When I signed up for the Virgin Money London Marathon 2018, I knew the training was going to be tough. What I never anticipated was just how draining it would be, both mentally and physically.
My highly regimented training regime has left me no free time for all those things I used to do for, um, fun. With less than a month to go until race day, my body felt constantly fatigued and my mind anxious.
Pretty sure this wasn’t a good state to be in before running 26.2 miles, I decided to give myself an afternoon off. But where to go?
As an aficionado of London’s Soho House private member clubs – usually as the guest of a more salubrious member – I was eager to check out The Ned, the latest in the Soho House and Sydell Group stable. If I was going to chill out, I wanted to do it in style: my life of late was distinctly lacking in glamour. This time I wouldn’t be propping up the bar but relaxing in the spa.
The Ned occupies an enormous 1920s building, previously the Midland Bank headquarters. There are 250 guest rooms, eight restaurants, spa services and a private members’ club. The members club comprises several bars, a rooftop restaurant and lap pool with views of St Pauls, an indoor pool, Moroccan hammam, steam room, sauna and gym. There’s even a barbershop and beauty parlour.
The décor throughout is both eclectic and sophisticated. Think 1920s ocean liner meets The Great Gatsby. A sniff of steampunk, even. Expect to see oodles of sumptuous upholstery, densely patterned wall-paper and warm soft lighting. Guests and club members are a mix of business men and women, families and hip creatives. What do they have in common? A thirst for style.
No rest for the wicked…
I started my day with a quick training session in the club gym, located in the basement. It’s a fitness enthusiast’s dream and even offers a ski-treadmill and a 'skill-mill’ – a sloped treadmill for speedwork. Machine screens feature everything you need: web browsing, Facebook, stock market analysis and virtual scenery. I enjoyed a 4km easy run ‘along a tropical beach’.
A healthy lunch
The Ned has eight restaurants catering for 850 diners, all set in what was originally the banking floor, each separated by a polished walkway. The space is swathed in marble, wood and plush upholstery and dotted with towering green pillars.
In the thrall of my health regime, I resisted the grills and themed brasseries, and headed to Malibu Kitchen, a Californian eatery in one corner of the restaurant hall.
I sat at a small marble table in a wooden booth, beneath a tall window. My waitress, wearing a navy jumpsuit, served me a very tasty ‘Forbidden rice bowl’ (kale, fermented vegetables, almond and basil) and a side of sweet potato fries for those precious marathon-training carbs. I also tried a ginger shot which was so strong it made me cough! Is that a good thing?
A relaxing treatment
Spa services are available to the public, but spa facilities are reserved for members and customers paying over £200 on their treatments.
I was due a Moody Massage (60 mins, £100) and whilst I waited, friendly staff sat me in a small seating area where fresh mint water is available or other refreshments on request.
My therapist, Paulina, greeted me and led me to my treatment room past a cosy nail bar. She asked about my most tense areas and what I desired from the treatment. After some painful sports massages in recent months, I opted for a full body medium-pressure massage.
Paulina helped me to choose an invigorating, floral oil named Wild Cow by the brand Cowshed, which is used throughout Soho House spas. I lay on my front and she applied downward pressure on my upper back, asking me to take a few deep relaxing breaths. Without removing the towel, she pressed down on each of my limbs in turn and my body. I sank into the warm towel and felt like everything had suddenly slowed down.
Removing one part of the towel at a time, Paulina slowly massaged each shoulder, each arm, my back and each leg. She applied gentle broad strokes to each area first, followed by harder more targeted pressure. At points the pressure was ticklish or tender, especially on my over-worked calves, so she reduced it accordingly. With each zone, I drifted further and further from the stress and pain of my training.
I turned onto my back and Paulina worked on the fronts of my arms and legs, before giving me a deep shoulder and neck massage. To finish, she pressed gently on pressure points on my face and around my hairline.
I was left feeling enormously relaxed and light as a feather.
What’s the spa like?
Changing rooms are accessed through the library-style quiet club room. Decorated in white, they open onto a space with beauty stations, lined with neat upholstered chairs. In the locker room, walls of lockers are decorated with vintage glass and steampunk-style combination locks. A few Chelsea-style circular couches provide seating. The showers are in individual closets with a changing space and complimentary Cowshed products.
The 20-metre indoor pool is frankly stunning. Long and slim, the pool glides beneath a low ceiling with large 1920s lampshades casting circles of light on the water. There is a steam room, a sauna and a hammam. Loungers are upholstered and comfortable, but there are not many of them.
The Moroccan hammam is purportedly one of the best in Europe. It’s certainly large. I entered what felt like an ancient stone patio with a huge fountain in the centre. The room was incredibly peaceful. Silent. Except for drips of water echoing quietly. I realised the acoustics of the room were magical and since I was alone, I hummed a couple of notes which echoed beautifully. This hammam is a work of art.
As my time at the Ned drew to a close, I felt my heart rate had lowered significantly. For the first time in months, I had a chance to stop and breathe.
The Ned is busy and buzzy, but the spa is a true haven for indulgence and relaxation. For a quirky but decadent spa experience, it's a solid choice. We’ll be back again soon – but maybe next time we’ll slip into some sequins and enjoy some cocktails there too!