The five-star Corinthia hotel in London is home to the capital’s largest urban spa, Espa Life at Corinthia.
Founded by Susan Harmsworth in 1993, UK company Espa now has 450 spas in 50 countries. The one at the Corinthia is the group’s flagship Espa Life facility – these are its next-generation spas that aim to combine an integrated, holistic wellness approach with a luxury experience. (The UK’s other Espa Life can be found in Gleneagles, Scotland.)
Among its latest offerings is a range of six mindfulness therapies, launched in June last year, which I was here to try. They range from a massage and facial to breathing and meditation, sleep and fitness sessions.
In November, it launched a year-long neuroscientist-in-residence programme with Dr Tara Swart, a leadership coach and senior lecturer at MIT in the US. Alongside this, Brain Power packages have been introduced to help guests build their resilience and performance.
WHERE IS IT?
The spa is housed across four floors of the hotel, from the mezzanine level down to two floors below ground – take the lift up to the mezzanine reception on entering the hotel. The property is located on Whitehall Place, a few minutes’ walk from Embankment Tube station and the Thames.
Covering a total of 3,300 sqm, this is a whopping and wonderfully luxurious haven to indulgence, featuring every conceivable facility you could hope to find in a spa.
The interiors, by GA Design, are opulent and elegant, featuring Italian marble, polished chrome and a Chanel-inspired colour palette of champagne and black – the upper floors (the reception and women’s changing levels) are bright and shiny, then as you descend to the men’s changing floor (pictured below) and the thermal floor, it becomes darker and more masculine.
Recurring design features are curving lacquered walls with wires pulled through them to create a wave effect – intended to reflect the flow of energy – and flickering fires.
Reception is a large, glossy space with a wide range of Espa products on display. I was greeted warmly, had my coat stored, was offered water or herbal tea and invited to take a seat while I filled out my introductory questionnaire.
The men’s and women’s changing rooms are expansive and each have their own saunas; the female floor also has a steam room and “lifestyle showers”, while the male one has a tepidarium and power showers. I was impressed by everything laid on for guests in the women’s changing facilities, from heated marble loungers to fresh fruit, Espa products, plush robes, combs and hair straighteners, and how impeccably clean everything was.
Outside the changing area was a room of “sleep pods” – taking the typical spa relaxation room to a new level, these are semi-private individual areas decked out with cushions and blankets, where you can take a nap after a treatment. There are 17 treatment “pods” in total, including a private spa suite.
On the same floor as the men’s changing facilities is a big gym with Life Fitness cardiovascular and strength machines, Powerplate, free weights and private training pods (personal training is available). There’s a black Smeg fridge containing homemade protein balls, water and cold towels, and guests can also help themselves to bananas and headphones. (Memberships are offered for the spa and gym, although numbers are capped to make sure it’s never too busy.)
The stand-out floor is the thermal suite on the bottom level. This very impressive space features a nine-metre steel-lined pool, the ripples of which reflect in the ceiling above – very hypnotic; a huge, bath-like vitality pool with air and water massage jets; a large amphitheatre sauna offering 360-degree views; a mosaic steam room; experience showers; an ice fountain for giving yourself an invigorating shock after a session in the sauna or steam; relaxation areas; and more heated loungers that, like the changing room ones, are shaped to the curvature of your spine and face a soothing fire feature. It’s a fabulous area that you could easily while away a few hours in.
The swimming pool, which is heated to 26-28 degrees, is just about long enough to do short laps in – note that children can access it between 10am-11.30am and 3pm-4.30pm.
The spa was a tranquil space to relax and enjoy some me-time – after my swim, steam and sauna, it was lovely to sink into one of the loungers and switch off for a while. The only thing that interrupted the peace for me was a couple of pairs of guests talking loudly in the pools, and, in the sleep pods, a woman who had to be asked by more than one person to be quiet.
If you have yet more time for pampering, there’s also a Daniel Galvin hair salon and a Margaret Dabbs nail studio.
FOOD AND DRINK
A Brain Power menu created in collaboration with Dr Swart is offered in the spa lounge. It has been devised to boost your mental functioning, using fat-rich foods such as avocado, salmon and olives, grains such as buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa, plus dark leafy greens, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Among the starters are raw kale salad, beetroot and carrots with quinoa, parmesan crisps and raspberry dressing (£13) and organic salmon and green mango carpaccio with blueberries, toasted almonds and lemon compote (£15), while mains include green tea-cured veal fillet paillard with spinach, puy lentils, cocoa and black pepper sauce (£28).
I had the walnut-crusted baked mackerel with avocado and monkfish liver toast and red grape (£26), which was delicious, generously sized and yet didn’t leave me too full to enjoy my spa time. The menu also includes desserts, juices, shakes, mocktails, herbal teas, wines and Laurent-Perrier champagne.
The wide-ranging list includes signature treatments to help you de-stress, detox, achieve balance or boost vitality, along with a selection of facials and massages. Treatments for men include the Age Rebel facial (£185 for 90 minutes) and the Espa Iconic back, face and scalp treatment (£190 for 90 minutes).
Wellness therapies offered include traditional Chinese massage and acupuncture, physiotherapy, craniosacral therapy and reflexology.
I had a bespoke 90-minute mindfulness treatment that incorporated parts of the massage and breathing/meditation therapies, designed to focus one’s awareness on the present moment. My skilled and friendly therapist started by leading me through a positive affirmation exercise – breathing in feelings such as strength and courage, and exhaling stress and anxiety – before massaging the back of my body in slow, sure strokes using Espa’s Restorative body oil, a blend of sweet orange, rose geranium and lavender. By the time she moved on to my feet and scalp, I was feeling thoroughly zenned out.
Next, I did some deep breathing through my left nostril only – the idea being that this stimulates the right side of the brain, encouraging calm and sleep, and dissipating stress and negative emotions. I was then guided through a half-hour session of yoga nidra – a ritual that aims to put you in a state of consciousness between sleep and waking, encouraging deep relaxation.
I had never done anything like this before, but found it really enjoyable. Following her voice, which was calming yet directional, I became aware of my breathing and its impact on the different parts of my body. We finished with a visualisation exercise, before coming back to the real world. Heading out afterwards into the cold winter evening, I felt pretty amazing.
A wonderful space both to indulge in luxury and tend to your well-being. The facilities are first class, the staff are warm and professional, and my treatment was really impressive.
6.30am-10pm (from 7.30am on weekends; treatment times from 9am). Gym 24 hours for hotel guests.
Full-day thermal floor and gym access costs £145 per person; access is included when you book treatments lasting two hours or more. Two-hour signature treatments £250; facials from £125 for 60 minutes; massages from £140 for 60 minutes; mindful therapies from £120 for 60 minutes.
Brain Power day spa package, to include a two-hour ritual, lunch and unlimited spa access, costs from £280; Brain Power residential package, to include an overnight stay, dinner and breakfast, mindful massage with yoga nidra and unlimited spa access, costs from £618. Hotel guests get full spa access.
Espa Life at Corinthia, Whitehall Place; tel +44 (0)20 7321 3050; espalifeatcorinthia.com