If the barrage of Valentine-related offerings feels overwhelming, some time out – say in the calm and tranquil surroundings of the St Pancras Spa – might appeal. On Thursday February 7, the Renaissance Hotel’s subterranean space will be hosting what it calls “an evening of indulgence”. But you can forget about massages and facials (unless, of course, you book in for a pampering session before the 6pm event), and consider instead the more unlikely combination of chocolate and perfume.
This heady mix of two of Valentine’s traditional sensual delights takes the form of an unusual exploration of “the way taste and smell interact and indulge our senses”. Leading this experiential journey are Virginie Daniau, an independent fragrance specialist, and Helen Heslop, manager of Alexeeva & Jones, a “salon du chocolat” in Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill. The stylish boutique stocks treats from hallowed names such as Valrhona and Rococo, alongside the more niche artisanal wares of Kent-based Damian Allsop, inventor of “water ganache” and former head pastry chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Damian, and Paul Wayne Gregory, supplier of the chocolates for the Queen’s 80th birthday.
On the scent side, the charming and knowledgeable Daniau is the UK’s first “fragrance tailor”. After many years in the perfume industry, developing successful scents for top brands, she has established Parfum Parfait, a service to find the notes best suited to your style and personality. She will either match you to a commercial perfume (a year ago she suggested for me what I thought was the unlikely choice of Estée Lauder’s Sensuous; it’s been in my scent repertoire ever since) or create an entirely bespoke blend.
The session will kick off with a brief talk from both experts on how we actually taste and smell, but it’s the tasting and testing that is the main focus. The couple have paired specific chocolates and fine fragrances to evoke different responses – some scents that enhance a certain flavour; others that will clash – exploring how the two senses respond to one another.
There will also be drinks and canapés on offer, discounts on Daniau’s consultations and Alexeeva & Jones’ chocolates, plus a swag bag of spa goodies from Cinq Mondes to take away. And if the evening leaves you approaching the V day with renewed vigour, there’s still time to put in a knowing request – or two.