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Posted by on Oct 30, 2006 in Spa Reviews | 1 comment

Shaping Up a la Mode in Mayfair

Shaping Up a la Mode in Mayfair

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In London’s tony Mayfair, two hotels Maybourne family hotels show off their differing English styles. Claridge s, a dazzling Art Deco beauty, is the city cousin, and, a couple of blocks away in a well-mannered manor house, The Connaught, plays country cousin.

Claridge’s revolving glass door spins you into a black and white marble lobby with a crystal chandelier, roaring fire, grand staircase with filigreed ironwork banister, and silvery framed black-and-white photos of Claridge’s famous guests: a young Queen Elizabeth, Audrey Hepburn, Churchill poised at the entrance.

Glide past silverized and mirrored columns into the grand foyer beyond, with its white Medusa-like chandelier by modern glass master Dale Chihuly, bowls of white lilies, tiny white roses stacked upright in containers, and a huge white floral centerpiece in the middle of a circular banquette. This enchanting crystal-white fantasy could be the set of Swan Lake. As it is, it’s the setting for light eating and afternoon tea, accompanied by live background music.

If you re a shopper, Claridge’s boasts location, location: Just steps from Bond Street, Burlington Arcade, and the boutiques of South Molton Street. If you re a serious foodie, Gordon Ramsay, London’s only Michelin 3-star chef, is on the premises presenting his exquisite modern European cuisine at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge s.

In contrast to the dazzle of the public rooms, the 6th floor Olympus Beauty & Fitness Suite, with views across London, is comfortable and not a bit flashy. Beautiful hardwoods, glass mosaic mirrors, and fine chrome fittings in the three treatment rooms are its understated style.


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Even on a first visit The Connaught is like coming home if you happen to have grown up in a mansion.

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The spa features two product lines: plant-based Anne’s monin and La Prairie, more scientifically formulated with a wider range of products.

Anne’s monin’s holistic beauty approach utilizes fresh herbs, plants, and seaweed, all natural ingredients, to customize treatments for the skin type, age, health, lifestyle, and individual needs of each customer.

With a different approach to the same end, Laboratoires La Prairie uses Swiss science to incorporate nutrients for the skin in its Cellular Complex treatments. There are a variety of cellular products, but the most outrageously indulgent is the Skin Caviar Collection, which blends extravagantly nutritious and moisturizing caviar extracts and sea proteins.

La Prairie’s menu of treatments includes: La Prairie Skin Caviar Facial Treatment (90 minutes, 125). La Prairie

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Swiss Cellular Facial (60 minutes, 80). Skin Caviar Body Treatment (90 minutes, 125) includes a body scrub, a body massage, and finally a firming caviar cream treatment. La Prairie Detoxifying Back Treatment (60 minutes, 80) includes cleansing, exfoliation, and a purifying mask. Swiss Bliss (3 hours, 250) combines. Caviar Facial, full body exfoliation, and massage utilizing western and Moorish styles. Pressure Relief (90 minutes, 105) targets pressure points on hands and feet to eliminate stress, plus facial that incorporates a lymphatic drainage massage to combat fatigue, tension, and jet lag. La Prairie Beauty Express (45 minutes, 60) covers a facial with a cranial shiatsu massage and hand reflexology.

I asked for the signature treatment, which, it turns out, is what you and your therapist agree is best for you. We decided on the La Prairie Skin Caviar Facial. And if caviar isn’t a signature of Claridge’s, I don’t know what is.

Therapist Suk Yee Wong administered the 90-minute facial, and jotted down exactly what she did:

  1. massaged back for 10 minutes.
  2. cleansed skin with super gentle Purifying Skin Cleanser.
  3. toned skin with Cellular Refining Lotion, an alcohol-free facial rinse.
  4. applied a cool detoxifying mousse and Cellular Balancing Mask, a two-phase refining mask that detoxifies and revitalizes skin, improving its texture.
  5. exfoliated arms, and cleansed them with hot mitten-towels.
  6. applied Skin Caviar by ladling tiny golden beads into gauze pads; they burst in the gauze when applied to the skin, releasing their nutrient-filled serum for skin toning and firming.
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  7. massaged eyes.
  8. massaged neck, shoulders, and face.
  9. applied Skin Caviar Revitalizing Eye Mask, a two-step firming treatment to moisturize and reduce visible signs of premature aging.
  10. applied Skin Caviar Firming Mask, a two-step process to renew and energize skin, and massaged arms with Skin Caviar Luxe Body Cream containing gold leaf for shimmer.
  11. applied Skin Caviar Intensive Ampoule Treatment before a moisturizer, a two-part treatment of pure vitamin C in a nano-emulsion of a Swiss Alpine water base to work on lines and wrinkles, diminish age spots, and tighten skin.
  12. applied Cellular Radiance Eye Cream to diminish wrinkles, puffiness and dark circles, and make eye zone area appear luminous, lifted and hydrated.
  13. applied Age Management Stimulus Complex Lip Repair, an intensive treatment to prevent drying and chapping, and minimize premature aging.
  14. applied Skin Caviar Luxe Cream to the face, a firming and lifting cream with vital nutrients and a moisturizer with gold leaf.

