Six weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting and reviewing The Cagaloglu Hammam, Istanbul’s oldest and most revered ancient bath. Despite the obvious physical and physiological benefits of the experience, a Hammam is ultimately a religious place since physical purification plays a pivotal role in the Islamic faith. Indeed, the majestic arched portals deep inside add to what can genuinely be described as a spiritual experience; I felt cleaner, calmer but also mentally and spiritually re-invigorated.
And so then to West London via a 57 minute airless tube ride, a crackling iPod head phone set and a general feeling of Saturday morning nausea. I blurrily thumbed through the bumf sent through by K West Hotel & Spawith each individual statistic gradually provoking me into a heightened sense of cynicism: £2 million pound overhaul, London’s largest hydrotherapy pool, London’s only snow room, 8 treatment rooms…by the time I arrived in the atrium my mind was already made up and my article written: the modern spa facility had got it completely wrong, a soulless experience which has inherently favoured physical vanity over the ancient ritual of personal purification. As I made my way to the Spa area, there was absolutely no way that the impeccably polite reception team nor the deep thud of my well crafted wooden changing room locker door would alter my judgement…
Firstly, it’s bigger than I expected. It’s not that the overall space that overwhelms but rather, each of the individual facilities is of the correct size – and in the correct situation. A sanarium next to a sauna, the snow room placed at the rear and a large metallic fountain overhanging the hydrotherapy pool to secure a very pleasing overall aesthetic. The lighting is soft but not gloomy and while there are others here there is no feeling of congestion.
K Spa Sanarium and Sauna
And while I can’t work out whether it’s the steam, sauna or sanarium that does it, I instantly feel calmer. Perhaps it the cumulative effect of all three? I’m thinking less about the week behind, less about my own negativity and more about just how much good this is doing me. The more I sweat the more quickly my anxiety dissipates and I now reconsider my routine to savour each of the individual elements: do I go foot spa, snow room, relaxation room and then hydro pool or vice versa? The tension of difficult decision making is lost, I’m drifting and day dreaming and enriching – the cleansing of my body – but more importantly my mind – has begun.
What makes this experience so rewarding is not just the facilities and the undoubted sense of professionalism, but that, like the Hammam, K Spa maintains the correct atmospheric balance. It is slick without being stuffy, well crafted without being pretentious and modern without being cold and laboratorial. I’m feeling relaxed because there is a sense of equilibrium, and not because I have been told to be relaxed or because I have expended so much investment in my own relaxation that I must be relaxed at all costs.
K Spa Hydrotherapy Pool and Mood Lights
I make my way to the treatment rooms for a Manao – a head and face treatment for men. And again this is no simple vanity experiment but a deeply well thought out and relaxing energy point massage, using a herbal poultice to ease away tension from the back, neck, shoulders and head as well as a deep exfoliation and hydration of the face – utilising all organic products. Like the spa area, I am undoubtedly experiencing something at the ‘advanced’ end, but there is never a sense that I am out of place, unwelcome or under informed. The attention to detail is impeccable but equally it is not suffocating, and this is similarly reflected in the range of treatments and treatment rooms.
After a full hour, I finally return back to the spa area, to lull in the giant hydrotherapy pool and to linger in my own self satisfaction. This experience is, without question, a hugely satisfying one. Not only have I managed to fully unwind, but I have done so very quickly. This has been a sensory hypnotism which has instantly relieved my stress and eased me into a general sense of well being.
K Spa Neck Massager
Ultimately then it is not the history, the setting or the architecture that defines a stand out spa, but rather the overall ambience and equilibrium. It is not the accumulation of small refinements nor ostentation nor luxury but a more general feeling of openness, courtesy and specialism which are important. And where the Hammam delivers in terms of creating a truly spiritual experience, K Spa equally delivers in its modern guise, securing a sense of complete personal tranquillity – and therefore a keen desire to return.
Manao Head and Face Treat for Men 60 mins, £75.00.
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