London

Foot Virtuoso Bastien Gonzalez has chosen The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, London, as the exclusive British home to his globally renowned ‘Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio’. And he’s visiting us in person for three days this month.

Until I had lunch with Bastien Gonzalez in Bar Boulud, I thought a pedicure was about grooming: toes topped with colour to look pretty. By the time we reached coffee, I vowed to remove my nail polish as regularly as I do my make-up. Well, if not at the end of each day, at least after a maximum of three.

This suave, jet-setting chiropodist is persuasive: the health of our feet matters most and once they’ve been treated by him - or one of his team - the yearn for varnish almost vanishes. Indeed, most of his regular clients opt for natural shine, for show as much as for self-care.

“I do cure treatments”, says Bastien. “This isn’t about painting nails.” Still, he’s a master at blending a medical dimension with a desire for luxury and beauty. The 60-minute Bastien Pedicure, at his bijoux Pedi: Mani: Cure Studio at The Spa, treats skin, nails, muscles, joints and - particularly welcome - shins, tense from years of wearing high heels. The therapy finishes with diamond drilling, chamois leather buffing and the Révérence de Bastien Pearl Baume, all of which claim to keep toes looking luminescent for four whole weeks: a promise duly kept in my experience. Of course, paint is an option too, Le Rouge Rubis red being the signature colour.

We could be excused for thinking that the health and anatomy of our feet is far less glamorous than the shoes we slide them into. That is, until Bastien launches forth with his infectious passion. He peppers conversation on the potentially dry topics of nail beds, cuticles and callouses with metaphors that make me impatient to have his hands on my feet!

The nail is like a ‘millefeuille’ because it comprises so many layers; the foot is like a ‘puppet’, the calf muscles, its ‘strings.’ There’s also the serious issue of contraction in the feet, pressurised at the toes, which is the tell-tale sign of too many years stuffed into Manolos or Louboutins. “The key is to break down this compression and encourage the movement of blood and elasticity of the skin. I call this fluffing up the fatty cushions.”

Bastien continues, “Shoes cause abrasion to the skin which abuses its elasticity. Skin is like a glove for the body. We pinch and lift and roll it to restore its elasticity and encourage the blood and oxygen to flow.”

Today the art and science of Bastien Gonzalez is offered exclusively in the world’s smartest hotels, strictly one per city, except in Dubai. Looking back, this French ‘Foot Virtuoso’, (as he is known) has his grandma to thank for the inspiration that now has him flown, by private plane, to ‘fluff the fatty cushions’ of the world’s most pampered hands and feet. He recalls being mesmerised by the 92-year old’s nails. “They were supple but hard like a sprung floor. She would buff and buff them with a chamois because she said it would be vulgar to wear red polish at her age.”

These memories lie behind the ‘buffing’, which is the signature part in all Bastien treatments: a four-step technique with a tool that he’s designed. “It’s like a dentist’s drill using diamond dust, then different finer, buffing blocks and a magic mother of pearl cream that we apply like a mask. We then buff with chamois leather to make nails smooth and shiny, like diamonds.”

Just as diamonds are in a different class to crystals, there are ‘beauty salon’ and ‘Bastien’ pedicures. They are not created equal. I believe that where health leads, beauty follows and thanks to Bastien I’m extending this mantra from my face to my feet and taken the plunge to go polish-free.

Nails may be dead but they are still porous, as Bastien explains: “The nail bed needs to breathe the usual oxygen - carbon dioxide exchange. Polish traps this process. Just as you take off make-up at night, clean the skin, massage it and re-apply the next day, so it’s the same with nails: remove polish, massage the nails with oil and buff them to stimulate the circulation on the nail bed to create a healthy nail.”

And what should we do in between treatments? Bastien has only one homecare product, so that people will actually use it, he says. And one tip. “This is what I suggest women tell their men: ‘If you want me to wear high heels to be sexy for you, you must massage my feet every night for 20 seconds per foot.’ It’s not a lot to ask!”

The Bastien Pedicure is GBP 140; Bastien Manicure, GBP 120. The ultra-luxurious Bastien Duo (80 minutes, GBP 210) is a four-hand manicure and pedicure with synchronised massage from two therapists.

Spa Editor

Sophie Benge

Sophie Benge is an author of spa books on Asia and Europe including Tropical Spa – Asian Secrets of Health, Beauty and Relaxation and Healing Sources – Spas and Wellbeing from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Once an editor for Elle Decoration in Hong Kong, she’s been a long-time writer about spa, beauty and wellbeing for glossy magazines such as Tatler and consults and copy writes for some of the world’s leading names in wellness. She also curates retreats in areas that particularly interest her such as energetic transformation for life change and ageing gracefully in our middle years.