May 10, 2010

Spa-ced out

Stem cells, gold dust, caviar. It would appear that the oil massage as we knew it is passé, and exotic spas are big business.

As more and more Indians with disposable incomes discover the pleasures of being pampered with facials and massages, the spa industry in the country is growing by leaps and bounds (see box below) and spa entrepreneurs are innovating fast to keep the excitement going with new and exotic treatments.

Myrah, a luxury destination day spa in Mumbai’s upmarket Juhu area, has launched ‘stem cell therapy’, an 85-minute treatment priced Rs 5,500. “It’s considered a breakthrough in anti-ageing,” says Nisha Jhaveri, Myrah’s owner. The frozen stem cells used at Myrah are imported from Spain and contain Tropoelastin, a chemical that experts believe has anti-ageing properties. While the ‘stem cell therapy’ is Myrah’s USP, Jhaveri has other treatments, including exotic ones that use powder extracted from 1.5 carat diamonds, gold and caviar.

‘Organic’ is the USP of Aparna Raghavan’s White Mantra Spa, spread across 7,000 sq ft in Bangalore’s Rustam Bagh. White Mantra claims to use products that are not only natural, but also mostly grown within the spa premises. “Every ingredient — from the mix of herbs to the hand-pounded powders, the essential oils, the fresh, organically grown fruits and flowers — is sourced from the spa centre,” says Raghavan. White Mantra Spa specialises in creating customised packages based on individual need and body type. Some of the more exotic treatments it offers are an almond-chocolate body exfoliation, strawberry-oatmeal skin treatment, and massages using macadamia nuts and coconut milk.

Speaking of new therapies, Shen Reflexology, a wellness centre in Mumbai’s Bandra locality, has just brought in Moxibustion, an ancient Chinese therapy that aims to relieve stress around the eye area. The 30-minute treatment uses special ‘Moxa sticks’ (cigar-like, infused with herbs) that are warmed and gently massaged around the eye area and help to reduce dark circles.

Juhu in Mumbai also has the brand new Caressa Spa which offers a special ‘life spa capsule’, a spaceship-like chamber in which you lie down and are engulfed in a gush of temperature-controlled steam infused with aromatic herbs and essential oils.

It’s not quite the same, but New Delhi’s Radisson Hotel too has a special ‘aqua suite’ inside which it offers a ‘body detox’ treatment using micronised seaweed. Later, you are cocooned in a warm water blanket that gives you a feeling of complete weightlessness. At R The Spa, as the Radisson’s spa is called, the therapy is often combined with facials, body massages and body wraps such as the green coffee wrap, introduced this summer.

Anupam Dasgupta, general manager of Ananda in the Himalayas, an hour’s drive from Dehradun, well understands the need to offer unique, yet effective therapies. “That’s why 70-80 per cent of guests here,” he says, “are repeat customers.” Ananda recently introduced an exclusive treatment, a 45-minute Tibetan massage using hot Himalayan salt poultices infused with cardamom and lavender, and a blend of five types of organic oils.

Not just spa owners, spa vendors too are providing increasingly exotic stuff. Eminence Organics, a Hungarian brand of natural skincare products, has come out with a ‘chili facial’ cream that contains extracts of paprika, which heats the skin naturally, thus facilitating the opening of pores and removal of dead skin.

“Every hotel wants to give its customers a wholesome experience and that’s why they are opening spas,” explains Sanjeev Mansotra, chairman and MD, Core Wellness. The company runs Sohum Spa and Wellness Sanctuary, which has day spa centres in Baroda, Pune, Chennai and pilgrimage centres such as Shirdi and Katra, and also plans to offer certified spa courses.

Despite all these innovative new experiences being offered at spas within the country, those who can afford it — and many increasingly can — go abroad for exotic treatments at dedicated spa destinations. Dr Purnima Mhatre, who runs Gorgeous, a chain of cosmetology clinics in Mumbai, says: “Indulging in exotic treatments is a status symbol today.”

