Spa Spy heads to trendy urban Southwark to meet some real, live Londoner bees, then have a bee facial. Will the bees be used in the treatment? Will she literally have bee-stung lips?
Too late, I’m outside the Bankside Hilton, a cube-y modern building round the back of the Tate, a most creative and, yes, buzzy part of London (see what I did there? Perhaps I need to calm down…)
Inside, the hotel reception is all bronze lighting and panels, atmospherically lit. Everywhere you look there’s either a real live businessman, or art, mostly animal or graffiti related. I love all the little ceramic foxes tucked in corners and on picture frames – apparently in honour of the urban fox that stalked the building site of this 2016 addition to the Hilton chain.
Meeting the queen (or not quite…)
Because I’m press, don’t you know, PR exec Liana Nastase takes me to meet the bees. If you are a hotel guest, head to the fourth floor and see for yourself. If you are booked into the Penthouse Suite, your private terrace overlooks the long strip of meadow that hosts the four beehives.
The hives are at the far end –I have to view them through a wall of glass: health and safety – but Liana tells me the penthouse guests often ask if they are going to have to fight off a swarm. She laughs in a way that suggests it’s a ridiculous question posed by people who don’t understand bees.
The apiary (bee habitat) was installed by artisanal beekeeper Dale Gibson of Bermondsey Bees, who provide honey to all the best London restaurants. The plan is that these bees will eventually produce enough to supply the hotel kitchen - presently, they make just enough for brunch.
What makes these bees so special?
Well, their hives are designed by Jewellery designer Alex Monroe, of the rather whimsical bee necklaces that everyone now covets or copies.
I was expecting the bee residences to be a little more glamorous – they’re wooden slatted boxes painted green, (like um, hives basically) – but Monroe’s seasonal silhouettes painted on one side of each are ... nice?
I suppose they do occupy a slice of prime real estate overlooking Tate Modern’s Switch House and St Pauls dome:it is a pretty swanky address. When I visit in early May, the meadow was dried out and there was one bee hovering around – not their Queen Pauline, who was presumably lording it indoors. But look how lovely it becomes in spring and summer …
Okay, so there’s the bees (or bee), but what do they have to do with my facial?
We head back down to the basement to the petit, two-room Spa to You for the Bee Good Signature Honey Facial (60 mins £120).
While the rooftop bees provided the inspiration for this facial, they are not partaking – I can’t say I’m not relieved.
The hour passes with a double cleanse, exfoliation with targeted steamer (think someone vaping in your face), a rich mask, gorgeous face, neck, shoulder and arm massage courtesy of my skilled and tres charmant French therapist Claire, then serum, eye-cream, lip balm (lovely!), and moisturiser.
The USP is that it uses Bee Good products, which use the honey, beeswax and propolis of British bees, but also support bee protection programmes across the UK. They do not contain anything made by Hilton bees. However, I do have a spoon of Queen Pauline and Co’s amber nectar in my delicious post-treatment lemongrass tea.
Beeswax is great not only at holding in moisture, but also screening against pollutants, which might explain how the hydrating and plumping effect of my facial lasted until I got home - usually trekking through rush-hour London getting blasted by fumes undoes all the good work of a spa treatment.
So, literally no bees were harmed during the making of this facial - quite the contrary. Hopefully my lovely fresh skin has made for some happy British bees.