We visit for some pampering as Rena Spa moves into the iconic landmark
When you think about health spas, country houses with vast landscaped gardens in the middle of nowhere often spring to mind.
But Manchester city centre has some sanctuaries of its own. The Midland spa, hidden away in the basement of the iconic Midland Hotel, has had a makeover and is now a Rena Spa. But what's it like?
You can twirl around pretending you’re inside a giant Christmas tree bauble hanging on a delicate thread
The spa entrance can be found along the right hand side of the grand old hotel, adjacent to the external entrance for Mr Cooper’s restaurant. As we descend the stairs, a calmness begins to descend with it - the curved staircase has a grandiose charm but, when we reach the spa, it's sleek and modern, decorated in deep shades of blue and green. We are greeted by ladies with improbably long eyelashes who supply us with a drink while we take a seat in the reception area to fill out the standard pre-treatment medical forms.
There are multiple options for your spa day. Being, first and foremost, professional eaters, we naturally chose the Sunday roast package. This is £119 per person and includes a choice of 50-minute treatments and access to the post-treatment relaxation area as well as the pool, steam room and sauna. This is followed by a two-course lunch at Mr Cooper’s. There’s also a £10 voucher towards spa products included - should you wish to buy anything.
We arrive hoping to get a morning swim under our belts but our knees graze the bottom of the dinky pool - lovely as it is, it isn’t designed for a solid swim. Nonplussed - we aren't really there to burn calories - we splash around for a while and have a good natter instead. The steam room is clean and fresh and we particularly like the Himalayan salt wall in the sauna. A quick rinse off in the waterfall shower - certainly an experience - and we part ways to have our treatments in separate rooms.
As wine-lovers, we were amused to discover that Rena spas specialise in Caudalie treatments which are mostly made from grapes. There's a crushed Cabernet scrub treatment (£80 or £90 for the full shebang - depending when you go - or £45-£50 for the express option) and several different types of facial which involve products prefixed with 'vin' or 'vino.' We both choose a divine body massage using fragrant Caudalie essential oils. Relaxing music tinkles as you rest your face on the soft leather doughnut at the head of the massage bed, breathe in the aromatherapy oils and melt away under the dextrous hands of a professional knot-remover.
It seems the height of self-indulgence to allow time for this level of pampering for yourself but there are arguments that this kind of 'self-care' should be a regular part of your routine.
If you can afford it, go for it, but for most of us it’s still a rare and decadent treat for special occasions.
After our treatments, feeling floaty light we meet again in the relaxation area. There are various options for post-massage chill time. We love the seventies-style bubble chairs which seem to cocoon you away from the world, blocking out a surprising amount of sound and light as you curl up cat-like within.
There are ‘weightlessness pods’ too - some of which contain canoodling couples who probably don't appreciate us shrieking as we tumble into the adjacent ones like newborn deer. Once you’re balanced inside you can twirl around pretending you’re inside a giant Christmas tree bauble hanging on a delicate thread - and who doesn’t want to do that? Good luck getting back out again with dignity intact though - especially while wearing a dressing gown.
For traditionalists there are single beds side by side where you can repose to sip your ‘butterfly tea’ and moan about Sue in HR to your heart’s content.
Relaxed but hungry, we float up to the restaurant - a bit tricky to find from within as there isn’t a great deal of signage. The option for lunch is confusing as it’s advertised as a two-course Sunday lunch but you are actually given a set budget to spend on choices from the main menu. We enjoy a rich, velvety Jerusalem artichoke soup with some knockout focaccia followed by a sticky hunk of roast pork lounging upon a swirl of velvety mash and some (slightly too salty) greens. It's the only Sunday roast-esque main course on offer that day and substantial enough that we don't need to dip into our pockets for dessert.
A few weeks later we popped back for pre-party gel nails (£25 as part of the spa’s new range of express treatments). We were in and out in 20 minutes and off to dinner. Our instagram snaps looked so much better with our glossy red nails in shot - although gels are a bugger to remove at home after a couple of weeks, so you'll have to pop back for a return visit to get them removed professionally.
There's a whole new programme of express treatments, including massages for those days when you need a treat but don’t have the time (or the money) for something longer. Maybe this is the affordable regular self-care option we’ve been looking for.
Rena Spa at The Midland, Peter St, Manchester M60 2DS