by Sally Peck, The Telegraph, August 24, 2017
The companion you choose for a spa visit colours your experience. My friend, Caryn, has a delightfully sharp tongue and a facility for speaking in a low-yet-audible voice. I go with her when gossip is on the agenda – but this is an entertaining, rather than rejuvenating, experience.
What you want in a spa companion, is a non-judgmental friend who has the same budget as you, and with whom you feel utterly at ease. Enter, the labrador.
My dog, Mathilde, is 12 years-old. We’ve had many a happy (and muddy) stay in the countryside: the Ickworth, with its glorious house and grounds; Ockenden Manor, with its Elizabethan rooms and proximity to the Downs. The pleasures of a country stay with a dog are many.
But here, just in time for National Dog Day, is an entirely different prospect: a sleek hotel in the heart of London with a canine-friendly aura and (stay with me here) a human-and-dog spa package.
The Rosewood London, in Holborn, is a study in stylish juxtapositions: there’s the regal Edwardian building with elegant modern décor; the flamboyantly and meticulously liveried staff and their pleasingly laid-back vibe. The hotel’s courtyard buzzes in the week with an after-work drinks crowd, and the on-site bar and brasserie are deservedly popular – and yet the hotel is as peaceful as if it were in the countryside. The only noise within is the chirping of the caged parakeets that live on the landings of the giant marble staircase.
But if Rosewood London has no monopoly on sleek style or great service, it is staking its claim as being the most dog-friendly hotel in the capital. When you and your canine companion arrive, you’ll probably meet Pearl, the resident golden retriever, whose business card – complete with telephone extension – will be waiting for you in your suite, an impressive chunk of central London real estate, decorated in white, grey and fawn-coloured fabrics. Of course, you may find this superfluous, having already been furnished with “Pearl’s Pals’ Guide to London”, a well-edited list of local pubs, restaurants and juice bars that welcome dogs, and the best parks for walks (the hotel is located just above Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London’s largest public square, a good place to start).
The hotel welcomes dogs to its Grand Premier Suite with a pristine Barbour dog bed in the signature tartan, laid out with a range of Lily’s Kitchen treats and meals. And just when I was beginning to wonder whether the monogrammed linen cloth on which her food bowls were sitting might be lost on Mathilde, an animal who thrills at rolling in the turds of fellow beasts, Jamie Griffen, owner of the pet concierge service dogFX, arrived.
How, you might well ask, does a dog spa? For starters, the canine spa sessions take place in the suite’s second marble-lined bathroom (not in the spa – that would be disruptive).
“People are…” Griffen explained diplomatically as he combed out nearly one pound of dead hair from my dog without raising an eyebrow (honestly, we brush her weekly – but there’s just so much hair) “…so invested in their pets.” From matching a person with the perfect dog breed to finding bespoke collars, and producing pet funerals, his is a specific trade, which requires patience and specificity of purpose.
After the rather embarrassing comb-out, Mathilde was covered, to her apparent delight, with dry shampoo mousse, which cleans hair and soothes skin without going through the ceremony of an actual wash and dry. Griffen cut her nails and trimmed the hair between the pads of her feet, removing a collection of various things that ought not to have been there. There was another stage of combing out the dry shampoo, and an enthusiastic running over of her teeth with a dental wipe (who knew?). Griffen tactfully suggested that I purchase a sort of dog toothbrush on a thimble-shaped finger cap to improve the breath situation in future (Mathilde recently had a full MOT; the fierce mouth odour is just “old age”, according to our vet).
Finally, with a generous spritz of an all-natural grapefruit-and-ginger scented WildWash dog cologne that was inoffensive but effective, Griffen left us to enjoy our suite, saying breezily: “I’m off now to see a very big rapper with a very small dog.”
I left Mathilde napping in her bed while I headed downstairs, for my treatment. As you enter the underground Sense spa, which is all low lights, muted gold-leaf, bamboo and teak wood walls, and labyrinth corridors, you check right out of central London. While the design notes owe a debt to Japanese garden aesthetics, the treatments are mainly European. I opted for a 45-minute Swedish massage, to undo some of the damage wrought by a desk-bound job, and followed that with a sauna-shower ritual in the changing rooms. The space is immaculate; the treatment rooms elegant and comfortable; and the therapist I had was a good communicator.
This is not the largest spa in London, and lacks a swimming pool and the other accoutrements you find in more sprawling rural properties. But it is sexy – it’s a place to linger for around two hours, as I did, before you head out for drinks, dinner on the town, perhaps the theatre.
Given the Rosewood’s dog-friendly policy (I was repeatedly invited to bring Mathilde to the bar), it was no surprise that the brasserie staff welcomed her like a long-lost friend. Fellow diners offered nothing but admiring glances; we could have been in Paris.
With a steak tartare, a small glass of côtes du Rhône, and a bowl of Burns’s best, Mathilde and I saw out the evening and slipped back upstairs, to watch television in the bathtub. A spa night for the gals is about just this sort of indulgence.
It is presumptuous to speak for a dog. Virginia Woolf’s relating of the thoughts of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel Flush is worth your time; Barbara Bush’s tour of the White House through the eyes of her springer spaniel less so. But I can tell you this: spending uninterrupted time together was relaxing. That Griffen removed a pound of fur from my dog was embarrassing, but she looked fantastic for it. As for me, I suffer periodically from insomnia. But after a day of enforced relaxation, I slept for nine hours, without interruption, rejuvenated with my trusty labrador by my side.
Rosewood London’s canine package includes an overnight stay in a Grand Premier Suite for two with treatments for humans in the Sense spa; a one-hour grooming session for a dog with Jamie Griffen; full breakfast for two; dog bed and dog sitting (on request), from £415 per night.