The Spa in Dolphin Square: A Touch of Moroccan Luxury in Central London

As the cold of days of January settle in, most of us try to stick to healthy New Year resolutions and strive to detox our bodies from the festive excesses of December while promising to follow healthier regimes for the year ahead. With this spirit very much in mind, The Style Examiner accepted an invitation to visit The Spa in Dolphin Square, one of the newest luxury relaxation centres in London, and experience its treatments.

Billed as the hottest new spa in London, The Spa in Dolphin Square opened in October 2011 in a location that, at first sight, comes across as a characterless block of corporate apartments and tourist rooms in Pimlico, central London. As we walked towards the spa through the pleasant areas surrounding St George’s Square (with its neoclassic town houses and apartments, and not far from landmarks in the British capital such as the Tate Gallery or the Houses of Parliament), we could not help but being intrigued by the concept of experiencing a complete immersion in the age old cleansing and purifying rituals of a true Moroccan Hammam in the middle of London. We also questioned why the spa owners chose to open the venue in Pimlico which, despite being central, is removed from busier areas of the British capital where Londoners spend money, such as Mayfair or Chelsea.

Our prejudices about the corporate surroundings waned when we entered the spa and were greeted by a smiling and polite receptionist that explained the nature of the spa and the treatment reserved for The Style Examiner: a Moroccan cleanse and wet shave ritual that would last nearly two hours. While we waited to start the treatment and observed the massive wooden doors that lead form the reception to the actual spa, we slowly fell into a relaxing state helped by soothing Moroccan music and the terracotta tones on the walls.

The Spa offers Hammam, Rhassoul and a Salt Infused Steam Room experience for men and women in a 4,000 square-foot space with five rooms for spa treatments, two studio rooms for regular maintenance and salon style treatments, relaxation lounges, and a walled courtyard. And, interestingly, the spa’s treatments and rituals use mineral water drawn from Dolphin Square’s own well, the only remaining ‘working’ artesian well in Westminster (the neighbourhood where the spa is located). The private area where we changed into a thick and soft robe and slippers could not provide a more comfortable start, with subdued lighting and heated floor. Once we had changed, we moved to a relaxation area by the courtyard where we underwent a traditional hand-cleansing ritual. At all stages, mentors guided us through what each treatment meant and entailed.

After this resting moment, we moved on to the Hammam, where a Tellak (Hammam specialist therapist) started by dousing us with warm water in preparation for a skin exfoliation session using a Kessa glove while cleansing with Savon Noir, a traditional cleansing soap made from crushed olives and olive oil, infused with eucalyptus (which is supposed to have antibacterial and antiseptic properties that ensure an even deeper cleanse). This long and relaxing ritual was completed by resting in one of the lounges with a refreshing glass of traditional Moroccan tea, sweets, and dates to replenish sugar levels.

After unwinding on one of the heated lounges, we were taken to an individual room for the wet shave ritual. This started with what we felt was the best part of the pampering session: a deep cleansing and nourishing facial to prepare the skin after the Hammam and before the traditional wet shave. While the skin absorbed the nourishing cream, we opted for a foot massage as one of the complimentary treatments. One the reassuring treatment was that, at all stages, the professionals who work at spa were able to talk as much or as little about the treatments with you as you want, which stresses the fact that your session there is entirely devoted to make you feel better. In addition, they do know what they talk about and their tending to our needs and questions was excellent.

The weak point of the treatment was that, after so much impressive pampering, the wet shave came across as disappointing and superfluous. Although it is a nice idea that evokes old times when someone else used to perform this daily ritual for men, we left feeling that it wasn’t as thorough as a wet shave performed at home.

When we finished our two-hour session, we left The Spa at Dolphin Square thinking that, in fact, this unexpected location is ideal for such a spa. Were we to undergo such a soothing experience in central London, we would most possibly feel a contrast and get stressed by surrounding noise and hectic traffic. We left feeling converted to this new spa and can honestly recommend it to our readers. In fact, we have been thinking of offering treatment vouchers to our best friends. As for us at The Style Examiner, we cannot wait for another opportunity to go back: next time we will skip the wet shave but look forward to trying their many different treatments.