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 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 as Pret, the options are remarkable. Here are a handful of some of our go-to places for scrubs, rubs, and soaks.
Bamboo & Silk Ritual at Claridge’s Spa
What to expect and who is it for? Claridge’s is the doyenne of the hotel arts, a hospitality universe of its own in which the afternoon tea and the checkerboard lobby is exactly what you dream of when you think of the swank and gleam of Mayfair – and its showpiece is the spa, a space where André Fu’s set-design of an interior – lights reverberating off the water, the detailed ikebana arrangements, the purity of silence, and the aromatic wisp of sage and cedarwood – may remind you of that millennia-old temple you paid a visit to during your year abroad in Kyoto.
The full body treatment at Claridge’s Spa is unrelenting and will work you into a blissed-out reverie. We could lovingly detail the enzyme-thick koji that’s oiled onto your feet; the whirl and rush of hands that work to root out any taut muscles; the way in which heated, slicked-up sticks of bamboo are rolled over your body’s contours, stretching skin, digging at months of racked-up stress, rolling over bones and muscles you never knew were in existence; and how poultices and silk cocoons are applied to the face, leaving it as glossy as fine marble. But, detailing is besides the point – just go and submit.
Duration: 90 minutes, Cost: £295
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 below street level to the point where, inside the pool, you can hear the distant rush of the underground.
The Vitality of the Glaciers, launched in 2021 as part of 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 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
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, Cost: £280
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, Cost: £550
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 treatments are bookable by hotel guests, Ned’s Club members and Ned Friends members.
Duration: 50 minutes, Cost: £110
Ishga Detox Body Wrap at The Spa at 45 Park Lane
What to expect and who is it for? For the hypersensitive, the Ishga Detox Body Wrap leans away from the rough-n-ready tornado of palms and more towards a feathery touch, with generous but not overflowing handfuls of seaweed gel softly worked into you, followed by diligent scrubs and applications of Hebridean sea salt scrub whose purpose is to work on both a cosmetic level – brushing away dead and dried skin, leaving a smoother texture than that which you arrived in – and a deeper one, with collagen production encouraged, toxins ridded and built up congestion loosened up and freed.
The crowning glory is the handsome pool area, which, if all goes your way on a lazy Sunday, will be yours for a half hour or so. The floral mosaic, conceived by Venetian artisans using Roman-style tiles, plays off beautifully against the electric-blue of the water below and will make it feel as though you’ve been transplanted into a William Morris print. (The spa is available to guests of 45 Park Lane and The Dorchester.)
Duration: 60 minutes, Cost: £190 (Monday–Thursday); £210 (Friday–Sunday)
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