Megha Kawale, model/DJ/musician, takes regular ‘spa vacations’ and has just returned from a Polynesian spa in New Zealand. It was Nisha Jhaveri’s travels to spas all over the world that prompted her to open Myrah. In India, hotels such as Westin have developed properties in places like Sohna and Pune as quick spa getaways.

Arun Thapar, who anchors and produces the show Spectacular Spas for Men on NDTV Good Times, says, “Men, too, know the importance of a manicure or a fruit facial and are unapologetic about enjoying a spa treatment.”

Take Mohamed Morani, CEO of Cineyug, a Mumbai-based entertainment company, and his wife Lucky, who pack in a two-hour session at a spa every week getting back massages, hair treatments, foot reflexology, body wraps, etc. “Spa treatments are an intrinsic part of our lives; it’s no more a luxury, it’s a necessity,” he says. This year, they hope to go to Chiva-Som in Thailand, a luxury health resort which offers treatments such as marine mud wraps, volcanic mud facials and spiced coffee body glow, where ground coffee — which reduces cellulite, it is believed — is used to cleanse the body.

If you think that’s exotic, then some of the therapies at spas across the world would make your stomach turn — ‘snake venom’ facials to freeze wrinkles, ‘bird dropping’ massages for supple skin, snakes (non-venomous) slithering over you in a ‘body massage’, and a ‘hay stack bath’ where you’re buried under moist hay (heated to 40° C) for 20 minutes to open the pores and detoxify the body!

Clearly, spas have come a long way from the ‘water therapy’ they began as. Most people in India do not even realise that what most spas offer is ‘pampering’, without any ‘therapeutic’ benefits. “With pampering, one just feels good; but when it’s therapeutic, it works at a deeper level of health,” explains Dr Issac Mathai, medical director, Soukya International Holistic Health Centre, Bangalore. India also lacks regulations and standards, he adds, and even Ayurveda, India’s ancient medical system, tends to be widely misused.

These are important concerns, and the spa industry would do well to heed them if it is to continue to grow in India.

THE PRICE OF PLEASURE

Pegged as a significant part of the Rs 11,000 crore wellness services sector, the spa industry, says a FICCI-E&Y report of 2009, is growing at 35 per cent per annum. The report further says that there are 2,300 spas in the country now, and by 2014 ,700 new ones will be added, comprising both homegrown and international brands which will open in India to meet the demand. What’s more, by 2012, nearly three lakh spa therapists will be required in India.

Apr 15, 2010

Forest Essentials' Yogurt Face Masque for summer 2010

Yoghurt is an excellent natural ingredient that soothes, pampers and moisturises the skin. It also works as a skin tightening and reviving agent and is said to have cleansing properties that help remove traces of dirt, pollution and make up from the pores of the skin and leave it looking fresh and glowing.
Forest Essentials brand new offering is Yogurt Face Masque, a product that includes cold pressed organic almond oil, wheat germ, Vitamin B3, Vitamin E and unprocessed natural yogurt.
 
DIRECTIONS OF USE.
To be used after cleansing. Preferably post steaming or using a hot towel. Apply smoothly on face and neck avoiding the eye area and allow it to dry. Rinse off with warm water and then cold water. Use moisturiser as usual.

Feb 12, 2010

Special Valentine's Day discount deal for SPAlendor readers

SPAlendor is happy to announce its association with deals.livingsocial.com. Sign up on the website for interesting deals. Today's special deal is 59 per cent off on in-home massages. Please log on for more details.
ESPECIALLY FOR SPAlendor's readers: Go through the blog and get special "$5 Deal Bucks" to spend on your first purchase. Happy shopping this Valentine's Day!

