The U.K.—particularly London—is no wallflower when it comes to wellness. Home to a handful of established aromatherapy, beauty and spa brands, the British capital also houses some understated yet deluxe therapeutic centers, all of which have loyal clientele. The Dorchester Spa at the renowned Park Lane hotel of the same name is one such escape.
Situated on a level below its be-hatted doormen and Alain Ducasse restaurant, the spa’s calming aromatics greet visitors along its carpeted approach before they even enter the ivory reception area. Near the entrance is the elegant Spatisserie: a dining room with glass rather than clothed tables to remove formality, where guests can enjoy light lunches, canapés, afternoon tea, and even champagne and spa cocktails, as the in-house belief is that a little of what you love is good for you.
“Being a city spa, many of our clients just pop in for a quick treatment, but an equal amount prefer to linger and relax, sometimes visiting for several hours or even the whole day,” explains spa director Sally Pedder. “For those who really wish to unwind and spend some time on their well-being, it’s extremely important that a carefully curated menu is provided. The Dorchester has always been a dining destination, so guests look forward to enjoying delicious food as much as they look forward to treatments.”
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I was advised to arrive early in order to enjoy the heat rooms. Although I allowed for 30 minutes, I could have remained much longer. The steam room and sauna were nice and warm (some tend to provide inadequately low temps, in my experience); the programmable showers and misters, and the chilled relaxation room—decorated in a palette of relaxing blues, with reading material and healthy tea blends—would be happy ways in which to spend at least a full hour. Luckily, visitors are welcome to enjoy these amenities after services, too.
The full list of treatments—for women and men—includes antiaging facials that feature a choice of acupressure massages of the scalp, leg and foot, hand and arm, or stomach during the mask portion; and soothing body treatments, some specially designed for this spa, comprised of exfoliation services, wraps and massages. Couples’ and express treatments are also offered, as are waxing, manicure and pedicure services.
Worthy of note is the men’s menu, which covers everything from facials to nail and hair care. Popular options include the Valmont Men’s Facial (60 or 90 min./from $215), which partially focuses on decongesting and rejuvenating the eye contour area; and It’s a Man’s World (180 min./$470), incorporating a body scrub, deep-tissue massage and 90-minute moisturizing facial.
I was there to receive the Aromatherapy Associates Men’s Facial (60 min./from $143), which uses products from the U.K. brand’s Refinery collection, a male-focused skincare line formulated with botanicals and essential oils. I entered the cozy, all-white treatment room, settled into the warmed bed (topped with soft quilts), and my therapist, Katie, adjusted it for comfort, raising my head and knees. After a thorough consultation, she cleansed my face, performed extractions and applied essential oil-rich moisturizers. Depending on the season and clients’ skin needs, estheticians will also apply masks and lighter-bodied serums for extra hydration. The treatment concluded with a relaxing head and shoulder massage, during which I barely managed to stave off dozing. I had felt a bit stressed upon arrival, but after 20 minutes of post-treatment tea sipping, fruit nibbling and publications browsing in the relaxation room, I was ready to take on the remainder of the evening with renewed vigor—and a very refreshed visage.
Therapists and attendant staff members are skilled, polite and genuine. “We have a world-class reputation to protect, so we only ever employ the best,” says Pedder. “We hire people based on their skills as well as whether their personalities match our company values. They must be naturally kind, confident and caring—and fantastic, experienced therapists.”
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Despite being within a hotel, the spa’s clientele is typically based in London, reports Pedder. “There’s an approximately 60:40 ratio of women to men,” she adds. “We have a following of regulars who have been with us since the spa launched.”
The loyalty of locals is no doubt due to the luxurious environment as well as the top- notch—and ever-evolving—experience. “As wellness becomes more important to spa- goers, we’ve extended overall offerings to include a post-treatment dining experience in The Spatisserie,” says Pedder. “In addition to decadent afternoon tea, we now provide bento boxes and balanced lunches.”
In an effort to regularly engage guests, spa management constantly looks for new and cutting-edge ways to draw them in. “Clients are increasingly intrigued by special therapies and expertise,” notes Pedder. “So we have some exciting projects in the pipeline, including a pop-up with SHA Wellness Clinic of Alicante, Spain, which is renowned for integrating natural therapies, therapeutic nutrition and preventive medicine.”
Such events, in addition to high-end offerings and fine dining, have earned The Dorchester a first-rate reputation and numerous accolades. “We’ve won several awards and are frequently recommended by respected wellness and leisure writers; it has really cemented our standing. New clients often find us via word of mouth, or after having read a review in a magazine or newspaper,” says Pedder. “We operate at the top of our game, and are always aiming for positive development and a constant raising of standards.”
–by Andrew Dembina