Once synonymous with seedy sex, massage parlours are moving into a new realm. The parlour of the Noughties is a spiritual haven of relaxation and serenity, as I’ve discovered at The Innes Lounge.
In the heart of the West End’s urban sprawl is a cluster of chic shops, quaint pubs and expensive restaurants all huddled together in the narrow streets and alleyways of Shepherd Market.
This village-styled Mayfair square was, in Victorian times, notorious for its bordellos. Nowadays the quiet cobble-stoned enclave is frequented for its fine eateries, exclusive residences and charming boutique shop fronts.
One of these, on Shepherd Street, is a Japanese-inspired relaxation spot and therapy centre which is helping to shift perceptions of the area by breaking away from the traditional massage parlour mould.
Pass through its doors and you will be immediately captivated by the spiced aroma and calm atmosphere of this tranquil space, forgetting about the frenetic metropolitan jungle outside.
The relaxing ‘revivals’ room of The Innes Lounge is a comfortable wi-fi enabled reception area and café where you can indulge in a healthy selection of hot and cold drinks, smoothies and Japanese snacks. Moving images of nature are projected on a wall, a wholesome arrangement of teas and organic chocolates are displayed on chunky wood tables and neat lines of aromatherapy oils and scented candles are exhibited in the window.
Visitors can use the space to readjust in one of the deep leather armchairs after their treatment, or simply pop in without having made an appointment.
I am introduced to a friendly and softly spoken Japanese therapist who takes my jacket and replaces my shoes with a pair of, what look like, loofah slippers. She provides me with a cup of refreshing green tea and politely asks me to complete the guest form, which stipulates my contact details and the type of treatment I will be requiring today.
If you don’t know your reflexology from your reiki the decision-making process can be tricky: I could treat myself to a Thai foot massage to eliminate toxins; an Indian head massage to ease insomnia; a shiatsu massage to improve posture, or a reiki healing massage to stimulate the body’s own natural healing capacity.
I opt for a Swedish massage which is designed to increase oxygen flow in the blood and release toxins from the muscles using a combination of relaxing massage strokes. This combined with a personalised blend of aromatherapy oils should help to reduce stress and give me an overall sense of wellbeing.
The masseuse reappears with a black case full of miniature bottles of about 50 different types of oils derived from the flowers, leaves, stalks and roots of certain plants and trees. She carefully selects the chosen few which she thinks will suit my requirements (to de-stress and detoxify): Ylang Ylang, Frankincense, and Geranium.
Downstairs in the softly-lit treatment room I undress in private while the therapist blends together a soothing concoction from our combo of oils. What follows is an hour of bliss as she massages me from head to toe and I drift off into another state of consciousness.
The session certainly lived up to my expectations. I smell delicious and feel completely content and at ease. With the advice to replenish with plenty of liquids I head out into the bustling city outside, equipped with a bottle of water (in a biodegradable ‘plastic’ bottle) to help me on my way.