The Sanderson is an über-stylish hotel with a sense of fun; the spa, Agua, a celestial retreat from the hustle and bustle of nearby Oxford Street. Here you will find professionally delivered indulgent treatments in an immaculate designer-white environment.
12 treatment rooms
Private relaxation suites
Central relaxation lounge
Our Spa Spy review
First impressions are deceptive: the faded 1950s exterior of London's Sanderson Hotel suggests nothing special, but once you step into its Philippe Starck-designed lobby, you enter another world entirely.
The hotel's interior is quirky, Dali-esque, hipsterish and cool: rather like its clientele. The receptionist directed us into the space-themed silver lifts that take you to the spa on the first floor.
Agua at Sanderson has an almost all-white scheme, offset by shots of colour from green apples, twinkling lights, mirrors, and vintage furniture. Due to building regulations (The Sanderson is a Grade 2-listed former fabrics warehouse), there are no doors, so huge, billowing drapes instead of walls divide its 14 treatment rooms, relaxation and changing areas. The only sounds were ambient soundtracks, hushed tones, and the pad of slippered feet.
What's on offer?
On arrival, Emma, the friendly receptionist, handed me a consultation form and asked me to talk in whispers as I entered the spa itself. Even my questionnaire had quirky touches: it asked me about my favourite colours, scents, cocktails and music, as well as medical details. Emma showed me a lunch menu and kindly suggested some signature dishes and drinks that I might like to try after my treatments.
As no solid matter divides the 1,000-square-metre space, the spa's layout can be a little confusing. Nelson from the spa team was on hand to guide me to a dressing area with spacious mirrored lockers.
The private changing rooms were well stocked with decent-sized Malin and Goetz toiletries. The spa's only thermal facility, a eucalyptus steam room, is a spare, neon-lit, aquamarine space that seats six comfortably. To begin with, I found its scent a little overwhelming but, after a few minutes, settled into its warming, head-clearing effects.
A central relaxation area has white chaise longues arranged around a water fountain scattered with orchid petals, glass bowls of green apples, and twinkling lights. Through the curtains are hidden private relaxation booths with recliners and individual entertainment systems with headphones.
After a quick shower, I changed into my robe and slippers to be greeted warmly by Julia, my therapist, who guided me up spotlit stairs to my treatment room. The rooms are a little clinical with their combination of white curtains and adjustable bed but Julia put me instantly at ease. I settled under the bed's thick downy duvet to begin my treatment.
Tell us about the treatments
We tried the Age-Defyer Facial (80 minutes, £130) from Natura Bissé, a Barcelona-based luxury skincare brand. The facial promised to tackle the "stubborn signs of ageing, such as sagging skin, fine lines and a dull skin tone". Julia chatted through some of the points on my consultation form and explained the various steps involved.
With soft strokes, Julia used a gentle green tea-based cream cleanser to remove any last traces of make-up and thoroughly clean my skin, not once but twice, followed by a cooling gel toner. A firm facial massage using lymphatic drainage techniques was wonderfully relaxing.
I had trepidations about a chemical peel: my sensitive skin flares easily. However, Julia assured me that although the products contained glycolic acid, my skin would not react. Julia applied a vial of liquid to my face, topped with a sprinkling of powder, which bubbled and tingled away. After five minutes, she exfoliated my skin with the gentlest of circular movements, and applied warm cloths, so that not a fleeting tingle remained.
The minutes flew by with the application of two masks: Julia left on the first, a fruity pineapple, while I enjoyed a deep arm and shoulder massage. The second, based on algae, set firm on my face for twenty minutes, rather like plaster of Paris, while Julia treated me to a foot and scalp massage. The mask peeled off easily.
To finish the facial, Julia applied a delicious gel-creme moisturiser containing vitamins and plant-based oestrogens aimed at mature skin.
This indulgent, deeply relaxing treatment passed by all too quickly. I was delighted by the results: the peel effectively reduced open pores that I've dealt with for most of my adult life, and tackled some of my uneven pigmentation. My skin felt softer and smoother than it has for a very long time.
Agua at Sanderson's face and body treatments include massages, scrubs, body polishes and Ayurvedic body treatments, as well as manicures and pedicures. They aim at the top end of the market: brands include Nuxe, Natura Bissé and Eve Lom. Those with the time and money can enjoy a facial with Eve Lom herself, who personally trains Agua's facialists in her signature treatments.
Agua at Sanderson has an ultra-healthy and delicious menu, the likes of which Gwyneth Paltrow would approve (we are firmly in clean-eating territory here). Staff bring lunch to your private relaxation pod on a wheeled table, served under decadent silver platters. The nutrient-rich menu includes probiotic grains, tomato essences, and salads based on kale, seaweed, and cider vinegar, as well as lean proteins, such as seared beef and salmon. Our seared tuna with fermented vegetables was perfectly cooked). Desserts contain no refined sugar; "ice creams" are based on coconut and banana.
The drinks and "energy shot" menu steers clear of dairy products and includes super-green and vegan smoothies, and aloe-based beverages topped up with the latest ingredients, such as maca powder, bee pollen and baobab.
The hot drinks menu is more limited: frothy matcha green tea is the only one listed on the menu. I requested a herbal tea after lunch; the rhubarb and custard-flavoured tea that arrived was pleasantly sweet, but disappointingly in a teabag.
We loved / we didn't love
Our therapist, Julia: I felt that I was in expert hands throughout the treatment; the results were impressive; her skincare advice was sensible and spot on.
The self-indulgent ambience of the spa: Agua at Sanderson is firmly at the luxury end of the market, and definitely deserves its place.
Having your own private pod to relax and unwind in -- even eating lunch in your robe -- feels wonderfully cocooning.
We didn't love
It's hard to find anything to complain about at Agua at Sanderson. The spa commands an undoubtedly beautiful space; lacklustre areas that let down the general ambience were the loos, which do have walls, which could have benefited from a lick of paint and more luxury touches.
Who do you think would like it?
Solo spa-goers would love Agua at Sanderson: Because the entire spa is a quiet zone, there's no worry about gaggles of voices disturbing your peace. Couples (who can talk quietly) would enjoy the cocooning time together, too.
Larger groups can book in for mud parties, but might find it difficult to keep quiet.
What bubble rating did you give this spa?
Agua at Sanderson keeps its Good Spa Guide rating of 5 bubbles and deservedly so. Although the only spa facility is a steam room, Agua at Sanderson makes up for it in so many other ways: its near perfect service, stunning décor, exquisite cuisine, and effective, expertly-delivered treatments.