A Malaysian Oasis By Sunshine Flint

Ushvani sets a new day spa standard in London. Sunshine Flint gets the full treatment.

My colleague Alex may decry new-age music and being asked a myriad of questions about his “requirements,” but at Ushvani, a day spa in Knightsbridge near Sloane Square (www.ushvani.com), they know that women love choice. Hence, there are six different soundtracks of spa music you can choose from. Or you can dock your MP3 player or iPod and listen to your very own spa playlist. There’s the extensive menu of Malaysian, Thai, and Balinese treatments, the yoga and pilates studio, plunge pool, steam shower and more. I had so much to do before I even started my massage.

I’m shown into what might have been an Edwardian members-only club in another life; mahogany walls, plaster moldings, the lot. But it’s overlaid with Malaysian touches of orange silks (the colour of prosperity and good fortune), a bubbling aquarium and Asian wood carvings. Hibiscus tea and dried ginger slices are served in a quiet sitting room, then I’m taken down an open stairwell to the bijou changing room.

The details are charming, and I covet the stainless flat taps that send the water out in a fountain-like stream. The plunge pool is a perfect square of green water, and the relaxation room has deep brown walls and cream cushions, soft enough for the local Chelsea set and guests from the area’s discreet hotels to sink into.

Owner Usha Arumugam, a native of Malaysia and spa aficionado, trained her staff for four months before the spa opened earlier this year and it shows. In one of the six treatment rooms, my aesthetician Michelle begins a thorough Balinese massage using essential oils developed exclusively for the spa in Malaysia. The treatment includes a stomach massage that is integral to Ushvani’s spa philosophy. The body’s energy lines, or chakras, are based in the stomach, but most Western-style massages ignore the torso entirely.

As Michelle presses from the wall of my ribs to my belly button in a circular motion, she tells me it will get things working the way they should. Ushvani has also developed custom wraps and scrubs made from ingredients such as kaffir lime, cocoa, hibiscus, and green pea for exclusive use in the spa, and will start selling the entire product line before Christmas. Their large yoga and pilates Sentosa studio will open then too.

They haven’t forgotten the menfolk—the Asmara (“love” in Malay) couples treatment room has a concealed bath and a pillow-strewn day bed, and two unisex treatment rooms upstairs have private showers and mandis, the Malaysian after-shower splashover performed with a wooden ladle. But downstairs is for women only, which means you can move from the changing room to the steam room to the relaxation room with nary a Y chromosome in sight. And sometimes that’s a choice we like to make.

Ushvani, 1 Cadogan Gardens, SW3; +44 20 7731 6077 or 6005. Massages start at £180.

ushvani.com