Snacks served on arrival
The serene waiting room with views of the city
New Yorkers are notoriously hard to please. At least, according to their reputation. In truth, all you need to do is create a 1,350sqm spa on the 35th and 36th floors of a sleek and sexy skyscraper, install wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows with jaw-dropping views of the city and treat these tricky customers to world-class treatments by world-class therapists. Exactly in fact, what Mandarin Oriental, New York did when creating its award-winning spa. So slick, so stylish and so seductively relaxing, The Spa does the one thing that the city’s mayor wishes he could do – turn hard-nosed Manhattanites into purring kittens with astonishing ease.
In a city populated with high-end spas and locals with scarily exacting standards, it’s a testament to Mandarin Oriental, New York that more than 60 per cent of its clients are New Yorkers. That’s not to say that the hotel guests don’t appreciate The Spa – just that it’s so popular with Manhattanites that they keep coming back. Which is possibly the highest accolade you could wish for.
Sexy, grown-up and yet unintimidating and comfortable, this is the Jimmy Choo of spas. Spread out over two floors of the hotel and incorporating a 555sqm fitness centre complete with 23m lap pool, relaxation areas and eight treatment rooms (including two suites), The Spa’s design, by Hirsch Bedner Associates, blends references to Mandarin Oriental’s Eastern roots with its go-getting New York location. The interiors ooze style and calm, with bamboo flooring, colour-therapy lighting and gentle chill-out music designed to lull you into a meditative state of other-worldliness.
As with all Mandarin Oriental spas, guests are encouraged to book blocks of time rather than specific treatments. The Spa recommends that you reserve at least a two-hour slot – what they call a Time Ritual – to get the most you can from your treatment. ‘There is nothing else like it in New York,’ says Denise Vitiello, The Spa’s vibrant director. ‘We encourage our guests to go on a journey, and we feel that booking two hours gives them enough time to properly relax.’ With a comprehensive list of treatments, including massages, facials, Ayurvedic rituals and in-room yoga lessons, guests can enjoy a top-to-toe treatment programme.
VIP Spa Suite with private steam room
Relaxation was the key when I visited The Spa. On arrival, I was handed a cup of Mount Berry tea infused with lemongrass and mango, and my shoes were swapped for a pair of sandals. Then I was quietly taken through the reception door and shown into The Spa. All guests are encouraged to arrive around 40 minutes early to take advantage of the heat and water facilities, and it’s certainly recommended. By the time you’ve lounged around in the vitality pool, your muscles pummelled by jets, and relaxed in the Amethyst Crystal steam room, you almost feel as though you’ve had your treatment – but the best is yet to come.
The view of Central Park from The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, New York
Waiting for my therapist in the calming Oriental Tea Lounge, nibbling on dried fruit and sipping orange-infused water, I realised that one of the great things about the place is that, when you step through the doors, you really leave New York behind. Manhattan is a fantastic, vibrant city, but, let’s face it, it isn’t quiet. And yet, when you stare out through the floor-to-ceiling windows over the silent city beneath you, you feel as calm as anything. With no sirens, no people and no noise, you realise that just sitting here could get addictive.
Equally enticing are the treatments. Having been led into a softly lit room I chatted to my therapist Nicole about the therapies on offer. Eventually I opted for one of The Spa’s newest discoveries, the Vitamin Infusion Facial, an 80-minute treatment that promises to leave your skin clean, hydrated and glowing. Using a patented formula of vitamins with polypeptides, the facial aims to nourish the deepest layers of your skin to improve redness, dryness or the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Known as MDT5 (standing for Molecular Dispersion Technology 5), the formula was created by the Somme Institute, a dermatological research company that took six years to engineer a potent mix of vitamins (A, B3, B5, C, D and E) bound to proteins.