Jan 31, 2010

Here’s what you can do this Valentine’s day


Devigarh Resorts is celebrating its 10th anniversary and offering special packages for Valentine's day 2010. Email devigarhresorts.in for further details

1 A card from Sophie Creations is a must. These are greeting cards I design on my own with 100 per cent handmade paper, recycled materials and handiwork worked on by Indian artisans themselves. There’s no better way than a simple, personalized card to share your feelings. Rs 70 onwards. The link is on the blog webpage so go ahead, smile and order your cards on cardsbysophie@gmail.com
2 Pamper your taste buds with yummy and specially crafted Godrej Nature’s Baskets. The “indulgence” hampers consists of heavenly chocolates and confectionaries like Villars bar - dark chocolate with orange, Guliyan Twists Impulse - Mixed Flavors and Terry's Choc Orange Mint. And if you think your Valentine is way too health conscious to enjoy all these sinful delights, the hamper also has a host of scrumptious snacks and beverages like Venus Healthy Cuisine Saffron Pepper, Pfanner Green Apple Drink, Merba Patisserie Cranberry Cookies and Swell Apricot Nectar. PRICE: Rs 3,500 onwards. Available in Mumbai but you can order them in other cities too by calling on these numbers: World Trade Centre: 022- 22154706/22152006; Warden Road: 022-23526775; Powai: 022-25707706; Lokhandwala: 022 26300766; Bandra : 022 6425050
3 It’s time to gift your man a spa treatment. ESPACE, the spa at Radisson MBD, NOIDA, has introduced special spa treatments for men this Valentine’s day. The treatments, says the spa manager, keep in mind the specific skin care and detoxification needs of men. The ambience is, obviously, luxurious but the therapies aim at reducing body stress while removing harmful toxins from the system.
The Gentlemen’s Retreat (back, neck and shoulder massage): The massage works on the head, neck and shoulders, relieving tension and bringing in a sense of relaxation. The treatment provides relief from back aches, relaxes the muscles and other parts of the body.
Price: Rs 1,500
Duration: 20 min
Gentlemen’s Happy Feet: Time to heal thy feet. This promises to be reflexology at its best. Specialized massage techniques, concentrating on the reflex areas of the feet will have your man falling at your feet for sure.
Price : Rs 999
Duration : 50 mins
Call (0120-4300000)
4 Go fall in love all over again this Valentine's Day. NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization for the City of New York, has announced special packages for Valentine’s day, 2010. Singles, you may want to join a “crash course in dating” with some relationship experts who will, apart from giving you gyaan will also serve you Love Potion Cocktail (yikes) at Havana Central Times Square. Tickets: $15 each. If that sounds dreary, the good part is that you can join a “Valentine Speed Dating” event at Havana Central at The West End. Tickets: $59.95 each, including tax, hors d’oeuvres and one Havana Central Classic Cocktail. Cruise holidays are passé, you might want to experience walking on the clouds this Valentine’s with Liberty Helicopters, which is offering Romance Over Manhattan tour lasting 25 minutes. At the end of the tour you’ll get a souvenir photo of you and your loved one. Price: $995 onwards. For more information, visit libertyhelicopters.com. Don’t come away without the special Park Avenue Romance Package at Oasis Day Spa, which includes complementary candlelight dinner vouchers too. Price is $300. Services at the spa include a choice from aromatherapy massages, French wine facials and much more. Prices range from $70–$125 onwards. For more information, visit oasisdayspanyc.com. Mandarin Oriental New York is offering, apart from other packages, special Midnight Magic Over Manhattan spa experience. Price: $1,750+ For more information, visit mandarinoriental.com/newyork.
For more information about what to see and do in New York City, visit nycgo.com.
5 Those of you in Delhi can head away from the maddening crowds and visit KBL Farm, Number 17, Mehrauli, where well-known aroma-therapist Blossom Kochhar has set up Ishwar, her brand new spa. You can choose from a wide variety of massages and treatments, which are based on the science of aromatherapy. We would recommend her signature, deep tissue massage, which Kochar believes removes negative energy and cleans the aura. Gift your Valentine detoxifying body wraps, scrubs and facials and enjoy the day with herbal teas and healthy organic snacks. For prices and other details, dial: + 91 9711862038/9711862039
6 The Altitude Store has brought out interesting hampers for Valentine's Day. For a store that specialises in organic products, we particularly like the store's "apricot hamper", which includes apricot face scrub, soap scrub with lemongrass extracts. The hamper also includes a special hand cream as well as apricot poil and herbal tea. Visit www.thealtitudestore.com for more details. Delivery within 48 hours.
6 Quickly book this treatment for your precious Valentine. Radisson's R The Spa has a special Chocolate Indulgence treatment that has been created for Valentine's Day. This includes chocolate facial, chocolate wrap, chocolate massage and -- wow -- chocolate manicure and pedicure too.
Duration: 240 minutes
Price: Rs 7,500 ++
Where: Radisson Hotel, Delhi
Dial: +91 11 26779065
Email: rthespa@radissondel.com

Jan 27, 2010

Italian Chettinad, anyone?


