do you go to work out in Malibu?
HENDERSON: I try to go running on most days, but I’m not nearly as fit as I want to be, and each year try to make it a priority to work out more. I run in the neighborhood where I live, in Point Dume—it’s a great area to run.
LR: What about when you’re in Miami?
HENDERSON: I usually run the boardwalk, which I love because there are other runners there. In Malibu, it’s always a solo run. I usually choose a slow, random runner ahead of me on the boardwalk and make them my secret ‘spotter.’ So if you are on the boardwalk running and you feel like I am following you, I am following you, sorry, and thank you! I also often stop at the 1 Hotel for tea and a scone during my run. ‘Cause who doesn’t sometimes need a snack in the middle?
LR: What’s one thing you wish visitors to Malibu realized about the area?
HENDERSON: Malibu is a rural small town, but has a big city personality. It’s also extremely gorgeous, with the best climate. And by the way, Malibu isn’t all about the beaches, it also has great hiking in the mountains. Come out early when it is usually overcast and take a nice hike before hitting the beach. And bring a sweater, it’s cold at night!
LR: What’s one surprising thing you’ve learned about Miami?
HENDERSON: I’d never been to Miami before embarking on the Malibu Farm journey, and I didn’t realize it has such a big city vibe. Miami has the energy of New York or Las Vegas. It really is a ‘wow’ moment when you arrive for the first time. In comparison to Los Angeles, Miami is a much smaller town, but even with almost 4 million residents, LA feels like the smaller town due to its sprawling nature.
The Atlantic ocean is also such a gorgeous light blue color compared to the darker waters of the Pacific. I’m not a water person, but each time I look at the perfect Miami beaches I consider venturing into the ocean.
LR: What does ‘luxury’ mean to you?
HENDERSON: Luxury is always the option to say no to things you don’t want to do, but the ability to do the things you do want to do.
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