Now I’ve been to a fair few spas in my time, but nothing quite like this one. If you’ve never tried a Russian Banya, you’re in for a treat.
Tucked away down an unremarkable side street in Hoxton, London’s first Russian spa Banya No.1 will change your mindset on spas for good. Based very much around the sauna, a three hour Banya experience will leave you refreshed, revived and raring to go. The session will see you flit in between sauna, icy plunge pool and a refreshing bucket of iced water chucked over your head (trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds), with a series of treatments dependent on which package is booked.
The Parenie is standard with all, what turned out to be one of the best spa treatments I’ve ever had. It begins with you lying face down in the sauna, accessorised by a natty little felt hat to avoid you overheating. Your therapist pumps up the heat before essentially stirring it up with branches of birch, oak and eucalyptus and pushing clouds of hear down on to your body, before massaging with the branches. It sounds insane. For the first twenty seconds it’s extremely odd, but as soon as the branches’ essential oils and the massaging powers of the heat begin to work their magic; turns out it’s unbeatable. The treatment ends with the aforementioned bucket, bringing your temperature right down.
Next up, I stripped off and arranged myself on a marble slab (not in a sacrificial way…) where a small Russian woman began her work with a honey and salt scrub, scrubbing every avialable inch of me. A quick shower and my skin felt like a baby’s. Astonishingly, I’ve never had quite such an effective scrub.
The basic package for three hours Banya time and a parenie starts at £75. Each book is accompanied by your own private booth table in the café, where you can order from a menu of drinks (including, of course, vodka) and fantastic Russian food, from salt-cured salmon and pickled herrings to homemade dumplings and crayfish.
I’ve been prattling on about Banya to everyone who will listen since my visit – what a find! Get yourself booked in, you certainly won’t regret it.