These may seem an odd two spas to pitch against one another – Sophie Gass is a boutique in Holland Park offering manicures and pedicures, the new Cowshed in Primrose Hill is a comprehensive spa offering everything from waxing to facials and lash tints; therein lies my reason for the spa-off – one has decided to specialise, the other to cast their net wide. Last month I went to both for treatments. My findings were rather surprising…
Sophie Gass sits on a quiet, fairly leafy road off Holland Park Avenue, nestled among plush townhouses and designer shops. The boutique opened in October 2012 and offers a curated mix of clothing, jewellery and other bits and bobs as well as nail treatments. The shop itself is white, breezy and stylish – perfectly in keeping with the Holland Park location.
I went along with a friend and we both opted for luxury manicures. The manicure was impressive – not only was there no sense of being hustled through our treatment factory-style, but it also covered all bases: nails were filed, hands exfoliated and massaged, cuticles trimmed and polish applied with precision. The result: four perfectly lacquered hands and two happy ladies. For £28 a pop.
On the other end of the spectrum is Cowshed – Cowshed do EVERYTHING. It’s a big player: multiple spas, its own range – you name it, Cowshed does it. A trip to the Shoreditch Soho House Cowshed spa for a massage a month prior to my visit set the bar high: it was dreamy and I emerged with leaden form and rubbery legs.
Not so brilliant was the wax. Let me preface my scathing review of this wax by saying that the spa itself: beautiful. A wooden, glossy, plant-filled space in which I’d be more than happy to recline for a relaxing treat. But the wax? It wasn’t a patch on the Ministry of Waxing or Strip efforts, I’m afraid.
It started well: Lycon hot wax (the best in my opinion), and a nice room downstairs. I lay back on the bed (comfy), and shut my eyes in anticipation of the riot of pain that was shortly to commence. In the aforementioned establishments, it is all over quickly. Wax applied, wax ripped off. The hands of the waxer dance across the waxee with haste, leaving smooth skin in their wake. Here, the wax went on and was patted for what seemed an enormously long time then pulled off a little more slowly than I’d like (OW), applied to the next part and so on and so forth. It took ages. Forty-five minutes for an underarm and basic bikini wax.
I have one further grievance to air: my wax requests are specific. I like some bits taken off and others left on. You understand, I’m sure – the nether regions are a personal place. For the luxury of directing the therapist, I was willing to pay a rather extortionate £48. My gripe is this: on laying down, I mentioned I had only forty-five minutes. At Strip, the exact same wax takes a maximum of twenty-five minutes. As my waxer at Cowshed was so slow, I had to leave before she could finish to my satisfaction and went on my way feeling very grumpy indeed.
You can probably guess who won the spa-off: Sophie Gass. Sorry, Cowshed. There is a lesson to be learned here, though: you only need excel in one area and, while I will return for a massage or facial I will never again head your way for a wax. I’ll leave that to the specialists.