Itís now hip to be square in Birmingham!
CHLOE URQHUART visits theclubandspa at The Cube and discovers a hidden jewel in the crown of a city which has been transformed in the last decade
As my palm cups a hot, silky-smooth lava shell from the Philippines it’s hard to believe I am lounging on a treatment bed in the heart of Birmingham – a city known more for steam engines than spas.
The previous day I had been subbing a spa review filed from a remote island off The Seychelles and somehow the prospect of my impending spa break to Birmingham didn’t seem quite as exciting.
I had not visited the city for more than a decade but had heard about the amazing regeneration which had taken place which started to become apparent as the train pulled into Birmingham New Street station.
“There’s the spa” shouted my five-year old son (who had only seen a photograph of this distinctive building on its website the night before) as we chugged past The Cube which immediately re-shapes the city skyline.
It comes as no surprise to learn The Cube, known as the jewellery box, was designed by architect Ken Shuttleworth who is renowned for London’s so-called "gherkin “and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. The 25-storey building pays homage to Birmingham’s jewellery heritage and not only houses the spa but also Hotel Indigo, The Adee Phelan Salon and its crowning glory Marco Pierre White’s rooftop restaurant.
The Cube is only a five-minute stroll from the station through The Mailbox with is another new and exciting development and boasts Harvey Nichols as its flagship store. As you leave the shopping mall the sight of arch-shaped bridges over canals is almost reminiscent of Venice (in fact Birmingham has more canals than Italy’s floating city) and it’s hard to believe you’re in the heart of the Midlands.
Checking into the bright and breezy Hotel Indigo, with its block primary coloured rugs and wallpaper, immediately re-ignites your zest for life. After marvelling at the views from our ultra-chic orange-themed room on the 24th floor it was time to spa and enjoy my urban spa break…
theclubandspa overlooks the canal and from the light and airy café you can wave to passing long boats and watch foraging Canadian geese as they waddle past the window.
I change into bathrobe and slippers in the spacious changing room and make my way to the rather novel relaxation area with its pods (looking like white witch’s hats) swaying invitingly from the ceiling.
The spa has 10 treatment rooms, a couples suite, dry floatation experience, a salt room, rasul plus a sequence of uplifting wet and dry thermal rooms including a Kelo sauna constructed from wood which can only be found in the Arctic Circle
The couples’ room includes a luxurious copper bath (used to keep the water hot), a walk-in drench shower and rasul mud room where you can smooth on a choice of specialist cleansing muds before applying peppermint infused salts and finish with a drenching shower.
The gym boasts top of the range TechnoGym equipment, resistance trainers, kinesis cable machines, Power Plates, free weights, large functional training zone, flexibility and core stability zones, plus 3 group fitness studios.
My therapist leads me to the warm, cosy treatment room where I am about to have my first Deep Release Massage with Lava Shells. According to my therapist this is better than hot stones – so I am about to find out…
The massage starts with a warm towel to my feet which is immediately relaxing and I then feel my palm cup a hot silky-smooth lava shell. As the shell is swept up and down my arm – and then my legs - the heat penetrates into my muscles.
The beauty of using these tiger-striped clam shells, as opposed to hot stones, is that they retain their heat for up to one hour. This is due to a chemical reaction between the iron, sea kelp, marine algae, salt water and lavender which is placed inside the shell and heats it up.
As the shells, which are found in the warm waters around the Philippines, retain their heat the therapist can silently carry out a massage – an advantage over their rival hot stones which you can usually hear clanking in and out of the oven which is used to heat them up.
My 55-minute treatment slipped by leaving me with an inner glow and totally relaxed. I am now the newest convert to lava shells over hot stones which are just so yesterday!
Just to ensure I was completely chilled out, the Spa Manager, Nicola Williams, had arranged for me to try the dry floatation room which was another first.
Twenty minutes of floating on the bed of warm water is supposed to be equivalent to a couple of hours sleep. I literally took the weight off my feet when I climbed aboard the airbed. Warm blankets were tucked under me and then the strangest sensation occurred. The airbed started to deflate lowering me into the warm water below.
The experience can only be compared to that of lying on a water bed. This weightless treatment is idea for anyone with back problems and can be enhanced by applying a chocolate detoxifying body mask.
And if that wasn’t decadent enough my finishing touches were carried out in the hot pink Laurent Perrier champagne nail bar! What better way to prepare for dinner at Marco’s restaurant on the 25th floor with a perfect French polish using Creatve Nail products and a glass of bubbly…
After all, who needs a ten-hour flight to The Seychelles, when you can have a spa break at this hidden gem of an urban spa on your doorstep!
Why salt therapy is good for asthma
theclubandspa is one of only three spas in the country that offers Salt Hydrotherapy.
Twenty minutes of salt therapy may not sound quite as sexy as slipping into an ice chamber – but for anyone with respiratory problems the results can be amazing.
The treatment takes place in a room entirely coated in salt and once you’re relaxed on heated loungers you’re able to inhale the fumes of natural salt which is pumped into the air. The theory is that by breathing this in, mucus in the respiratory tract is loosened and coughed up.
Salt inhalation has been around since the Greeks, when Hippocrates recommended it for respiratory problems. The only recent evidence, however, comes from the former Soviet Union; a 1999 Lithuanian study of 250 children and 500 adults found that salt therapy for an hour a day for two weeks improved respiratory results in nine out of 10 cases.
The piste de resistence of The Cube complex has to be Marco Pierre White’s rooftop restaurant.
As Marco says himself: “The benchmark for all restaurants is a great steak” and this is exactly what we enjoyed while dining in this simple, yet chic, restaurant which overlooks the regenerated skyline below.
Book early as this is Birmingham’s new hot spot – and rightly so. This is the sort of place where you get engaged, enjoy a reunion with old friends and even have a family meal without feeling out of place.
There are not many restaurants in the UK where you get the opportunity to look down on a firework display as we did!
Marco’s oozes simple elegance from the moment you walk in passed the bright white spray of lights and take your seat on the soft black leather chairs. And once that perfectly cooked steak arrives you’re in heaven and certainly not Hell’s Kitchen!
For bookings 0121 643 2010
The SPA Traveller tips:
• theclubandspa makes the ideal city spa break
* The Cube is easily accessible from Birmingham New Street station and is a quick walk through the new Mailbox shopping mall which boasts Harvey Nichols
• If you suffer from asthma try the salt hydrotherapy treatment
• Hot stone fans will love the lava shell massage
• Take your time and enjoy lunch in the spa café as you can sit and watch the long boats cruise up and down Birmingham’s famous canal network
• Products used in the spa include Pevonia, Armoatherapy Associates and Creative Nail