Sea Containers, the slick, South Bank-based hotel, is where Brutalism and glamour meet. And the subterranean spa enclosed is so much more than an Instagrammable hotspot.
CF takes a look at agua London, the design-led spa with restorative treatments to boot.
As you approach from across Blackfriars Bridge, it’s impossible to miss the imposing Brutalist building that sits alongside charming Bankside pubs. Arriving into the slick hotel lobby, complete with a centrally positioned giant blue knot sculpture, you feel like you are in a Modernist art gallery. Indeed, conceived under the direction of Tom Dixon, the entire hotel’s aesthetic is utterly creative – inspired by the Golden Age of transatlantic liners and all things maritime. The designated lift, specifically for guests of the subterranean spa makes it feel excitingly covert as you descend down into the belly of the hotel.
Greeted by the spa hosts, jovially dressed in Breton-striped shirts and white dungarees, the distinct nautical theme of the hotel continues. If you arrived feeling a little frayed around the edges, you will instantly be soothed by the bright, white decor: a long corridor is lined my diaphanous gauze curtains, off of which sit various treatments rooms.
Small and intimate, this is the place you want to retreat to for some solo escapism. It has an exclusive six treatment rooms, a hammam, and a glamour room for nail treatments. Male and female changing rooms house separate steam rooms, for a final touch of indulgence.
The jewel in the crown: the Relaxation Suite. Pre- or post-treamet, recline on plush white loungers, ensconced in your fluffy spa robe as you sip a herbal tea. A giant bronze-drop sculpture, echoing the copper ‘hull’ of the lobby, is the focal point and is quite the conversation piece for hushed conversations with fellow guests.
The Beauty Kit
Whilst you can take away products by Soveral and Natura Bisse, and there are whizzy facials offered under the expertise of aesthetician Kate Kerr, the real draw is HEDGEROW: a collection of in-house, hand-blended oils, butters, and salves, which are sensorily massaged into skin during the spa’s most indulgent treatments.
Championing sustainability and inspired by aromatherapy, these bespoke products capture the British hedgerows and the indigenous flora that can be found in urban communities and city environments such as London’s Southbank. These blends consist of six core ingredients, each selected for their healing and restorative properties: lemon balm, rosemary, St John’s Wort, peppermint, comfrey, and marigold. This October, agua introduces four additional products to the roster, with a focus on easing painful joints, muscles, and overworked minds in the lead-up to the frenetic Christmas period.
Naturally, the massages are popular with stressed city-dwellers; however, I opted for a Hot Oil Pedicure, from the glitzy new menu to restore rough soles and tired nails after a summer running around in sandals.
Comprising restorative products from the HEDGEROW collection: including rosemary, St John’s Wort, marigold, and lemon balm, coupled with traditional Japanese techniques, this is a pedicure like no other. Feet are soaked and scrubbed before nails are diligently clipped, trimmed, and buffed. Next feet are cosseted in a hot towel to open pores before hot oil is massaged over feet. A mineral paste is then applied to treat nails and buffed to a glossy shine, which can last up to three weeks – no nail polish necessary.
Post-treatment you’ll want to stick around for the riverside views and expertly mixed cocktails. Sea Containers Restaurant – a buzzy space with a relaxed all-day menu – is a good place to start. The ceviche tacos or steamed mussels are great for a light bite, whilst the creamy Pappadelle makes for heartier fare. Refuelled, head up to rooftop bar, 12th Knot, for a Sunset Spritz and yet more mesmeric views of the London skyline.
CF Top Tip
Firmly believing the results of your treatment should extend long after you leave the spa, each guest can take away a super handy book which contains a calendar of local wild plants which can be foraged to recreate the HEDGEROW balms and salves at home. There are savvy tips on how to sustainably forage, and how to dry herbs to harness their health-boosting properties. The QR code inside is also the gateway to medicinal- and wellbeing-focused recipes, from a lulling pillow mist to natural tinctures to prevent seasonal colds.