OK, so it's Brighton not Manchester. But hey, people from Manchester go on holidays don't they? And in this era of 'staycations,' Brighton has to be a potential destination?
Well if it is, the Treatment Rooms, on a picturesque little street right next to the splendidly hideous Brighton Pavilion, should definitely be on this list. This is a classy joint, full of warmly attentive staff and fabulous-smelling things in bottles, and worth adding onto any city break.
Reception is downstairs in the shop where treatments such as manicures also take place. But for massages and the like, you're ushered upstairs to a wood-and-wicker furnished waiting room with aspirational books about Zen and spa holidays strewn on the low tables. While the staff pour you a glass of water or cup of soothing herbal tea, you're shown into the (separate men's and women's) changing rooms, where there are lockers for your clothes and bags and cosy brown waffle robes and slippers (hurrah! A place with the sense not to insist on showing off how good their laundry system is by having everything white! It always terrifies me that I'm going to spill something, and makes me think they must be using a lot of environmentally-unfriendly washing powder and scalding hot water).
You are collected from the waiting room by your therapist and taken down a subtly-lit corridor to one of the candlelit treatment room. These are very nicely turned out; no stacks of towels on the massage couches but soft sheets, again in warm brown, and glittery Indian-looking throws.
I was there – courtesy of my lovely friend Zoe – for a 70 minute Real Aromatherapy body, face and scalp massage. Before I got as far as the couch I was invited to sit down and have my feet washed in scented water, while Jessica discussed whether I wanted a relaxing or an invigorating experience from my massage. Having narrowed it down to relaxing, I was then presented with a choice of three types of blended oils, ranging from the usual lavender-based relaxation preparation to an ylang and sandalwood, which I chose for the sake of interest as well as because it smelt lovely. We then had a discussion about skin types for the facial massage, and we came up with a rose and sandalwood blend for that. She also checked whether or not I wanted her to do the scalp massage without oils in case I needed to look presentable after I'd left! And she asked sensible, perceptive questions about what she should and shouldn't do to work around my hip injury.
The massage itself was a firm but gentle experience, using a lot of pressure point techniques. She started with my back and shoulders, using her strongest pressure here, and then went over my lower back, arms, hands and then legs and feet. I was invited to turn over for the gorgeous-smelling face and scalp massage, which included the intriguing technique of little pulling bunches of my hair. Odd, but effective. She then worked her way over my stomach and down to the front of my legs and finally feet again. By the end of the 70 minutes several months' worth of pain and tension from sitting writing books and articles hunched over various computers had been spirited away and I was feeling fantastic.
Continuing the top-class experience, although the Treatment Rooms isn't a spa per se, there is no pressure to rush back out into the real world. The relaxation room, on the same corridor as the treatment rooms, is a candle-and-fairylight-lit room with recliners, cushions and chairs where you can lie back for as long as you like, borrowing those aspirational books from the waiting room or bringing some trashy magazines yourself, or simply lying and enjoying the sensation of being supremely relaxed and smelling lovely.
Real Aromatherapy Body, Face & Scalp Massage, 70 minutes for £64
The Treatment Rooms, 21 New Road, Brighton BN1 1UF, www.thetreatmentrooms.co.uk, 01273 818444
For anyone planning a break in Brighton, other parts of your holiday could very well include (depending on budget):
- The White House 'boutique hotel' in Kemptown, a very charming place to stay with gorgeous rooms, fab breakfasts and a supremely helpful and friendly owner;
- Terre a Terre: one of the UK's best vegetarian restaurants, for top-notch yet healthy food and great service - with a special mention to Milo for his great etiquette at dealing with customers on crutches;
- Kemptown Bookshop: for a great range of good books and a cute little cafe that does great sandwiches (just make sure Megan the soppy dog doesn't wheedle them out of you);
- the Lion & Lobster pub in Hove – friendly staff, decent beers, good food.