Honey & Barley Facial 75 minutes, £95
Call me a cynic, but I’ve a feeling you could take any natural substance and make a case for the wonderful job it will do for your skin. Roses! Thyme! Seaweed!
But anyway, this is about barley, and barley that’s grown in Cambridgeshire and normally used for brewing beer. It’s called Maris Otter and you’ll find it in various independent, high quality cask ales, which surely makes it the most blokey beauty ingredient ever.
Its use as such is the result of a partnership between Warminster Maltings, a Wiltshire-based supplier to the brewing industry of floor-malted barley (ie the old-fashioned, artisanal way of malting), and the spa at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair. There’s a trio of barley and beer-related treatments on offer – facial, a body wrap and a pedicure, all of which tap into a side of beer that isn’t about hangovers, beer guts and pub bores. Heaven be praised!
“Barley has countless health benefits, and is deeply nourishing, healing and comforting,” says spa manager Shareen Stokes. “It’s also high in vitamins such as B1, B3 as well as selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous and copper all of which help to keep the skin and body healthy, so it makes sense to use it in our treatments.”
Sure does. Though it’s the comforting aspect that I most notice. There’s something rather nostalgic and beautifully bucolic, as well as breakfasty, about the sweet odours that arise. For someone who loves the countryside, it’s tremendously evocative.
The facial takes an hour, and comes with the benefit of lying back on one of the spa’s heated treatment beds. As well as the face, it takes in shoulders, top of the torso and even the forearms, all of which first get slathered in a moisturising lotion, a mask, plus all that exfoliating honey and barley. There’s plenty of massaging of the head, neck and shoulders too, which, as normal, rendered me fast asleep at least twice.
At the end of the treatment, sit back and enjoy a rich, warm malt drink, malt snacks and, if you want, a bottle of beer made with Maris Otter barley. Yup, a beauty treatment which comes with a pint of the good stuff. As I said – comforting.
Pale Ale Pedicure 90 minutes, £85
Browns’ pedicures get tastier and tastier. I confess that I preferred the creamy malt drink mentioned above, served with the signature “B” stencilled in chocolate on the foam, to any cocktail. It came with a bottle of pale ale, too, and some seriously malty looking biscuits also made with beer. If it hadn’t been 11AM, I’d have gone to town on this lovely repast.
As it was, I had my feet and legs soaked in barley and beer – the aromas were wonderful, sort of rich and fragrant and wholesome, so that you could imagine all kinds of goodness seeping into your pores.
Specifically, my tootsies were exfoliated with Epsom salts, hop flowers and sesame seed oil, then slowly soaked in a Hooky Gold Ale bath. A pressure point foot massage with Swedish Ninkasi lotion (weirdly out of place but good) and a barley and sesame seed foot wrap came next, for deep, deep moisture.
With my nails shaped and painted I lagged behind as they dried – 100 per cent relaxed, smooth-legged and enviably-toed – to sip a bit more of that malt drink. Note that this pedicure feels sloooowww (it is 90 minutes after all), so you need to get in the right frame of mind. The kind that you might have as you sit of a summer’s afternoon in a countryside pub, drinking English pale ale, perhaps.
www.brownshotel.com, 0800 988 4040