Review by Etcetera – Banya No.1: ‘all you need is a good thwacking at a traditional Russian spa’

All you need is a good thwacking at a traditional Russian spa

On arrival, Nathalie gives me a tour, taking me to the new private Taiga suite. Designed for groups of around ten visitors, the green, leather, high-backed chairs that surround the wooden table give the feeling of one of those old gentlemen’s clubs where no one is allowed to speak.

But, chattering away, she takes me through to the treatment room, proudly announcing that the huge log cabin-esque sauna room was built on site.

But, chattering away, she takes me through to the treatment room, proudly announcing that the huge log cabin-esque sauna room was built on site.

“Getting the logs down those glass stairs wasn’t easy,” she says.

There’s a half smile on her face as she discovers I’ve never had a Russian spa treatment before.

She recommends three hours for my visit and talks me through the process – I am to have a Parenie and honey and salt body scrub.

I must prepare myself properly for the treatment, she says, with three stints in the wet area and recovery time in the lounge between each. Recovery time… should I be nervous?

The sauna is hot and sweaty as expected, but wetter than usual due the steam created by water being splashed into a 700 degree brick furnace.

I am given a pointy, felt tea cosy hat to protect my scalp. I lie and bake for ten glorious minutes and, as instructed, follow it up with a cooling dip in the plunge pool.

Big mistake. It’s not cool, it’s freezing. Like lowering myself slowly into a Russian lake. Not doing that again – ever.

For my two other post-sauna de-sweatifiers, I opt for the wooden bucket showers – a normal level of cold.

In the lounge, I recover with tea – mint, thyme, camomile – and Kvass, a cold fermented drink made with rye bread and beetroot.

I’m not a fan, but Nathalie tells me it’s very good for me.

The guestbook is lying open on my table when I sit down, and my eyes are immediately drawn to a childish scrawl describing delight at a relaxing visit. Signed Justin Bieber.

OMG he, like, totally touched this paper. And walked in this room. I can’t even deal.
As I sit and ponder how he hasn’t yet learned joined-up writing, a smiley man called Oleg comes to take me to my Parenie treatment.

He tells me to lie belly-down on the wooden bed and places bunches of leaves under my head, feet and on my face before cranking up the heat in the room.

I have an urge to giggle as he whacks and brushes me with the bouquets of oak, birch and eucalyptus, but then I remember that I am a sophisticated spa-going lady and must regain composure.

Any desire to laugh is quickly extinguished as the leaves fan scorching hot air around my body, taking me right up to the edge of bearable.

Parenie is not intended to be a tranquil, leafy message, but to stimulate circulation, relieve muscle tension and joint pain, boost immune system, improve metabolism, calm the nervous system…have I missed anything? Oh yes, and prevent premature aging.

Just at the point at which I think I’m going to expire, Oleg takes the leaf bunch off my face and leads me to the bucket showers.

He douses me twice to make sure I’m fully drenched and points to the eerily still plunge pool. My old foe.

It is at this point I realise the technique for my first plunge was entirely wrong. No caution is allowed as I descend in backwards this time, and quickly.

It is still a shock but I’m out again before my body knows what I’ve done to it.
Numbed, I enter the private chamber to be scrubbed. Rasa picks up her tupperware of honey and sea salt and begins to rub it into my leg, giving me much needed exfoliation.

It’s a full body massage and scrub combined. I can feel my pores being cleansed, or I could if it was possible for anyone to feel that.

With admirable efficiency, it’s over far too quickly and I go to lie in the sauna, still covered in the heavenly fragrant, sticky stuff.

Ten minutes later, I’m clean and smooth and suitably into my Banya routine, back and forth between wet room and lounge.

I’m an expert now. I can even plunge myself without the encouragement of (or personal need not to disappoint) Oleg.

When it’s time to leave, I float out into the street on a cloud. I thought I’d have to exercise today to speed up my metabolism.

Turns out all I needed was a plunge and a good Russian thwacking.

The Parenie treatment at Banya No.1 is £30 and the honey and sea salt scrub is £22. Packages with these treatments and additional birch body wash, massage, and full body and hair masks are available from £95 to £170.

Private suite, Taiga, can be booked from £125 per hour for up to 15 guests for a minimum of two hours.

For more details: 02072536723,,

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