It’s nearly Christmas, you’re getting footsore and weary from slogging around the shops and in need of a pick-me-up. How about a couple of hours of real down time just around the corner from some of London’s best shopping (two minutes from Sloane Square)?
At 1 Cadogan Gardens, the Ushvani Spa is not just in a prime location it’s in a beautiful listed building, too. Its declared aim is to create a little haven of peace and tranquillity away from the mayhem outside on London’s busy streets. And it succeeds. Founded by Usha Arumugam, it’s a London day spa but its ethos is Malaysian. So it’s an unusual blend of the beautiful plasterwork ceilings and fine carved staircases typical of the grand Victorian interiors of the Cadogan estate – with Malaysian artwork and the scent of coconut and lime infusing the air. It works surprisingly well.
One of the principal images within the spa is the hibiscus flower. You see it in their Malaysian wood carvings, it’s used in the face and body products (all natural with no nasty chemicals) and in their signature hibiscus tea, served in a tea/relaxation room where you can spend as much time as you like after your treatment.
The lower ground floor is reserved for women but there are treatment rooms for men and one for couples, too with its own steam room and relaxation area. In the women-only part, there is a steam room and a very warm pool with lots of underwater massage jets. (I particularly liked the seat that focused simultaneously on the lower back, feet and ankles.) So, yes, I’d been doing some shopping before I arrived and was definitely footsore. I decided it was the Restoration Ritual for me. This is a combination massage that aims to restore and revitalise dehydrated skin and hair (and you will need to wash your hair afterwards unless you plan to wear a hat!).
My therapist, Jennifer, explained it was designed as the perfect post-summer treatment (how long ago that seems) and was highly restorative and nourishing. It even soothed and “repaired” the feet. Just what I needed. She used three main products. Ushvani make all of their own products themselves and you can buy the ones you like to take home. There are no preservatives, SLES, SLS (found in cheap beauty products to enhance lathering and now considered harmful) or mineral oils – only plant based oils are used.
My three products were based on coconut, hibiscus and the kemiri or candlenut. The scrub is based on papaya and sugar cane and used for a deep exfoliation of the hard skin on the feet. Coconut and hibiscus oil is a blend of King Coconut oil and an organic lipid extract taken from hibiscus flowers – very gentle and moisturising. Coconut and Kemiri body butter uses shea butter, kemiri and coconut oil and this is particularly good for dry skin. It’s called a body butter but, Jennifer told me, it was just as good for the face and she would use it all over. Infused with lime and lemon tea tree it has a light, calming, uplifting scent.
Jennifer explained she was going to use two massage styles – Malaysian and Balinese. The Balinese was the stronger of the two. She wasn’t kidding. Working on pressure points and my own areas of tension, she asked me to breathe in and, as I breathed out, applied intense pressure to literally the knot of the problem. This brings oxygen to the area as well as ultimately releasing it. Tough, but it works, as well as boosting the circulation and creating more balance in the body. By contrast, the Malay massage uses long kneading strokes and soothing stretches, so this part is very relaxing and the combination manages to be both stimulating and calming at the same time. The feet are massaged after their scrub and this features what I can only describe as toe flicking – more air in the joints and plenty of popping. At the end, there’s a face and scalp massage – always a favourite – with warmed oil to soften the scalp and revive the hair.
There are extras if you have more time – body wraps, body scrubs, baths and foot treatments. They have a range of facials including one called Penyepit that uses wooden rollers (a bit like chopsticks). These improve facial circulation and lymphatic drainage and are followed by a rejuvenating face mask and a scalp, neck and shoulder massage. There are treatments for men, too. And, if you get your timing right, you might find there’s a class in the very beautiful light-filled studio for yoga, Pilates and meditation though there are also one-to-one private classes available to suit you. Alternatively, revived, you may feel like going out to do battle with the festive shoppers – or maybe a glass of fizz down at the Botanist appeals more. Gift to self time? Definitely.
The Ushvani Restoration Ritual lasts for 90 minutes and costs £200.
For more information on Ushvani please visit www.ushvani.com or for bookings call 02077302888.