Fresh fruit and green tea in the waiting room
Nicole began the five-step process by thoroughly cleansing my face in order to prepare my skin for the three core treatments. She then applied the ‘transport’ – a treatment containing a blend of alpha-hydroxy (AHA) and beta-hydroxy (BHA) acids, as well as vitamin B5, chamomile and green tea extracts designed to exfoliate dead cells on the skin’s surface and unclog blocked pores. Via the treatment, essential vitamins are delivered deep into the skin to promote resilience, hydration and cell renewal. A collagen mask is then applied followed by the ‘A-Bomb’, a lightweight cream containing high concentrations of advanced forms of vitamins A and E, as well as other vitamins in the MDT5 complex. The A-Bomb is said to encourage cell renewal, repair sun damage and target problem areas on your skin. The treatment is finished with an SPF30 moisturiser.
You realise that just sitting here could get addictive
While I have always loved facials, I’ve previously been disappointed that a few days after a treatment my skin has reverted back to its pre-facial state. Amazingly, a week or so after I experienced the Vitamin Infusion Facial, having taken a long-haul flight and two short-haul ones, my skin is still glowing, soft and quite unlike I’ve seen it before. This is seriously a facial to be reckoned with.
One of the newest treatments at The Spa, the Vitamin Infusion Facial is just one of its many attractions. Another new development is the Thai Yoga Suite, a luxurious treatment room specifically designed for Thai Yoga Massages. Combining elements of traditional Thai massage with gentle yoga movements, your therapist will take you through assisted yoga positions and stretching combined with rhythmic acupressure along the body’s energy lines to encourage a deepening of breath and a free-flow of energy, and to release tensions and toxins from the body. ‘People say that the Thai Yoga Massage is a spiritual experience,’ explains Denise Vitiello, who believes the treatment to be one of the best in the city.
A treatment room in the Thai Yoga Suite
The Thai Yoga Suite is one of two specialist suites – the other is the sumptuous VIP Spa Suite. Another first for Manhattan, the 60sqm suite has been designed to replicate an oriental-style home, with floor-to-ceiling windows (which are de rigueur in The Spa), a fireplace, a deep bath, an elevated bed and two massage beds. Guests can book the VIP Spa Suite for a minimum of three hours, a slot that allows enough time for a two-hour Time Ritual treatment, for getting hot and unbothered in the private steam room, to soak in the bath and to enjoy the contents of a delicious bento box, delivered at the end of the session.
Such care and attention to detail is an integral part of The Spa’s philosophy. ‘Personally, I want people to feel cared for and looked after,’ says Denise. ‘We also believe that New York customers are different to those in Asia or Europe,’ she says. ‘They have a different personality, and we pride ourselves on the level of skills we can offer them.’ I think perhaps that Denise is kindly suggesting that Manhattanites have high standards. New York has a competitive spa environment and in order to match and, indeed, exceed those standards, Mandarin Oriental, New York has had to employ the most highly trained staff.
Green tea served in the VIP Spa Suite
The Spa’s 36 therapists are mainly from New York but, as Denise points out, ‘New York is made up of people from everywhere, so there’s a real mix of backgrounds and nationalities.’ The therapists undergo several training sessions a year and are constantly being updated on the latest treatments and skills needed to be the best of the best in their field.
After two hours in The Spa, I’ve left all my worries behind
This constant desire to offer guests superlative service is the key to The Spa’s enduring success. The hotel’s location close to Central Park, the range and quality of treatments on offer and its beautiful interior design have ensured that over the last couple of years, The Spa has won awards and accolades including being voted Top Urban Spa in Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
The jacuzzi and steam room, with views of the city
Everyone who knows New York has his or her ultimate ‘New York experience’, and finally, after visiting the city for years, I have found mine. Lying back, looking out over the silent city, the views stretching over the Hudson River and beyond, I’m struck by the beauty of Manhattan. Perhaps it’s my being totally relaxed (lulled into tranquillity by my treatments) or perhaps it’s the setting (really, you can’t get better than this) – who knows? What’s certain is that having arrived in town somewhat frazzled, after spending two hours in The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, New York, I’ve left my worries behind, and am now in a wonderful New York state of mind.