THE cult of the spa has thoroughly invaded the lifestyle landscape. No hotel or holiday experience is complete without a treatment or three, or at the very least, the chance to lounge around a purple-tinted pool and bask in a steam room or multi-coloured (and scented) “experience” shower.
Indeed, wellbeing has become so linked to glossy finishes, minimalist poolscapes, plush treatment rooms, officious spa ladies and relaxation areas loaded with magazines and cucumber water that it was deeply refreshing to find myself in Chi Yu, a place with all the power to confer wellbeing, but none of the razzle dazzle.
Nestled in a quiet street off Portman Square, Chi Yu is a bit like an Asian living room. Dark woods, a nice smell, tea instantly served, a lady at a desk. There are no fountains, no Enya-style sounds. I feel instantly relaxed.
I am here for the Bespoke Treatment but am too short of time for the full two hours, so we’re going for one and a half – something I sorely regret when the treatment ends. After a short wait, I am led downstairs by a Japanese therapist and founder of Chi Yu, Mami Tsang.
Our treatment room is modest yet appealing, but it doesn’t matter because soon I am facing down and transported into sensory bliss. But first, Tsang gives me a once-over: digestion, muscles, posture. She is wise-seeming and to the point, mercifully spouting no tripe (“your lungs are moving against the moon and your liver is frowning”, for example).
I know this because when she digs into my treatment – a combination of several types of massage, reflexology and facial therapy – my body melts as though smoothed over with caramel. She massages in a way that no European therapist I’ve come across does: with focussed vigour that feels brilliant and a tiny, tiny bit spiky. My back, legs, neck, shoulders and feet are seen to deliciously with her warm hands and oil.
The “Chidoriya Japanese facial” (originated in Kyoto in 1949 and loved by geishas) at the end is dazzling, mostly for the matcha green tea powder mask, which is tailored to each person’s face with a selection of flower oils. The smell was so organic and fresh I had no doubt I could eat the mixture. The facial massage, administered with jade rollers, left my face glowing and my nerves happy.
This is a must-have all-rounder that – as such treatments should – adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
The Besoke Signature Package is £120 for two hours. 36 George Street, W1U 7DR. 020 7486 0304, www.chi-yu.co.uk.