Health & Grooming: Scotch and Chakra

<< Back to Robb Report, May 2005
  • Matthew Temple

Not long ago, Olivier Bonnefoy was an overworked 30-something merchant banker, with four phones and a simple vision for a masculine retreat from the stress of modern life. Bored with unisex day spas where men are regarded as afterthoughts, Bonnefoy conceived a place that blended the ambience of a gentlemen’s club with the services of an old-fashioned barbershop and the indulgences of a contemporary spa—a place where men can be men and still be pampered. “Why not have a Bloody Mary with your Reiki massage?” he says, summing up the philosophy behind Gentlemen’s Tonic, his haven for men, which opened last December in London’s swank Mayfair district.

Bonnefoy’s cosmopolitan childhood helped shape his unconventional spa concept. As the son of Maurice Bonnefoy, the French founder of New York’s now-defunct D’Arcy Gallery, Bonnefoy grew up with an intriguing roster of babysitters: Joan Miró, Max Ernst, and Salvador Dalí. His hard-to-place accent comes from having been raised around the world, from Beirut to Mexico, while he accompanied his late father on his continuous quest for primitive art. When they were not hunting down art acquisitions, the pair spent time with the legendary surrealists, whose own tribal art fixations frequently led them to Maurice’s Manhattan apartment. These eccentric childhood mentors could not help but make a lasting impression on the young Bonnefoy.
 
“Gentlemen’s Tonic feels like my canvas,” says Bonnefoy, brushing cigarette ash off his tweed jacket onto his designer jeans and Italian lace-ups. The space evokes a clubby masculine aura drawn from an earlier era: The lacquered canvas on the walls recalls the sunbaked pith helmet of a 1930s big game hunter; walnut handrails and leather seats reference English classic cars; and the curtains around the haircutting stations suggest yacht sails. The works of young British artists accent the walls and are available for purchase, and the idiosyncratic furnishings reflect Bonnefoy’s eclectic taste.

But at Gentlemen’s Tonic, West End London traditional melds with West Coast alternative. Bonnefoy’s hybrid concept pairs a classic wet shave, manicure, and haircut with eyelash tinting, teeth whitening, or one of
six different facials. The treatments are performed in private booths equipped with plasma TVs.
 
Downstairs, clients can select from an ambitious menu of spa services that are conducted in a series of private treatment rooms. If the seven different massages—from Thai to “the Traveller” (designed for frequent fliers)—or a cardiac checkup are not of interest, you can choose from a range of more esoteric offerings: Kinesiology (a gentle muscle therapy intended to restore the body’s natural energies), acupuncture, Reiki, shiatsu, and reflexology.
Behind all the indulgences beats a reassuring macho heart. One service is intended to combat the aftereffects of a heavy night on the town with a soothing aromatherapy facial and massage (Bloody Mary optional). Bonnefoy named the treatment Hemingway as a tribute to his dad’s onetime buddy, Ernest.
 
Bonnefoy reckons his father would appreciate the spirit of his establishment. After all, looking natty was important to Maurice, despite his youthful action-hero antics, such as flying Spitfires and ballooning across South America. In his day, refined gentlemen began each morning with a wet shave and concluded the evening with a massage at the same club. Of course, Bonnefoy adds, “That was before the BlackBerry.”

 

Gentlemen’s Tonic, +44.20.7297.4343, www.gentlemenstonic.com

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