In the oppressive heatwave months, a man’s fancy can often turn to the wallet-crushing pleasures of a spa, perhaps because a dark, windowless room offers a chance to shun the moshpit of summer tourists in town, at least for an hour or two, or most likely because the promise of a steam room and an array of miracle elixirs are the only ways to limit the damage caused by a weekend of drink or overtime – or both.
In London, where choice spas have become as common (but not quite!) as Pret, the options are remarkable. Here is a handful of some of our go-to places for scrubs, rubs and soaks.
Speedy Hammam at The Ned
What to expect and who is it for? At the base of the one-time Midland Bank building, The Ned’s Club Spa is a nexus of treatment areas and leather-thronged waiting rooms, all anchored around a 20m pool. Between seasons, or after a holiday, when the skin needs a revamp, try the hammam room, decked out in pink-marble walls and whose contemporary update on the traditional Moroccan treatment spreads itself across six stages: a foot cleanse and black soap wash; a thorough body exfoliation with a coarse glove; a hair wash with a mineral-rich Rhassoul lava clay; a shirodhara, the pouring of rose-and-orange-blossom water onto the forehead; a speedy facial; and a thick slap of oils and pure-shea butter onto the body.
The rhythm is relentless – scrub-splash-scrub, scrub-splash-scrub – and you will leave feeling like perfectly formed jelly, both wobbly and smooth. Add-ons can incorporate various massages and masks, and treatment are bookable by hotel guests, Ned’s Club members and Ned Friends members.
Duration: 50 minutes
The Ned Spa
Valmont Energy Facial – Vitality of the Glaciers at Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre
What to expect and who is it for? Piccadilly Circus can be an unforgiving place where the Regent Street shoppers bleed into the wildlands of Canon cameras, neon screens, and welter of buses. Akasha is located in this heart of darkness, yet offers respite from it all, located so far down below street level to the point where, inside the pool, you can hear the distant rush of the underground.
The Vitality of the Glaciers, a recent launch in the spa’s programme, is a cellular-renewal facial whose aim is to work dull, congested complexions that have been affected by pollution and stress, which, in practice, means endless rounds of exfoliation, kneading, and what the spa calls a lifting butterfly technique that encourages circulation. It ends with a sharp, slightly prickly, but mysteriously pleasurable collagen mask that tightens, smooths and plumps – a fine way to arm yourself before being spat back out into the whirlwind outside.
Duration: 60 or 90 minutes
Cost: £220 or £262
Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre
Grounding Body Polish & Wrap at Aman Spa
What to expect and who is it for? At Aman Spa, located deep within The Connaught Hotel, you will navigate a tangled network of corridors and hallways before being shown to your treatment room where you will travel from light to darkness, a sort of slight of hand that acts as the first step to what the spa calls returning the body and mind to a state of stillness.
The polish-and-wrap signature – angled towards those who’ve experienced periods of exhaustion, anxiety, jet lag, or fatigue – may begin with a gentle foot cleanse, before you hoist yourself onto a table and face up to an unbroken rhythm of revolving hands that lather an amethyst-infused scrub all over you, scouring, exfoliating and polishing almost all surfaces. A cocooning body wrap then fades into an application of a luscious, thick smoked butter that lubricates the skin. Afterwards, end your day under the waterwall of the black granite pool.
Duration: 90 minutes
The Himalayan Salt Ritual at AIRE Ancient Baths
What to expect and who is it for? The full body treatment at AIRE, the Covent Garden Spa famed for its antiquity-themed arrangement of baths and pools, is unrelenting and ruthless. A full body scrub, which utilises chunky bits of pure pink salt quarried from the Himalayas, an ingredient commonly linked to numerous health benefits, effectively and efficiently sheds dead skin. A wrap then follows, allowing the skin to absorb the minerals of the salt, allegedly regulating the body’s water content, while your therapist simultaneously works a neck, face and scalp massage.
A sequential act consists of hot Himalayan stone and oils being massaged deep into you, as though your therapist wants to fuse you to the ingredients – your face may contort in pleasurable agony! – before you jump between the myriad thermal baths of varying temperatures, from 10ºC to 40ºC.
Duration: 180 minutes
AIRE Ancient Baths
Cellular High-Tech Pigment Lightening at Bulgari Spa
What to expect and who is it for? The Bulgari Spa’s pigment lightening is magnificent, a 90-minute session of non-stop lotions, balms, exfoliators and creams slicked and worked into your face, like a potter manipulating clay, with enough rhythmic hand gestures to snap you into a trance.
The aim, it is claimed, is to work directly on the cells that cause dark areas caused by fatigue, regular drinking or numerous other factors. Indeed, there is probably an indexful of other lightening specialists in London these days, and each one is remarkable in its own way – but the contouring of the jawline, the ceaseless flow and focus, the lightly scented perfume, and the bright, sheeny reflection that you see in the mirror afterwards, like newly discovered silk, will forever strike us as superb.
Duration: 90 minutes
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