Spa Junkie at… The Imperial Spa, New Delhi

Our reporter experiences the regenerating pleasures of sweet pea, amaranth oil and… brine shrimp?

Monday, 12.30pm

After a trip hiking in the Himalayas, it’s time for some R&R in New Delhi. Conveniently located just off Janpath and next to the Viceregal Lodge, The Imperial is the perfect choice: it is one of the finest monuments of Edwin Lutyens’ grand vision, with its intriguing blend of Victorian, colonial and art deco style – and its spa is said to be one of the largest in India. The Imperial is to Delhi what Claridge’s is to London or the George V to Paris – a place imbued with history and with a reputation for impeccable service.

Despite the terrible roadworks (there is a new metro being built) and activity by protestors on the streets, I feel calm as soon as I drive through the white walls and rows of king palms and am met by the valet, dressed splendidly in full colonial regalia. Situated in eight acres of landscaped grounds, the hotel has 190 rooms and 45 suites, seven restaurants (including the acclaimed Spice Route), two bars, a luxury shopping precinct, fitness centre and swimming pool, beauty salon, business centre and royal ballroom.

Once I have settled in my room, I nip down to the spa. I’m impressed. It’s huge (some 16,000 square feet), with Mughul and Indian motifs. Adjacent is the Health & Racquet Club, which is a little dark and uninspiring compared to the rest of the beautifully tiled spa. It has a squash court and a gym with Cybex equipment, Pilates reformer, Kinesis machine, treadmill, stepper, cross-trainer and bench press. There’s also a small yoga studio offering complimentary group and one-on-one classes.

After lying by the outdoor pool, I have a quick jog on the treadmill and head for the women’s area with its wet room, heated zones and Jacuzzi. I mosey around here for a while, have a healthy lunch at the buffet, and return to the spa for some treatments.

I am led through to a chicly tiled treatment room for the 90-minute signature Imperial Depth massage. From a range of cold-pressed massage oils, including jojoba, carrot seed, Moroccan argan, sweet almond and apricot kernel, I opt for the oil of Kabir, a deliciously fragrant blend of frankincense and neroli. The massage itself is a little jerky at first, and the pressure switches erratically from soft to hard, but my therapist eventually gets in his groove and manages to unlock some deep tissue knots.

I stay in the same room for my next treatment, a 90-minute Diamond DNA Repair facial using Natura Bissé products. My skin is cleansed with a rich micro-emulsion cream to eliminate impurities. It feels silky and smells faintly of lavender, which instantly relaxes me. She gently massages it into my skin and removes it with sponges soaked in warm water.

She then applies a refreshing Diamond White Clarity Toning Lotion. This lavender infusion is said to help to restore the skin’s pH levels, improve microcirculation and reduce water loss to maintain deep hydration.

Next is the transepidermal Diamond Ice-Lift DNA Cryo-Mask, which contains high concentrations of marine DNA to nourish and hydrate. It’s invigorating from the word go, and she leaves it on for 20 minutes. When completely dry, she gently lifts the mask upwards and off, beginning at the edges of the décolleté area. It’s a strange sensation – both liberating and ticklish.

To finish is the Diamond Extreme Anti-Aging Bio Regenerative Extreme Cream, enriched with artemia salina (a kind of brine shrimp, which stimulates cell metabolism) and sweet pea and edelweiss extract (filled with antioxidants to build the skin’s defence system). The blend of amaranth oil, wild mango and shea butters smells divine.

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She follows it with a cooling, relaxing eye-contour treatment with botanical gotu kola, calendula and horse chestnut extracts, said to help eliminate dark circles and puffiness, with edelweiss extract to sooth and decongest.

To finish off, she massages a thin, silky and lightweight layer of diamond drops serum infused with grape-seed extract and more lavender over my entire face, creating what she describes as a membrane to protect the skin.  

I am pleased with the results: gleaming skin and visibly reduced pores. I leave feeling relaxed – and smelling faintly of lavender.

Tuesday, 8am

I return to the Health & Racquet Club for a one-to-one Hatha yoga session before my departure. Unlike Vinyasa yoga, which places a lot of importance on the journey between the postures, Hatha is a clash of opposites – Ha (the Sanskrit word for sun) against Tha (moon) – and is a lot slower, focusing on individual poses.

I am encouraged to hold each pose for longer, going deeper into each move, which pushes me harder than I am used to. What makes it challenging is that there’s a different flow to the one I expect, so I can't rely on muscle memory to guide me through a sequence. We hold each pose for so long each time that my limbs start shaking.

The bottom line:

The Imperial Spa is a feast for the eyes and senses: it’s visually stunning, and has attentive staff and effective treatments.  

Although the massage was a little disappointing, the Natura Bissé facial surpassed my expectations. I had always thought diamond products were a little gimmicky, but I now appreciate their benefits. I arrived with wrinkly, burnt patches on my face (the result of ineffective sunblock while hiking), and emerged from the treatment with visibly glowing, hydrated skin, and the dryness cleared up. As for the one-on-one Hatha class, I really appreciated the attention given to improving my skills.

As a city hotel spa goes, The Imperial’s size, stunning outdoor pool in beautiful surroundings and breadth of facilities make it one that I’d highly recommend.  

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