Tiramisu at FIO is fabulous

Jai and I had gone for a hearty meal at Fio, the newly opened restaurant at Delhi's Garden of Five Senses. Here's a review.

It’s a cold, winter evening in Delhi when we decide to head towards Fio, the latest dining address in the heart of Garden of Five Senses, described -- rather dryly – as a "park" on the Delhi Tourism website. The "park", however, is gradually making its mark on Delhi’s culinary map. There’s Magique, Marut Sikka’s celebrated restaurant, which serves "fine Asian and European inspired cuisine". Then there’s Spice, which offers Thai as well as Chinese cuisine. Fio joined the list exactly 100 days ago after Vineet Wadhwa, the restaurant’s managing director, worked overtime to "create a healthy balance of both Italian and Indian cuisine".

Wadhwa, who has been in the business of catering and setting up restaurants for the last 30 years, admits that the land, when he first saw it, was perhaps the most neglected part of the entire park. "Good food needs good ambience," says Wadhwa while we proceed to order our starters and cocktails. But why did he choose the Garden of Five Senses? "The indoor and outdoor synchronise beautifully at Garden of Five Senses and our herb garden fits in with the horticulture of the place," adds Wadhwa.

He’s right. The winter chill notwithstanding, it makes perfect sense to sit in the outside section of Fio. The lightening – swathed in blue – heightens the romantic setting, there’s a burst of natural green foliage, which adds to the restaurant’s delightful charm, the cobbled pathway, interspersed with part wooden- , part stone-flooring, makes the place even more gorgeous and pillar candles only aid in uplifting deplorable moods. A synergy between great food and great ambience, as Wadhwa explains it, is the reason why he’s serving diners in Garden of Five Senses.

The "angithi's" warmth, placed at a safe distance from where we’re sitting, is welcoming and the strawberry-vodka cocktail (Rs 250) -- its pink colour glowing softly in the candlelight -- becomes my perfect companion for the evening. We’ve opted for Murg Munnar Chettinad, a fiery starter, which goes perfectly with fresh mint chutney and onion slices. Next up are pizzas, and with this we make our foray in Fio’s Italian offerings. The smoky wood-fired pizzas; we pick Pepperoni and Smoked Chicken pizzas (both at Rs 425) are thin-crust and come with generous toppings. They’re light but filling, simple but bursting with flavor at the same time. And biting into the rocket leaves, which accompany the pizzas and are drizzled with olive oil, we know we’ve tasted a winner. Up next in our culinary tour of Fio is the Filetto Di Basa (Rs 525), pan seared basa, an Italian dish, which explodes with a concoction of ginger, honey, lemongrass and soya sauce. While the dish in itself is fabulous, I’m not convinced of the lemongrass shavings that come sprinkled on it.

What doesn’t work, even though it’s one of Wadhwa’s personal favourites, is the traditional Indian Kali dal, which is tempered with desi ghee (Rs 250). It’s a clumsy dish, one that seems to have been made hurridly, with too many flavours colliding unfairly to spoil what could well have been a winner. That said, we do enjoy the steaming hot lachcha parantha (Rs 50) with kosha murgi (Rs 450), Fio’s inclusion in the Indian section from Bengal.

And though we’re happily stuffed, it seems unfair to leave without Fio’s Tiramisu (Rs 220) that’s fresh, creamy and oh, so, rich in its taste.

Where: Fio, Garden of Five Senses, Said- ul- Ajaib, New Delhi.

Dial: 011-29536309

Service: Excellent

Average price of meal for two: Rs 1,600 (minus alcohol and other charges)