Reviewing luxurious spas in the capital is a very tough job, writes Christa D'Souza, but someone's got to do it
First World problems. Aren’t they the worst? Mine at the moment is luxury spa burnout. Granted, it is not as ‘high quality’ as that of an acquaintance’s - missing out on air-miles because of hitching too many rides on private planes - but it is one that anyone who is lucky enough to write about beauty must surely relate to, especially at this time of year.
Honestly, if I have to read one more misspelled press release about how the earth has been scoured in the quest to find the ultimate spa experience; if I have to get naked in one more state-of-the-art locker room; if I have to stand under one more 'experience' shower that, for the life of me, I cannot get to work…
And yet here I am at Grace Belgravia ( www.gracebelgravia.com ), the latest luxury spa in London, doing just that. Like The Sanctuary of yore in Covent Garden (the seedy 70s setting for Joan Collins’ nude swing scene in The Stud), its USP is that it is Women Only. But there, frankly, the comparison ends. How to describe it?
Well. If one could imagine a place where it would be less than appropriate to wee in the shower, this, readers, would be it. The ex headquarters of Daylesford's, it is housed in an 11,500 square foot Grade II listed building in the heart of gleaming Belgravia. The moment you walk into its grand reception area you are met by your very own “angel”, the person assigned to you 24/7 ("Our staff never have time off!"), to make all your bookings.
What can you get? Oh Lord. What CAN’T you get. From a colonic, to a colonoscopy; from a consultation with a plastic surgery expert to one with an eating disorders specialist; from a one-on-one workout with fitness guru Matt Roberts, to a one-on-one dance session with R&B queen Jo Manoukian, there’s almost nothing, but nothing you cannot get under Grace Belgravia’s vaulted ceilinged roof.
Me, I’ve plumped for a 75 min session of 'Dream Time Therapy' in the dry floatation room with a nice girl called Laura. Recommended for jet lag and insomnia, it involves a scrub, a shower, a massage, and then being lowered coffin-style into a big water-filled mattress - making you feel, hopefully, like you did when you were a foetus.
Is it nice? Of course it is. If I had one of these every day I could throw away the Ambien forever. It is impossible not to drift off into that lovely half awake/half asleep mode, and as usual when she nicely, almost apologetically tells me it’s over, I so don’t want to leave.
The trouble with this level of luxury however is that it can turn one into such a Marie Antoinette. The door in the eucalyptus steam room was a bugger to open and although there are acres and acres of fluffy white towels (and acres and acres of liveried staff to pick them up before they hit the ground), there’s not one which is the right size for wrapping wet hair in.
I may not be their target customer, though. On the way out I notice a framed black and white photograph of a girl in a towel; it’s my other half’s birthday soon. He’d love it. And I love the fact that spotting it in this situation makes it kind of ‘found’. No problem, my lovely 'angel' says, she’ll just check to see who it’s by and whether it’s for sale.
Hooray! It is. And guess what: it’s by Gerhard Richter and costs £25,000...