“Soft, medium or firm?” asked the Mexican masseuse. Having once been subjected to ‘firm’ at the granite hands of a Zimbabwean masseur who was later allegedly jailed for groping customers, I cowardly selected ‘medium’.
To wind down from a wine conference, I became metrosexual for a day, booking into So Spa at Sofitel, St. James. After trailing fingertips in a burbling fountain, I was led into its luxuriously spacious grade II vestibule. Referencing the earlier incarnation as Bank of Nigeria, marble pillars and polished oak stairs soar towards intricate plaster – the opulence that Anaglypta can but dream of. An inevitable architectural formality is softened by warm wood, low tactile lights and colourful comfy chairs. While savouring a bowl of honey tea with raspberry macaron, its centre like down, I began to fantasise what a spectacular restaurant it would make. The designers must share my thoughts seeing as the therapy menu falls into starters, mains, desserts and specials.
After enrobing in the smart gent’s changing room where lockers are operated by codes rather than cumbersome keys, I kick-started my circulation in the hamam. Here, swirling vapours of mint and eucalyptus are dimly illuminated by a multicoloured LED galaxy. Combined with lulling, piped spa muzak, life soon began to feel trippy…
Already fantastically relaxed, I was led to almost certainly the most comfortable bed of my life, adjusted electronically. After spraying a fragrance around me, which turned from musk to citrus in the air, the masseuse deftly took time to unravel my various knots tangled through stress of gastronomic critique and Ryanair flights. Her fingers busily delved, firm but fair, accurately homing in to pain’s source. Although I momentarily thought how odd it was to be caressed by a stranger, I soon became so entranced that I nearly missed the experience through sleep.
At the end of the ritual, signalled elegantly by a bell which resounded in stereo, I was gently advised not to drink alcohol for the day’s remainder. However, in the interests of research, I had already booked another treatment: the ‘Martini and Manicure’. Held adjacent to the tea room in the vestibule, flooded with natural light, I found being face to face with the beautician more sociable than the darkened room of before. According to this French lady, whose partner works at restaurant Galvin at Windows, few chaps reserve a manicure, preferring the vigour of massage or more discreet glow of facials.
Glancing at my increasingly pristine nails, which ultimately glinted under a transparent gloss (although I was offered a colour from a wide palette) I did feel a little silly. Perhaps the ‘Martini’, a gaudy fishbowl of vodka, cranberry and strawberry with ample garnish, didn’t help coax any remaining semblances of masculinity? Maybe for the brusquer, So Spa’s ‘Pint and Pedicure’ would hold greater appeal.
My morning at this French spa haven off one of London’s busiest streets had proved so calming, nourishing and even exotic that the memory of hangovers accrued in work’s name seemed another lifetime away. As I was ejected from So Spa straight into Pall Mall’s bustle, fingernails reflecting the dismal grey of winter, I mused, if this is what it means to flaunt one’s metrosexuality, that’s So Fine by me…
‘Gentlemen’s Escape’ (90 minutes, £125): Scalp, face and neck massage and a deep tissue body massage.
‘Martini & Manicure’ (30 minutes, £45): Martini and manicure for hard working hands.
‘Pint and Pedicure’ (30 minutes, £45): While feet are soaked, scrubbed, buffed and tended to, enjoy a pint of traditional British Beer.
Photography by Juliet Murphy.