267 Portobello Road, London, W11 1LR

020 7243 1113

We wanted to love our nearest nail bar, but the slow, chaotic service makes it impossible to go back

Review: Coco Nail Bar, Portobello Road

2 stars

Coco Nail Bar_1.jpg

Imagine the hope in my heart when I picked up the phone to book in at Coco, the nearest nail bar to Get the Gloss’s West London offices. I would make an appointment for the “quickie manicure” (£12 for 15 mins) that I’d read about on their website, go along, love it and become a regular, recommending all their manicurists as GTG experts.

Back in the real world, my call was answered by a recorded message telling me that Coco was a “unique concept to London”, followed by an answering machine. Undeterred, I called back to book an hour later. They had plenty of afternoon slots and can usually accommodate walk-ins, they said. I soon found out why.

The reception desk is not the first thing you see at the Portobello Road entrance; instead, you walk past four or five of treatment tables and a banquette wall with bowls full of garra rufa, those little fish that eat the dead skin off your feet, on the floor. This is probably because of the pre-advertised “unique concept” – reception doubles as a cocktail bar, and is thus on a wall in the middle of the salon.

There is a good range of OPI and Essie nail polishes on display, and my manicurist asked me to choose one. So far, so good, both great brands, and she did a lovely job of filing, buffing and painting my ragged nails. We had a nice chat, during which I learnt that Coco's has been open for around a year, is open until 10pm and is popular with hen parties at weekends, when there is a DJ, and yummy mummies on Tuesday mornings, when a Montessori-trained teacher looks after little ones while the mums pamper themselves.

After the advertised 15 minutes I was taken off to the drying area to put my nails under a light for ten minutes - my therapist promised to come back and spray them before I left. Ten turned into 15 turned into 20, my lilac Essie varnish hardened and I could see her with another client.

Having delicately flicked through an old ELLE and an older Reveal, I’d had as much magazine time as I could take and decided to see myself out as it was approaching 4pm, but was nearly knocked down by a mani-pedi client who was desperately waving her credit card at the reception desk. She had been there, she revealed, since 1.30pm. I gasped. The assistant behind the desk studied the credit card machine.

Would these two treatments normally take the 45 minutes advertised, asked my veteran fellow client, rather than the two and a half hours she had been there? Yes, yes, nodded the assistant, eyes down. Giving up on an apology or discount, Veteran went to pick up her bag – and smudged her big toe. I pulled a face. She pulled a face. Somebody hustled to get it fixed… But I think it was too late. If not for the toe, then certainly for Veteran and me.

Putting the bar into nail bar is a fun idea, but if you can’t make it work in the times you’ve promised, it’s not so much a happy hour as an unhappy afternoon.

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