London’s Berkeley Hotel
I was told that one stroke of massage with a stone equals 10 traditional European massage strokes so it’s little wonder that a 75-minute treatment worked wonders to energize my jet-lagged body.
fter an exhausting transatlantic redeye flight, what could be nicer than arriving at a five-star London hotel and being greeted by a friendly yet formally dressed doorman in a top hat? Just one thing: being told by the gracious concierge that my accommodations were ready even though it was hours till the official check-in time and then being escorted to a lovely suite that was straight out of Agatha Christie or E.M. Forster.
The furnishings were comfortable and substantial rather than flashy, and spoke of old money rather than new. The marble bathroom was spacious and fitted with a big tub for long and leisurely soaking and such niceties as a towel warmer. The luxury is quiet and discreet; it whispers rather than shouts.
As my stay was to be for one night only, I didn’t bother getting into bed. After a quick shower and some hasty unpacking, I headed downstairs for breakfast. The price for the full English ( 25) seemed a bit steep for an American using weak dollars, but the food was delicious and the service impeccable. (If you prefer to take your morning meal in rather than outside your hotel, consider booking a package that includes breakfast.)
The hotel’s Michelin-starred P trus restaurant, which is one of the city’s top gastronomic destinations and which features the cuisine of celebrity chef Marcus Waring, is almost a bargain, with prix fixe meals at 60. A sample menu might start with a trio of foie gras served on a Sauternes jellied plate with macerated figs in a spice wine and quince pur e, move on to langoustine tails with mille feuille of morels, wilted spinach and Matelote sauce and finish with espresso ice cream and caramelized hazelnuts.
The hotel’s Blue Bar is a London hot spot, popular with those who enjoy seeing and being seen. British celebrities and politicians as well as such American stars as Madonna and Leonardo diCaprio have stayed at the hotel or enjoyed its restaurant and bar.
For me, the biggest attraction was the Berkeley Health Club and Spa, which has a spectacular rooftop swimming pool with a retractable roof that opens up to the sky in good weather. After an invigorating swim, I swaddled myself in towels and relaxed on one of the lounges lining the terrace; eyes closed and drifting in and out of sleep, I felt as if I were at a luxury resort, rather than at a posh London hotel.
Going from great to even better, I visited the spa for some LaStone Body Therapy ( 85 for 75 minutes). Though heated stones have been used for therapeutic purposes (easing tense muscles, improving circulation, etc.) since 2000 B.C., this type of treatment has become quite popular in the last half dozen years or so, and virtually every spa I’ve visited offers some version. The Berkeley version, which alternates heated stones with cool marble, was developed by Mary Hannigan from Arizona. The hot stones are volcanic basalt; the marble is carved from geological rock.
The hot stones were placed under my spine to warm my back muscles. I learned a long time ago that when the spine is warmed, the body automatically relaxes. My therapist used long, stroking movements to massage my muscles and deeper movements with different-shaped stones to ease tension. From time to time, she applied frozen marble to kick up my circulation. The treatment uses many some 50 or more different shaped stones, with the largest placed on the abdomen for grounding and the tiny flat ones between the toes for relaxation. I was told that one stroke of massage with a stone equals 10 traditional European massage strokes, so it’s little wonder that a 75-minute treatment worked wonders to energize my jet-lagged body.
To complete my experience, I had a Dynamic Radiance facial ( 90 for 90 minutes), which the spa describes as the Lear Jet of anti-ageing facials. This, like their other skin care treatments, uses DDF (or Doctor’s Dermatologic Formula) which was developed by Dr. Howard Sobel, a prominent dermatologist and Elaine Linker, Ph.D., a specialist in herbology and nutrition. My facial, which used state-of-the-art peptide technology and, also included my hands, was as thorough and complete as any I’ve ever had; upon completion, my pores were virtually invisible, my complexion smooth and glowing.
The spa has a full menu of massage, aromatherapy, facial and reflexology services, as well as Balinese treatments, waxing services and manicures and pedicures.
There’s also a fine gym with panoramic views over Hyde Park and the London Eye. In partnership with Stephen Price, the facility offers comprehensive programs that include personal training, life coaching, yoga, nutrition, and so on.
The spa is open to the public and the one-day membership (subject to availability) costs 60 and includes use of the pool, the gym, sauna and steam rooms, robes, towels, juice and bottled water.
Though I had little time for sightseeing, I did appreciate the Berkeley’s location, which was within easy walking distance from Hyde Park and from the upscale shops in Knightsbridge.
The Berkeley offers a number of packages. The one-night Superior King Break at 295 includes the full English breakfast and the VAT. On Friday nights the Berkeley offers the popular Girls’ Night In package at 379 for two people. It includes full access to the spa, pool and fitness center, drinks from the hotel’s Blue Bar, manicures, and a selection of chick flicks. The bonus with this package: a goody bag full of treats, including therapeutic masks and glamour gloves.
Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London
Tel: 44 0 20 7235 6000
Toll free: from U.S. 800-637-2869
From the U.K. 00 800 7671 7671