Salon Review: Matthew Curtis at the Rosewood London
Long established as a runway and celebrity stylist, Matthew Curtis has extended his iconic Stratford-upon-Avon based brand to cater for the London crowd, with a new salon at the sumptuous Rosewood London.
It’s a spring day when I arrive at Rosewood; I’m already in an ebullient mood, having received an invitation to a black tie event here, at which Prince Harry will be in attendance. I have no designs on the Party Prince, but just entering the hotel’s elegantly arched entranceway from the morning bustle of Central London is enough to make me feel privileged.
Smiling, smartly dressed valets greet me; when I ask a beautiful girl my way to the salon, I’m immediately told that it’s hard to find and that she had best escort me. It’s not hard to find, actually, but the sense of being so completely looked after is irresistible, and completely in tune with the rest of my experience, which sees me warmly welcomed by Sense Spa staff and ushered in to the adjoining Matthew Curtis Salon.
‘Themed’ premises can be tricky to get right, especially when space is in short supply, but this Orient Express inspired salon, designed by Judy Reaves and Matthew Curtis, perfectly conjures up all of the glamour and romance of old-school train travel. Walls of dark glossy wood are upholstered from floor to hip in quilted, powder blue velvet, which matches the plumply inviting salon chairs – custom-made, I’m later told, and featuring the Mathew Curtis logo in deep gold on their backs. There’s a rectangle of gold panelling on the ceiling, picked up with matching cornices edging the room; below these, old-fashioned luggage racks hold a pleasing jumble of vintage cases and valises; there’s even a backgammon board and a straw hat stowed up there.
My stylist, Jason, looks born to these surroundings – he’s impeccably groomed, good looking and stylish in a slim blue suit and white shirt. I’m always unforgivably vague about what I want from a hair appointment, but he’s so warmly confident and authoritative that, before we even start, I know I’ll be in excellent hands.
I’ve got plenty of time to keep drinking in design details while I wait for my colour – a kind of warm copper caramel, to break up the “blockiness” of my long dark hair – to take. Old liquor bottles have been refashioned into spray bottles; the one at my station is Disaronno Amaretto, a pleasingly square and textured glass bottle next to a cut-glass crystal jar full of clips and pins.
It dawns on me, as I’m drinking my coffee (perfectly made, and served in exquisite Bernadaud porcelain) that none of the plastic you generally see at a salon is visible. You know the things I mean – the brushes, the rollers, the combs, the modern and mass-produced grooming tools in every stylist’s workstation. There’s a heavy, vintage brush and mirror set on the counter nearby, backed in cream and embossed with gold, but I’m certain it’s just a prop – those old-fashioned bristles wouldn’t stand up to modern sterilisation, would they? Then I realise – every ‘prop’ contains equipment. The drawer units are cunningly disguised as small stacks of suitcases, with brass tacking and leather handles; in these are stashed all of the plastic and cord-entangled hairdryers. In the corner of the room, a large upended steamer trunk – it’s custom made but looks absolutely, authentically vintage – contains a multitude of colours and products; the salon uses another such wheeled trunk for its in-room service, which, in the privacy of your hotel room, opens up to reveal a fold out counter, mirror and shelves full of products.
According to Jason, about half of the clients who come to the salon are hotel guests; during my visit, two beautifully elegant American sisters come in for blow-dries – they’re in London for the week and have a theatre date that afternoon. Their faces, as they’re shampooed one by one (there’s a single basin in the salon, plus two chairs on the ‘long’ wall and a single chair before the men’s grooming station) look positively beatific, and their delight in their finished results is both obvious and genuine, even putting aside American courteousness.
Obviously the size of the salon, aside from prompting its brilliant use of space (I eventually realise that all of the hatboxes and valises on the luggage shelves also conceal products, bottles and heated rollers) creates an incredibly intimate setting: gossiped confidences with your stylist will pretty much have to be shared with everyone. It also means that if the air conditioning isn’t quite behaving, you may soon start to feel the hot-flush producing effects of someone else’s blow-dry. I suffered slightly from the latter, although I learned that this was down to some teething problems with a newly-installed system – but as far as the former was concerned, it seemed to simply add to an air of intimacy and camaraderie, with beauty tips, family information and travel anecdotes shared between the occupants of those marvellously decadent, powder-blue chairs. High Holborn’s in the midst of its usual 1pm weekday rush when I and my hair eventually swish our way out on to the street, but that cocooned. cosseted feeling lasts all afternoon – and my blow dry for several days beyond that.
Matthew Curtis at Rosewood
252 High Holborn London, WC1V 7EN
T: 0203 747 8830
Mon-Sun: 9am – 9pm