Review: Mandarin Oriental's spa
In the softly lit room, amid the gentle fragrance of rose and jasmine, a loud, snarfling snore interrupts the soothing music. This has to be a first for me - I have never, ever fallen asleep during a facial, mainly because the part when the therapist massages my nose always unsettles me, and partly because well, it's my face that's being prodded, not my back.
I've decided to share this particularly unladylike revelation because it is proof that the Aroma Lift facial at the Mandarin Oriental Spa in Knightsbridge, London, is so relaxing, that it sent me into a deep slumber.
Although it is described as an 'urban day spa', one of the strongest reasons for visiting the Mandarin Oriental above other hotel spas in London, is that it somehow manages to infuse the spa (even the reception area) with the sense that you're actually in a resort abroad rather than metres away from one of the busiest shopping streets in London.
Whether it's the sweet yet slightly woody fragrance that greets you when you enter, the sense of wood underfoot as you pad down to the lower levels or the slightly warm, moist sensation in the air, it all indicates that there's a beach nearby and relaxation is imminently on the horizon.
When you arrive, your shoes are taken away and replaced with soft sandals. Once the obligatory sheet-filling is over, you're taken downstairs to change and wait for your appointment.
Blessedly there are separate male and female sections, and if you come a bit earlier than your appointment time, you can have a merry old time splashing away in the 'vitality pool' (presumably called that because of the mineral-enriched water) and dipping in and out of the steam room and sauna.
My therapist whisked me away to my treatment room where, again, that divine fragrance all Aromatherapy Associates products seem to give off, lingered. We talked through the problem areas of my skin - blackheads being a key issue - and then she got to work.
Whether it was due to the instrumental music that evoked quiet, cliff-top pagodas in far-off China or the pleasant, warm room temperature I couldn't say, but after the initial cleanse I was in a deep slumber.
The relaxation room
Afterwards, I was led to the relaxation room, which is very well spaced out (sometimes you end up cheek-to-cheek with your neighbour), and if you aren't careful, you may fall into another nap. After nibbling on some fresh fruit and pouring tea into a tiny thimble of a cup, I retreated to the bathroom to check my skin.
Now - perhaps I am in a minority, but an issue I have with facials is that invariably I have a reaction, or my skin looks like a tomato or for some other reason, it actually ends up looking worse before it gets better.
But, and this has to be a first, I had to almost do a double-take. Whose dewy, baby-soft skin was staring back at me? Mine. Gone were the blackheads, and my therapist even managed to even out my complexion and lend it a healthy glow with a good dose of facial massaging.
The Aroma Lift is relatively new facial to the spa menu, and it's described as being a 'workout for the face'. It's also touted as being a great pre-party and pre-wedding treatment, and ladies, I have to agree.
It's the ultimate litmus test that having swanned out of the spa and entered the real world back in Knightsbridge, that I actually wore my skin with confidence, rather than panicking about the lack of foundation.
The Mandarin Oriental has done a very good job of making itself a destination point for non-residents - Bar Boulud and Heston Blumenthal's Dinner are key draws for foodies - and while it is one of the older hotels in the capital, it hasn't become part of the city's background furniture. It's safe to say that the spa can be added to the list of reasons to visit. Would I return the next time my face needs perking? Most definitely.
Sort it:Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA. To make a reservation, call 020 7235 2000 or visit the website. An Aroma Lift facial costs £165 and lasts 1 hour and 20 minutes.