A Little ‘Man’pering
“A day at the spa.” It’s not exactly a phrase that I have heard any guy ever say. I think in general most of us are quite happy to have that time spent at a local motor show for the day or just some peace and time for ourselves working in the lawn.
Although the latter might end with us being covered in dirt and mud with some form of biomask on our face, it’s not exactly an exfoliating, deep cleansing mud mask. Which is why I was a bit skeptical when I was invited to the spa at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi for a little ‘man’pering.
A Mayfair Affair
The flagship Gentlemen's Tonic Mayfair location founded in London in 2004, is a very unique establishment. But that uniqueness has been transported half a world away. The small, yet stylized for men, barbershop that affords the modern man traditional barbershop services and a variety of the latest lifestyle and grooming treatments is now available in the West wing of Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.
The barbershop itself is small but welcoming. The two barber chairs are ones of a classic design of polished steel and black leather. The red granite countertops complimented by Earth tones of the walls let you know that this is a retreat for men. There’s no soft, Zen-like music playing. No flowery decorations. And at no point in time did I smell lavender.
I was greeted by Tony Habib, the one and only barber for Gentlemen’s Tonic, and instantly knew that I was in the right hands. Tony has been taking care of the VIP clientele of the palace for the past four years of his 17-year career in Abu Dhabi, which has included members of Royal families as well as celebrities. But, no matter who you are, Tony knows how to make you feel comfortable.
A cut above the rest
Working from the top down, Tony began with my haircut. There was a brief consultation and once it was established what I wanted, he set out getting it done.
First there was a thorough wash and conditioning of my hair using the exclusive line of Gentlemen’s Tonic products available. I was pleasantly surprised that they too did not have the flowery scents as many shampoos do. It was herbal but masculine and this is something I really appreciated from under the scissor's flurry.
Following the wash, rinse, repeat mantra, Tony styled everything to perfection. I felt as if I should have been going someplace special that night or to some big event. But I could also see myself coming back once a month to keep everything looking sharp for an understated self-confidence.
A classic wet shave
My personal opinion is that there is hardly any male grooming service that is more rewarding than a classic, straight razor shave. Before meeting Tony, I had only had one other in my life and it, too, was completely worth it.
After a quick assessment of my beard, which I had let materialise over the entire weekend just to ensure it would be better for the experience, Tony began by applying a pre-shave oil to help soften the hair. My beard and skin combination is on the wrong end of the comfortable spectrum with my beard being extremely tough and my skin being surprisingly sensitive – even at home, I rarely shave more often than every-other day.
Working the oil into my cheeks and under my chin, Tony let it set for a minute or two under a hot towel before brushing on the creamy lather that would allow for an even closer shave.
Bit by bit Tony worked the razor around my face, minding the sensitive areas ensuring every inch was carefully trimmed and no blemishes were left. A second round of shaving cream and the process was repeated.
Once satisfied that it couldn’t get any closer a cold towel was applied to my face to close up the pores and make everything tight. A bit of aftershave was applied for a cool and refreshing feeling once the towel was removed.
Again, I was made a believer that there is no other better feeling than a close shave. It was almost with a sigh of disappointment that I thanked him because I knew that all of his skill and hard work would be completely dissolved within a matter of a few hours…so I had to enjoy it while I could.
The Exclusive Gentlemen’s Club
What sets this barbershop apart from any other? The answer is simple; The Gentlemen’s Tonic Exclusive Club.
Available in either a six-month or 12-month package, the membership gives you access to a personalized private locker complete with your personalized grooming kit that is reserved exclusively for you on your visit. There is also a list of spa treatments, barber services, invitations to special events, and hotel amenities available throughout the membership period.
In the end, having a haircut and a shave in one of the most exclusive barbershops on the planet may not appeal to everybody. But for me, outside of the memberships, the prices are not out of the realm of possibility for anybody who values a quality shave once in a while. Tony has been in the business long enough to know exactly what you want, sometimes without asking – and for me, that is worth more than whatever the expense might be.
The Palace Spa, in the West Wing of Emirates Palace
*Saturday to Thursday 11am – 8pm
Photo Credit: Neil Hernandez | Instagram: @tabaneil
* Appointments are available outside of regular hours with an advanced reservation.