Destination: England: London
See Also: the ESPA flagship at The Corinthia
Aman-junkies no longer need to travel to far-flung locales to get their fix. London’s Connaught Hotel opened the celebrated Asian brand’s first spa. This little jewel on the lower ground floor of the Mayfair hotel has only five treatment rooms, a dark granite pool (not large enough for laps but perfect for a peaceful dip), a small gym and a relaxation area. The spacious treatment rooms all have separate dressing and shower areas, as well as attractive lattice screens, cedar flooring and foot baths with big stones. If money and time are no object, go for one of the four Rituals, two-and-a-half-hour treatments inspired by a different part of the world (the cost: £280). To the other extreme (£70), try the “to-go” treatment, where the therapist gives a fully-clothed guest a thirty-minute, loosening overhaul, the ideal warm-up for a flight home, for instance. Guest can also simply book a specific amount of time and the therapist will tailor a treatment to suit their individual needs and desires. Amen to Aman.
If even an hour is too long, try a half-hour pampering session at Charles Worthington. The spa’s newly refurbished Covent Garden headquarters are in a lovely five-story Georgian townhouse with original fireplaces, where customers can be forgiven for forgetting they’re in a hair salon.
The Dorchester recently unveiled a glitzy new spa (after a $4.7 million expansion). Designed by Fox Linton Associates, this is not a place to detox but to luxuriate. I can so easily picture Eloise, the international traveler, with her dog Weenie and turtle Skipperdee sampling petit-fours at the Arte Deco-inspired Spatisserie. And the floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets lined with florescent bottles of nail polish reminded me of Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy installation, only far more user-friendly. If money is no object, this is the spa destination of choice.
Four Season Park Lane Spa
The tenth-floor spa at the Four Seasons Park Lane is everything one would expect from the five-star deluxe hotel, namely friendly staff, quiet, gleaming white dressing rooms, granite steam, sauna with a view, vitality pool (note to self-bring bathing suit next time Mercury is in retrograde). But what sets this space apart from all other London spas is the view: as my therapist began my two-hour Eastern Elements Ritual with a foot scrub, I gazed across the blossoming tree tops blanketing Hyde Park. The amazing treatment included some gentle stretching, a deep-tissue back massage, a tender acupressure foot massage and, my favorite part, a soothing scalp rub. My troubles were literally flying out the window. Each of the 8 treatment rooms comes with a private relaxation pod so the transition back into reality is softened with some peaceful relaxation over tea. Not only did I feel cheerier, I looked less drawn and, dare I say it, younger.
If time is short, try Groom at Selfridges or on Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge. Try the Weekly Groom Hour, where two therapists work in tandem, giving you a manicure, pedicure and brow tidying (waxing or plucking), facial and synchronized massage, all in one hour for $141.
Earle’s organic and highly popular skin-care line will be that much more accessible when her new flagship boutique and spa opens in a shopping enclave off of the King’s Road in July. Check out the Try-Me mini range for overnight and weekend trips.
For a break from shopping, ease your tired feet at Reflexions, a walk-in massage parlor where you can enjoy seriously good reflexology ($54 for 30 minutes, $85 for an hour or $38 for a seated back massage). Open from 12p.m. – 8p.m.
Housed in a landmark building that used to function as a bank—vaults and all—the new So Spa at the Sofitel in St James takes pampering to new peaks. When I tried it the other week, I was greeted by my personal Spa Butler who came armed with a clipboard and questions on my preferences relating to music, oils and scents, room temperature and, of course, the blanket menu. And all this while I dined on mini macaroons from Paris and freshly brewed Signature bath teas. I chose the So Rejuvenating facial which was made all the more relaxing because of the thick and cosseting Sofitel Mybeds available throughout the chain’s luxury hotels.
This very French spa, which uses Carita and Cinq Monde products, offers a restaurant menu format for its treatments. Starters, targeted at busy urbanites, last 30 minutes. Main courses and desserts, lasting 60 minutes, include body massages, facials and hot stone treatments. Look out for Specials, such as the “Look Good Breakfast” where shirts get steamed, shoes polished and newspaper delivered while you use the gym and hammam. My wish list includes the intoxicating Martini & Manicure, Pint & Pedicure and after a long-haul flight, the Re-balancing Jet Lag Pack lasting 60 or 90 minutes.
Spa at Mandarin Oriental London
For a dose of tranquillity after a day of shopping or sightseeing, go for a treatment at the Mandarin Oriental spa in central Knightsbridge. I started to relax the moment I traded in my leather boots for a pair of soft slippers and a cup of rose-hip antistress tea; then I padded to my Early Energiser, a forty-five-minute aromatherapy massage using ESpa oils, which left me feeling like I had bonded with my inner Christy Turlington. Those with more time to spare can book a two-hour Time Ritual treatment rooted in Asian custom, or the Oriental Harmony massage, in which two therapists massage you in synchronization. Tip: get to the spa forty-five minutes before your scheduled time to enjoy the relaxation room. The low-lit space has subtly changing lights to help lighten moods, and the four wooden beds come with headsets tuned to soothing music. For those in need of both spa and retail therapy, the Mandarin offers a £10,000 two-night package that entitles guests to a £5,000 voucher at Harvey Nichols (including a personal shopping appointment after hours) and two Time Ritual treatments.
Located near the hustle and bustle of Sloane Square, this supremely tranquil retreat is the brainchild of Usha Arumugam, a Malaysian corporate lawyer. Dissatisfied with London’s spa offerings, Arumugam spent seven years and many pounds crafting Ushvani, located in a historic Edwardian building. The authentic design references the founder’s Malaysian roots, with dark-wood floors, soothing chocolate browns, warm lacquer reds and a hibiscus motif throughout. The treatment menu, meanwhile, shows a fondness for holistic pampering. There are only three therapists, each of whom undergoes four months of training from a senior therapist with over twenty years of experience in Asian treatments. My blissful ninety-minute massage began with a nutmeg and ginger refresher towel and included de-stressing acupressure. Afterwards, when I was sipping delicious hibiscus tea, my therapist asked me whether I was okay to drive home, and I actually had to think for a second before I remembered that I was walking home. Treatments last ninety minutes and generally cost £180 (except for the £130 signature facial).
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