If I’m ever invited to a do at Buckingham Palace, I’ll head here before getting ready to curtsy. The palace is just up the road, so I could have a facial and be there in my gloves and hat within a couple of hours. I might even squeeze in a quick yoga session, but not much else. In common with many London spas, space is at a premium at 51. It’s more somewhere to drop in and be worked on, rather than somewhere to spend a day wafting around. There are three treatment rooms (to be fair, these are all decent sized), a sauna and a pocket-sized steam room. An area outside the changing rooms is divided in two: one half is a low-lit relaxation area, the other is kitted out with mats to stretch on pre- and post-workout.
Niche French range Anne Semonin has a reputation among spa devotees as being the skin’s equivalent of haute couture. Products can be blended to your own skin type, or for what is needed that day. Therapists liken treatments to cooking: a bit of this or that, stir it up, et voilà, perfect skin. Accordingly, some of the most popular treatments are the wraps (something I’m always fond of because you simply can’t anoint, massage and wrap yourself in tinfoil at home). Take the Firming Spirulina Booster Envelopment. It’s the ideal saver for city-ravaged skin, with algae to draw out impurities and help reduce the effects of cellulite. The therapist doesn’t just baste and go, but gives a head massage while the algae is working. Facials incorporate plenty of massage strokes, and therapists promote the Semonin range in a way that makes sense. For example, work from the outside in with eye creams to minimise crow’s feet. And use one of the Semonin serums at night instead of a heavy moisturiser to help skin breathe.
Post treatment, you’ll be given a fruit juice to drink and pointed in the direction of the relaxation area. I could have stayed to pound on an exercise machine, but headed for a light lunch in the Bistro instead. I felt relaxed, pounds lighter and with brighter skin, but with one niggling question. If the Queen ever did visit the spa, how would she get changed? You need a pound coin for the lockers, and Her Majesty is a famously cash-free zone.
60-minute massages from £80; 51 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AF; 020 7769 7766, 51-buckinghamgate.co.uk