Monday, December 14, 2009

Bliss London pedicure & manicure

I am a prime example of the Englishwoman who moves to New York and, within a year, has achieved a standard of grooming that she failed to reach during ten years of London living.

Not only do I now blow dry my hair every time I wash it (for the entire six years I worked at Vogue House in London, I never possessed a hairdryer), but I started getting weekly manicures.

At ten dollars a pop for fingers and twenty for toes, it was an affordable indulgence and I grew used to having high gloss, perfect squ-oval fingernails, and perfectly pedicured toes.

I've been back in England for nearly three weeks now, and it's more than a month since anyone painted my toes or fingers. My mother lives in the middle of nowhere, and it's a forty minute round trip to the nearest town. It's not quite the same as popping downstairs to the local salon in the East Village.

My cuticles were ragged, my varnish chipped, my feet a state. (Of course, I am perfectly capable of wielding a bottle of nail polish, but actually getting that polish on my nails and not on my fingers, vanity or the carpet is quite another thing. As for those wicked looking manicure tools, the less said the better.)

So last Friday, in London briefly for meetings, I gleefully accepted an offer from Bliss London for a freebie mani/pedi. I know Bliss: I've been to Bliss New York (as a private, paying customer) before and wasn't that impressed: my toes chipped within days, and I couldn't really see the point of paying three times my local salon's charges for the Bliss experience. Having endured one lousy treatment made me interested to see if Bliss stepped up second time around.

(Of course, one cld argue that a fashion & beauty journalist is bound to get shiny, sparkly treatment, but I can assure you that that is not the case. I've had some awful experiences as a hack and British Beauty Blogger writes here about a manicure that went very wrong - whilst she was accompanied by a publicist.)

The London branch of Bliss is on Sloane Avenue, as upmarket an area as you'll find in London. It needs to be: their treatment prices firmly place them in the extremely grown-up/special occasion bracket. However, I find it quite refreshing to know exactly what the cost is in advance, and that the treatment includes all the bells & whistles. By the time you've included the add-ons that are upsold to you during a pedicure in NYC, the wax, scrub & massage can often double or triple the pedicure cost, turning your bargain $20 basic pedi into something approaching a standard Bliss one.

Bliss is known for its sense of humour, appalling puns and added extras: my Snow Wonder experience was called Mistle-Toes & Santa Paws. This set of treatments comes with food & drink, always, always a bonus in my eyes. Mince pies & hot apple juice with cinnamon, with a brownie chaser. Most acceptable.


The pedicure involved the usual scraping and scrubbing, after a soak in a hot milk bath, scented with sweet orange oil & cinnamon for that ding dong merrily on high Christmas feel. There was also an exfoliating scrub & a paraffin wax treatment, a slightly bizarre, but very effective route to baby soft skin.


My technician, Teni, gave me an extremely thorough leg & foot massage that was without a doubt the best that I have received at any salon. Most places give a cursory massage; anything over a few minutes is charged extra, so one starts to see why Bliss charge more in the first place.

We used Essie's Pouf Daddy on my toes:


Believe me, a vast improvement.

Bliss pedicure

The manicure was equally thorough, and I rather like Bliss's method of enveloping hands in orange scented moisturising cream in plastic bags for a few minutes to soften skin & cuticles as opposed to the more usual soaking in water. Your hands don't go puffy, & the moisturising effect is an added bonus.

My hands are revolting as I chew my fingers to bits when stressed & I am very stressed right now) and Teni made these silk ears out of sows' purses. ( I chose Essie Eternal Optimist.)


Bliss also includes a free nail polish with each treatment, which is handy for touch ups and for those who will be using Bliss a once in a blue moon treat. They offer a festive holiday finish on nails in sheer, red, silver or gold glitter with diamond detailing, but that's really not my thing. (Being over the age of ten.)

So those were the good points. The bad? I don't like the universal Bliss policy of not having dryers. I had the time to wait around on Friday, but during winter tights season, I'd prefer to have the option of sticking my paws under a blast of hot air. I also wish they had Wi-Fi, so I could have worked during my pedicure. They do have TV with headphones, but as they show Sex & the City on rotation, I took a pass on that.

And what's with the extremely uncomfortable low backed, bucket chairs? Even the teeny-tiny $10 Korean salons in LA have reclining padded thrones with vibrating back massagers so that you can lie back in exquisite, pampered comfort. Here my bottom was perched uncomfortably on the edge of my chair with my feet plonked awkwardly in the technician's lap, as the back of the seat dug into me. Mind you, Bliss NY SoHo is even more uncomfortable, with sort of raised padded benches, (as at airport shoe shiners) so I suppose I should be grateful I wasn't perched up on one of those.

On balance, possibly the best pedicure & manicure I've ever received from an utterly charming technician. It's worth every penny if you can bring yourself to spend £75 on a pedicure & £36 on a manicure.

But I do wish they had proper treatment chairs.

Bliss London, 60 Sloane Ave, London SW3 3DD Tel: 020 7590 6146