About Time You Visited: Spa Verta at The Crowne Plaza, BatterseaBy Tom Stevenson
Hello class, welcome back. Please open up your Evening Standards to page 25. It’s the property section. You’re probably looking at a CGI projection of a new residential development. The buildings are terracotta and blue and smartly arranged greenery in the communal courtyard completes the colour palette. But there’s more blue because this is a CGI projection of a new riverside residential development. “Living by the river” you say to yourself “Wouldn’t that be divine? I could jog by the water with the Millennium Wheel faintly on the horizon. Maybe I could even jet ski to work. This is amazing. Where is this place?” Battersea. You look in the following day’s paper. It’s another riverside development and it’s also in Battersea. The next day it’s a new development, but it’s still in Battersea. “Where is this enormous area of London I have never been to?”
You’re right to ask because the riverside developments in Battersea stretch from Nine Elms by Vauxhall Bridge all the way to Battersea Reach on Wandsworth Bridge. That’s four miles of new-build housing for yuppies, millennial entrepreneurs and foreign businessmen disinterested in ever occupying their exponentially appreciating investments.
So what’s happening in Battersea? Well, the Dutch and American embassies will be popping over the river soon. In 2020, the Northern Line will be extended off Kennington to include the the new stations of ‘Nine Elms’, ‘Battersea’ and then join up to Clapham Junction. The river taxi is being extended to Battersea so that by the turn of the year you’ll be to get to Embankment, Blackfriars or Tower Bridge within forty minutes and there’s going to be a new footbridge over into Imperial Wharf. In all but literally, Battersea is crossing the river.
Your Evening Standard told you where to live in Battersea give or take four miles, but it didn’t tell you where to stay, eat and relax. That’s my job. Welcome to the Crowne Plaza London – Battersea.
I check into the hotel on a glorious Sunday evening and I’m about to enter through the double doors when I notice a voyeur of tourists turning their iPhones on their sides. “No one takes landscape selfies. That’s mental” I thought. They must be actually taking photos of a thing and not themselves. I had to check this out. Then I saw it. A US Army Apache Helicopter rose into the air, whipping up a frenzy amongst the onlookers as they tilted their screens to follow the ascension. It hovered there long enough to let the followers create a Vine and then it whizzed off west. Surprisingly not east.
I burst through the doors of the Crowne Plaza.
“Did you see that?”
“Oh yes sir, it’s somewhat of a tourist attraction here. There are commercial and private helicopters too. There’s VIPs flying in and out all the time.”
“Oh that’s really interesting” I said trying to hold it all together whilst I wondered where my twenty year old copy of the Spotter’s Guide to International Motorised Transportation might be.
“Are you ready for your massage, sir?”
“Yes, I think I need to calm down”
Natasha, my girlfriend, walks in with a suitcase and collapses on the massage table. She worked all week, a dinner party ended at 4am on Friday night and she’s been at a wedding all Saturday. She looks like she could do with a massage.
Are there any particular areas you want us to pay attention to?
“Lower back please. I sit in an office chair all week and I think I tweaked something Scottish dancing last night” says Natasha
“Groins. Mainly the groins. The whole groin area actually”
We disrobe, lay down, place our heads in the head holes and I began to relax and think about helicopters. An hour later our heads popped out of the holes, our bodies rejuvenated. We move into the relaxation room and make tea together. The spa allows you to pick from five jars of tea leaves, each tea has its restorative properties and unique tastes listed. The tea is looped into a homemade tea bag and placed in a transparent teapot. The steam billowed upwards as we lay on our heated loungers in our white robes still balmy from the massage oil.
The Crowne Plaza London Battersea boasts a quite extraordinary relaxation facility in Spa Verta. The Spa includes a ten metre hydrotherapy pool, a sauna, steam room, sanarium, heated loungers and fitness centre. I recommend the shower jets. The thunderous power falling on your shoulders should knock out any latent tension from you working week. We dip in and out of the sauna and float around the dimly lit pool and all the stresses of the week faded away. At time like this, I like to think of myself boxed in on the tube wishing my stop would come. I like to remember that that me wanted so much to be this me. Too often our weekends become more manic than our weeks as we force fun to justify the grind of another imminent working week.
Spa Verta offers a 20% discount on all spa treatments to any resident living in the vicinity through their ‘Great Mates’ programme. With Anne Semoin, Comfort Zone and Lava Shells bespoke treatments on offer, that’s a very good deal.
We dress for dinner. The Riverside Bar and Grill, the hotel restaurant sits on a mezzanine level. This offers just enough height to look out at the lights reflecting on the river. A couple can be seen dining on a houseboat by candlelight on the opposite bank. Giovanni, the restaurant manager, is used to the highest standard of hospitality having run Chelsea Football Club’s VIP matchday. It has always been rumoured that proximity to the heliport was one of the deciding factors in Roman Abramovich’s acquisition of the club in 2003. With the planned demolition of Chelsea Village to accommodate a stadium expansion, I would suspect a great deal of UHNW clientele to stay at the Crowne Plaza for access to the multimillionaires of Stamford Bridge.
The starters arrive. Smoked duck Carpaccio, sweet pineapple compote, roasted hazelnuts and herb salad for Natasha and chicken liver parfait with spiced pear chutney and date and apricot jelly for me. Both are elegantly presented and rich in flavour.
Prawn Curry and a coconut cream sauce follow and the Chef’s own burger with egg, crispy bacon, cheddar and chipotle mayo on a brioche bun. Make no mistake. This is a high quality restaurant experience.
We return to our club room feeling soothed and satisfied and we turn in for the night. Natasha leaves early for work. The hotel offers a free shuttle to Sloane Square every morning for guests, which she is delighted about. I eat breakfast by myself, looking out on to another gorgeous day on the river. Businessmen hold their hats as they step into their private choppers. Clipper boats chunter east into the City and high vis jackets flicker across the water from new build construction sites.
I think about the wedding video scene in Love Actually when the best man flees to the riverbank to Dido’s Here With Me. I think about Beckham on the speedboat in the Olympic opening ceremony. I think about Joe Strummer screaming “I live by the river” in London Calling. This is London. Forget the buildings and The Queen, The Thames is London’s biggest icon. I want to stay, but I have to check out. Such luxury in such a beautiful spot is so hard to leave. I hand over my key card.
“A taxi for you, sir?”
“I’m alright, mate. I only live five minutes that way.”
The Crowne Plaza London – Battersea, Bridges Court, SW11 3BE, 0207 801 3500