Forget the basic grooming principles you may have learned, for Bastien Gonzalez, aka the ‘foot virtuoso’ as lauded by his customers at Emirates Palace Spa, would despair.
Commonly practised but crude cuticle pushing, pumicing and polishing are sacrilege to the French chiropodist, says spa director Hannah Dowd. Instead, therapists are personally taught by Bastien to ‘cure’ the hands and feet. Dowd says the process is holistically about curing the entire health of your hands and feet, including the ligaments and skin. ‘That is why it’s called manicure and pedicure,’ she says. ‘Buffing is actually about improving your circulation, for example. Bastien talks about how his grandmother would use a piece of leather cloth and buff her nails to improve the circulation.’
Emirates Palace Spa (formerly known as Anantara), has undergone a makeover. It’s now a peaceful Moroccan dreamscape. A pool of floating red petals flanks the reception desk, lustrous gold drapes and lanterns drift, and the constant meditative burble of water can be heard.
Inside the Pedi: Mani: Cure treatment room, our therapist uses a soft glass blade for nail shaping and a fine drill tipped with diamond dust to roll away our dry skin before buffing tiny dots of pearl butter onto the surface with a leather chamois.
Finally, we are treated to an oil-based nail mask potion. Formaldehyde-free polishes are available but we opt out as our nails are supremely shiny, glowing a pearly pink colour.
The Spa is the only one in Abu Dhabi to offer both Bastien and Japanese skincare brand Forlle’d. Created by Koichi Tanaka, the 2002 Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, Forlle’d products contain low-molecular hyaluronic acid that can penetrate the deepest layers of the skin to hydrate it. It’s the elixir of plastic surgeons looking to plump their creations. Bookings for facials have dramatically increased since Forlle’d was introduced, says Hannah. ‘The facial specialist was the least booked person and is now the busiest. The difference is the Forlle’d treatment because it has amazing results.
‘The Russian women love it and they are your biggest critics because Russian women can buy or kill a product.’ Another popular newcomer is Amra Remedies, a product line that uses real pearl, gold, garnet, diamond, platinum and caviar for indulgent-sounding treatments including the Mystic Moroccan Hamman.
Glamorous women are not the spa’s only target audience. For the first time it has also become relevant for men. Gentlemen’s Tonic, an old-fashioned barbershop and spa once only found at Atlantis The Palm, offers a high-end traditional wet shave, facials, haircuts and colour, threading and beard trimming, a variety of massages, reiki, hand and foot treatments, as well as image and nutrition consulting. The spa even offers GT at Home, a service for its busiest regulars. We were pleasantly surprised that the magisterial setting felt so inclusive and welcoming. Hannah admits some clients initially doubt whether they are ‘allowed’ to make a reservation at the discreet spa. ‘A lot of people are intimidated by the palace itself, but we are separate to it. We don’t want to give the impression that you are not welcome or that you can’t come here. Sometimes clients walk in from the beach club dripping water on the floor and that is totally fine for us,’ she says. ‘We want people to feel comfortable.’
Dhs225 (Bastien’s manicure) Dhs405 (Bastien’s pedicure). Emirates Palace Spa, West Wing of the Emirates Palace, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, firstname.lastname@example.org (02 690 7978).