Before I review this exclusive enclave of female wellbeing, a confession: I am – or at least I was until I fell pregnant – somebody who associated relaxation and escape with the kind of treats that have a dash of sin thrown in. If I designed a women-only club, pungent cocktails and meaty tapas would be served up between treatments, the seats in the library would be pre-worn for comfort, and dog-eared maps would be pinned up in the sauna so you could escape outside yourself when bored of hanging around your own psyche. Concerns about soft edges to your belly would evaporate simply because you’d forget that you had one.
And that’s why I would never have made the consultation team for Grace Belgravia, who set themselves apart from elite private men’s clubs in London by being more quinoa than steak, more gentle back-massage then hearty back-slap. Besides, they have a consultation team-and-a-half already: those who pay their £2,000 joining fee and £5,500 yearly membership are assessed by medical staff coordinated by Tim Evans, GP to the Queen (whose indefatigability seems a pretty good advertisement), by a nutritionist, a personal trainer and a physiotherapist, not to mention the intriguingly space-age sounding “facialist and visia scanner”. Grace are looking to make you healthy in every way – if I didn’t have an allergy to the word holistic, I would say the approach was holistic.
Not only this. When you join you’re assigned an “Angel” to cater to your needs at the club, and introduced to a concierge service that sounds as though it can procure you anything you desire. When I discover this on arrival, I am tempted to test this by asking for a packet of pork scratchings, but as I’m only here to sample the pregnancy massage, I resist.
To reach the spa and treatment area, I am led from the prettily designed, light and compact lounge area, down an elegant walkway with a high vaulted glass ceiling, through a shop displaying carefully chosen fashion items (which can be ordered in your size and made available to you when you emerge goddess-like from your treatment) and end up in a changing area – a kind of dusky pink and brown mother-ship from which radiate the showers, the Aqua Calda Spa with hammam, and the corridors to the treatment rooms.
My masseuse has such a gloriously calm manner I feel myself relaxing just talking to her, which I do in a short interview about what I want from the experience, during which she explains she’ll be using unscented grapeseed oil for the massage – the emphasis is on gentle and simple for pregnant women. I lie on my side on the heated table (a wondrous thing to experience in the coldest March since 1892) in a low-lit room with faintly melancholy Irish music playing through the speakers, and I’m tended to slowly and carefully – back, legs, arms, feet, even the somewhat restless belly. The treatment is less robust than normal, though pressure is put on key places that might be feeling the strain of the growing body.
Afterwards, in an advanced state of tranquillity, I wander through a small but state-of-the-art gym, the library of very new books (all of which can of course be procured for you), and the café where the emphasis is on the locally-sourced and fresh (good), and the drinks are meant to “balance the pH of your body” (eh?). On my way out, I encounter the only other client I’ve seen in this quiet weekend afternoon. She’s ordered a blow-dry in the changing area, which she seems very pleased with. When I ask if she’s local, she says she lives in Little Venice, but would still be a member of Grace if she lived in New York. Clearly, this is just the elite women-only health club she would have designed. C
Grace Belgravia, 11c West Halkin Street, London SW1
020-7235 8900; gracebelgravia.com