For most of us, after the feastings of the holiday season, January often rhymes with detox, diet and a rekindling with the somewhat forgotten halls of the workout class rooms. In my case, I've been quite poorly lately to return to my favourite class at Heartcore (I see it as one of the many bonuses of being the exhausted working mom of a toddler who is constantly gathering germs at play dates and sharing them with his loved mamma: my immune system is literally kaput so I catch everything...)
But, instead of putting my sickly self through a harrowing diet or ordering a juice fast delivery service at the weekly cost of a pair of Loubies (when really one could buy and juice the ingredients for 20% of the cost and still have change), I took a slightly gentler approach yesterday and visited the K-West Hotel & Spa for a Russian detox experience. See, as I get older and wiser, I believe I need to become nicer to myself, rather than harsher. Having heard of the long-standing tradition of Russian banyia spa-ing, I was very excited to try London's version at the K Spa.
I arrived to be greeted by a lovely receptionist who took me to a very quiet waiting area where I sipped on some detox tea before being taken to the changing room: first impressions, the decor is lovely, modern and cosy with warm wood paneling and all the amenities I could dream of. So far so good!
I was taken by my therapist, a lovely Ukrainian lady called Lyudmyla, into my treatment room, where we decide on a Caviar Scrub, followed by a Detox Wrap, a traditional Venik treatment in the room's own little sauna, and finished with a Detox Massage. It all sounded blissful!
Throughout the two-hour treatment, Lyudmyla used Russie Blanche products, formulated using adaptogenous plants from Siberia, such as golden root and Siberian ginseng: these little rebel greens are known for adapting and developing ways to cope with the one of the harshest climates on Earth, and they have been used by cosmonautes and athletes to boost their resistance for years. And, if it's good enough for cosmonautes, it's good enough for little old me!
The treatment room is luxuriously appointed with an inbuilt walk-in shower and a little sauna, meaning I don't need to move throughout my session. First on the menu: the Caviar Salt scrub eliminates any signs of dryness leaving my skin soft and smelling lovely, ready for the Detox Wrap.
That was the part I preferred: Lyudmyla applied a birch and eucalyptus infused mud on my body, before wrapping it tight in cotton and leaving me to float on the dry flotation bed, it felt like being in the middle of a giant water-filled cushion and the gentle flotation movements were incredibly soothing. After a work week of hell (two live deals, an endless flurry of marketing discussions and the usual mindless and stupid office politics, even after nine years of this I still can't get used to the brutality of it all), it was exactly what I needed.
Following that, I stepped into the treatment room's inbuilt sauna for an experience as close to a Banyia Venik massage as you can get: using dried birch branches infused in oils and hot water, my adorable therapist gave me a reviving slapping (soft, don't worry, this isn't the masochistic column) that left my body feeling invigorated and looking quite glowing. I will definitely be coming back for more of this! I quickly stepped into a cold shower to further boost circulation and then on to the massage bed for a Detox massage using the Russie Blanche Banyia Detox oil. Throughout, my therapist kept asking about the level of pressure and it was all quite wonderful.
All in, I have to say that my two-hour treatment was incredibly calming and invigorating at the same time, and Lyudmyla then encouraged me to spend some time in the relaxation room, a lovely dark alcove filled with curved beds, magazines and earphones to continue the zen-like experience, which I was glad to find until a gentleman walked in to lie on the bed next to mine, and all I could do was flee the scene. Call me conservative, but I don't like co-ed relaxation rooms, sorry.
I then went on to explore the wet spa amenities, as my therapist had suggested I use the snowroom and sauna to continue with the Banyia experience, and she was right: rubbing my limbs with icy powdery snow following a stint in the hot sauna was the perfect final touch to my invigorating treatment. The snow room is quite magical, it's like stepping into a winter wonderland! The wet spa area in itself is quite impressive, with a gorgeous pool and some very enticing relaxing pods to sit in and enjoy the light panels, alas the place was rather busy and not all customers seemed to have come here for calm and zen, judging by the squeals and splashes... oh well.
My two-hour session included a spa lunch, and that was a bit of a disappointment: the lunch is not served in the spa, rather you have to go up to the bar which is located in the reception area, just off the main entrance and in the draught from the street... For a reason I still can't fathom the receptionist insisted I should go upstairs in my spa robe (why?!) and when I got there I was so relieved I hadn't listened to her and had dressed back into my civilian clothes. I would have felt cold and quite incongruous had I gone up in my robe and slippers... The menu in itself is not spa-like at all, it's just a cafe lunch menu, but still the risotto I opted for tasted lovely, even though I had to wait 15 minutes for it despite the spa receptionist having made me select my lunch and time to be served two hours earlier (in fact I had to go look for a waitress to wonder about my lunch).
So, overall, I came out delighted with the treatment itself, the therapist was wonderful and the amenities are sleek and exactly what you would expect in a state of the art spa. I felt pampered by Lyudmyla and finished with a much calmer and happy self. But the service beyond the treatment room was a bit haphazard, the spa lunch isn't really a spa lunch (more a hotel reception lunch)... Will I be coming back? Most likely, as I loved the dry flotation bed for my Detox Wrap treatment, and the Venik session is just unique and oh-so perfect. However, I'll probably do without the lunch and might try to visit the wet spa at a less busy time than lunchtime on a Saturday.
Two hour ultimate Russie Blanche experience, £200. At K West Hotel.
K West Hotel & Spa
0 208 008 6600