January 28, 2020
The Bath House – An authentic Russian Banya
I had never been to a Russian Banya and didn’t even know exactly what it entailed, now I know!
My husband and I enjoyed an amazing four hours at The Bath House situated in a prime location, 1 Grosvenor Gardens, London.
Where to start? Authenticity to the original ancient Russian Banya traditions is key, and the most important points to ensure this is to create an atmosphere where you are able to take your time and unwind while experiencing an immersive cultural experience, traditional organic treatments while combining modern therapies relevant to the 21st century.
The Banya involves a traditional sauna room and a large sauna, mixed-sex at the weekend with designated single-sex days during the week. As you arrive at The Bath House you are given a felt hat, a towel and a sheet, the sheet is to wrap around you during and in between treatments and the towel to dry at the end. Now the felt hat is a new concept to me and you are encouraged to wear it throughout your heat treatments, it’s function is to protect your hair and to ensure you do not lose heat through your head but you sweat and detoxify through your body skin. No nudity is allowed here, swimwear is the most common clothing and you will find vanity vanishes as soon as you enter the sauna and then immerse yourself in the icy cold plunge pool or brave the tipping buckets, designed to cool the body down.
We spent the first 45 minutes in and out of the sauna with sporadic visits to the restaurant where we rehydrated with water and a beer. Following the sauna and once we had cooled down we were invited to try the traditional parenie, which is a thermal venik massage using oak or birch leaves. The treatment takes place in a sauna where the Banshik, (the guys carrying out the sessions also wearing the felt hats for protection) begin the parenie ritual. We were laid face-down on a bed of damp eucalyptus twigs with more covering our heads. It was steamy hot and as we were gently brushed and whipped with the branches we could feel our bodies detoxifying. We didn’t know what to expect but it was amazing, invigorating and very very hot. The session took about 15 minutes, we did feel the need to rehydrate as it’s not uncommon to feel a little light-headed, we were encouraged to get up slowly. The idea behind the parenie is to promote weight loss, remove harmful toxins, rejuvenate the skin and improve the metabolism. We then had another cool down break in the restaurant with more water before our next treatment, a body polishing scrub using honey and sea salt, this was intense and effective, we both felt our skin was definitely more moisturised and softer. Back to the restaurant where we decided it was time to try some traditional Russian charcuterie and a small beer before our next experience.
The restaurant has a chilled and sociable air, everyone is sitting in wet swimwear wrapped in sheets for a little bit of modesty enjoying a break from the heat but eager to return to the steam room and sauna to continue the detoxification that is so good for the body. The Bath House is a truly amazing experience and a wonderful way to spend a few hours with friends.
Our final treatment was a traditional massage mainly on the back-half of the body, to say this was possibly one the most effective, but not the most relaxing massages I’ve ever had would be an understatement. The massage was extremely deep with a lot of clicking and pulling to release tension and aid lymphatic drainage, not one to fall asleep to, but highly effective. We felt the benefit the following day. Enjoying these treatments in the heat has a far greater effect, amplifying the restorative benefits that will continue even when you have left the Banya.
The Bath House has only launched a month ago and already there is a large Russian contingent visiting which is a huge accolade to the authenticity of this Banya. The latest addition to the Banya is a rather sumptuous private area for groups of up to 10 or 12, where you can experience all treatments and food with a close set of friends.
There’s no need to be a member here, but it is advisable to book, although the appointment system is very loose and relaxed, further ensuring that altogether chilled out atmosphere.
T: 020 3906 2060
A: 1 Grosvenor Gardens, Westminster, London SW1W 0BD
W: Russian Banya