Situated at the rear of the new South Kensington Club, the new Clubhouse is part spa, part bathing house and features a host of fitness suites, studios and a gym. The bathhouse which features [comfort zone] treatments in the therapy rooms and a brand new Banya suite offers some pretty serious wellness treatments for mind body and soul. A private entrance on a small mews leads to a compact reception. From here you are guided to the changing rooms which are large, elegant and have plenty of locker space and great amenities for members. A few treatment rooms offer your typical array of spa therapies, but it is the banya rooms that’s the most unique. Wooden walls, fireplace, large sauna and hammam set the tone for some serious heat treatments. Based on the traditional rituals of the banya from Russia, expect to be invigorated and alive at the end of a session. There is also a private hammam room for body scrubs and a private banya sauna. Most of the banya treatments take place in the group sauna in front of everyone. There’s no heirs and graces here. You strip down to your swimmers and the treatment begins.
There is a large fitness room, studio for yoga and a shallow pool in a private room for Aquatic Bodywork treatments. Smart, compact with a little seating area for consultation, this is where the magic happens.
The Russian Dance of Leaves – 10 minutes £35
The perfect treatment for those who are new to the banya, The Russian Dance of Leaves provides an authentic yet gentle banya experience. You are advised to spend 10 minutes in the sauna pre treatment to warm the muscles. I did this before my banya master (banchik) called me to the treatment. You lay down on the bench in the sauna which is covered by a towel with a handful of birch branches for a pillow and you are rubbed head to toe in lemon juice to aid detox, it’s also antibacterial and cleansing for the skin. Handfuls of ice are placed in the palms of your hands and provide a pleasant distraction from the heat. Because it does get hot.
Then time for the birch beating to begin. Using bunches of birch sticks full of leaves, the master gathers the air from the ceiling, bringing even more heat down to the body. Then the gentle flagellation starts. It’s not painful, and is actually quite pleasant. It serves to open the pores and warm the muscles. It does get quite hot and the whole body is thoroughly covered.
Roll over and it’s more of the same and you warm up even more. There’s a little respite when you have ice rubbed across the legs and stomach and then its more birch action. It was engaging, bemusing and totally beguiling. I absolutely loved the treatment, even the finale when you have to dunk into ice cold plunge pool three times. Afterwards I felt a bit dizzy, laid down for 15 minutes, enjoyed Russian herbal tea with honey and felt amazing. It’s one of the best spa experiences in London.
Body scrub with honey and coffee
After the bane at the South Kensington Club I was taken to the private hammam room for a thorough body scrub using honey and coffee. Stimulating, invigorating and awakening, it did what it promised, renewing and reviving the skin. At the beginning of the treatment you will have the choice of either a honey or sour cream scrub, both of which give the coffee a more tender efficiency. The anti-bacterial properties of coffee enhance the effects of the full-body exfoliation, whilst it’s neutral pH reduces irritation and is effective for inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema or acne. The exfoliation enhances circulation and is an excellent solution for those with cellulite.
Having had Watsu treatments in the past I sort of knew what to expect, however, a session in the pool with Steve Karle is a very different experience. He works using a combination of intuition, body analysis and short discussion pre-treatment. He moves the body through the water gently pushing, guiding and maneuvering your body through the water. As he works he gains an insight into your posture and flexibility and will gently stretch and flex the muscles to improve movement and mobility. Karl has introduced his unique techniques at the South Kensington Club and its a real point of difference for the club. Totally different to a choreographed Watsu treatment, this was out of this world. The minutest movement, stretch and turn worked wonders. But it wasn’t all sweetness and light. It was contrasted with vigorous swirls and turns in and out of the water. As it was a taster session we did some under water work, again, this gave an otherworldliness to the experience and then came the singing bowl. Using the vibrations of the blow which travel through the water, sound therapy in the water was something I’ve never really experienced. The vibrations, the noise, the resonance. It really was something very special. I gave myself over to the treatment as you should too, I felt totally and utterly incredible after the trended sessions.
Interesting point, the water is imported Sicilian seawater heated to exactly 34.5 degrees.
THE BEST BITS AT THE SOUTH KENSINGTON CLUB:
Beating with birch branches in the banya
Sipping herbal Russian tea sweetened with honey
Meeting Steve Karle the Aquatic bodywork therapist
Having an otherworldly experience in the pool
Relaxing in bliss post banya treatment
ROOM TO IMPROVE:
Some signage would help I couldn’t find where I was going
Maybe some reading material in the relax tea room
Treatments at the South Kensington Club
The Russian Dance of Leaves – 10 minutes £35
Coffee Scrub with Honey – 15 minutes £36 (with sour cream) £38 (with honey)
Each session lasts 75 minutes
Single session £155 / Package of 10 sessions ‘Journey into Flow’ £1395