Was the treatment a triumph over premature aging? Well, my skin was certainly moisturized, satinized, and subtly shimmering with gold leaf, but how much can you ask of a facial?

Next time I m at Claridge s, Anne’s monin treatments are on my to-do list. In addition to more familiar massages, among them Swedish (60 minutes, 80), Deep Tissue (60 minutes, 85), Reflexology (60 minutes, 75), Shiatsu (60 minutes, 100), Thai (60 minutes, 100); and various facials, the jet lag remedy intrigued me.

Billed as an instantly reviving treatment for easing stress, fatigue and tension caused by jet lag, it uses a mud made from fresh seaweed, algae and trace elements such as magnesium, calcium and manganese, which detoxify the body. The mud warms and bubbles on contact with the skin, draining toxins while adding essential minerals.

The Jet-lag Treatment is 30 minutes for 45. Add the facial component and it is 70 minutes, 105.

mayfair-clar4Also available at the Olympus Suite are visiting specialists, including a plastic surgeon. The one that caught my eye was Vicky Vlachonis, registered with the General Osteopathic Council, and her Integrated Osteopathy (60 minutes, 150), which includes acupuncture and cranial osteopathy.

The fully equipped gymnasium has four treadmills, rowing machines, cross trainer, stair master, cycle machines, recumbent bike, various free weights, and resistance machines. There are also two personal trainers, male and female, who accommodate your needs in the gym or in nearby Hyde Park or Green Park (30 minutes, 40; 60 minutes, 65; 90 minutes, 95).

The Connaught

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Even on a first visit The Connaught is like coming home if you happen to have grown up in a mansion with dark wood paneled walls, big square mahogany stairwell that winds up to a skylight at top; oriental-style rugs, oil paintings, antiques.

The hotel seems so hospitable, in fact, that it is affectionately known as a club for non-members only. The recently redecorated Drawing Room and Red Room invite a respite for tea or a leisurely read. The softly lit, paneled dining room, Angela Hartnett’s MENU, is in the hands of a Gordon Ramsay protegee who won a Michelin star for her distinguished Italian-style cuisine.

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The Connaught has a fitness room on the fifth floor, a small gem with a vaulted wooden ceiling, large windows and lovely black and white prints. It features cardiovascular equipment, free weights, and Keiser pressurized resistance weight training equipment used by NASA. For those who want a customized service, rigorous personal fitness training is available with Michael Garry, who has logged his time in several top London health clubs (60 minutes, 80).

Although The Connaught does not have an actual spa, it does offer several treatments, all of them done in the guest’s room.

– Body Shift (60 minutes, 95) is a therapeutic massage technique designed for frozen shoulder or repetitive strain injuries.

– Deep Tissue Massage (60 minutes, 95) treats upper and lower back pain, stiff neck and shoulders, muscle and tendon injuries, as well as offering relief from the conditions of asthma, migraine and sciatica.

– Shiatsu Japanese Massage (60 minutes, 95) utilizes finger pressure on meridian points to stimulate and balance the body’s energy flow.

– Thai Massage (60 minutes, 90), an ancient therapy originating from the oriental medical disciplines of Hatha Yoga, Ayurveda, and acupressure.

– Yoga with Maxine Tobias (60 minutes, 100), an individual in-room session with internationally known yoga teacher and author.

Guests of The Connaught can pop over to Claridge’s Olympus Suite for a more extensive menu of treatments, not to mention such finishing touches as waxings and eyebrow care. It’s all in the family. How nice.

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Claridge’s, Brook St., Mayfair, 866-599-6991, www.claridges.co.uk The 203 Art Deco bedrooms and suites have 21st century communications and entertainment systems, and 24-hour Internet access.

Best deal is the Great London Weekend for two, from 478 per room for three consecutive nights (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), through 2006.

The Olympus Suite facilities are free for hotel guests, open to non-residents for a daily fee of 25.

The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, 866-599-6991, www.the-connaught.co.uk The 92 guest rooms are classically furnished in country English house style. Rates for the Great London Weekend for two start at 418 per room for three nights, through 2006. Guests of The Connaught can use Claridge’s Olympus Suite without charge.

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