It may only have been open since July 2011, but Crystal Palace Spa is already proving to be the ultimate Moroccan and Turkish hammam spa destination in London. With pristine décor dominated by sparkly blue lapis-lazuli tiles, the spa is welcoming and clean.
The unique approach of this spa is that you can choose to have an individual experience, instead of being in a group like on a holiday to Turkey. Having your own wet spa room all to yourself is seriously indulgent.
Clients who have travelled to Morocco and Turkey know what they want from a hammam, and often struggle to find the same type of service in other countries, especially in London. There's an evident lack of hammam facilities in London so it is good news that Marylebone is now home to one of them.
All staff at Crystal Palace Spa are exceptionally friendly and well qualified. On arrival, you receive a warm greeting at reception and get a tour of the spa. The facilities include a hair salon and nail technician on the ground floor, the hammam in the lower ground and a therapy room for hot stone massage, relaxing or deep tissue massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and sports massage.
As a complete beginner to the hammam, I was fascinated by this old tradition from the Ottoman empire. The whole process of washing and scrubbing in the hammam was a social event and it often involved food and drink. The modern equivalent is hen parties, spa days or birthdays. In fact, an indulgent afternoon at the hammam would make a perfect girly day out or a great way to unwind after work. I was told that up to 6 people can have the hammam to themselves for parties and events at Crystal Palace Spa.
When it comes to massage I am a bit picky: it has to be 'just right'. I asked for a medium pressure as I have been told the strong pressure can make you jump from the pain (I haven't been to Turkey yet but many contacts and friends told me to make sure you specify your preference). My therapist was Orhan, a very experienced therapist who also manages the spa. Ask for him if you would like to have a hot stone massage after the hammam. If you don't feel brave you can ask for a soft pressure massage and you will still get the benefit of improved circulation and smooth, glowing skin.
I absolutely loved the scrub with rough cotton mitts (there is even a rougher version for men as their skin can be thicker and 'bumpier'). As the therapist washes the dead skins cells away with warm water you feel renewed and relaxed.
The soap massage is of course the signature treatment (the alternative signature treatment is the Moroccan experience where a clay body mask is applied instead). Leaving no stone unturned, Orhan kneaded away all my knots and each and every muscle was manipulated and released.
What I liked the most about the massage was the focus on the stomach and shoulders: a good abdominal massage can do wonders for your digestion and combat bloating (as well as taming your wobbly bits!) and nothing beats a strong shoulder massage to melt away the tension.
Having a tailored hammam experience is priceless: at the opposite end of the scale of traditional Turkish hammams where you lie on a stone slab practically naked with a bunch of complete strangers, Crystal Palace creates an inviting and totally exclusive environment that is private and safe.