What may have started as a trending hashtag and catch-all for healthy living, “wellness” has expanded into a widely respected industry that’s worth nearly four trillion dollars. Cities around the globe have been embracing the concept over the past decade, nurturing its many guises and continued expansions. In the US, the citadels of New York and Miami on the east coast, and Los Angeles and San Diego on the west, are most accredited with kickstarting the global movement. However, it’s London that has emerged as 2019’s wellness capital. The UK metropolis drives traditional wellness trades—gyms, spas, yoga studios—with an entrepreneurial focus on the industry’s zeitgeist. The result sets it apart from international competitors, taking the lifestyle concept in new, totally revolutionary directions.
Today’s global wellness scene sits apart from earlier iterations through its emphasis on accessibility. It is not so much defined by an exclusive one-off spa stay or unforgiving mono-diet, but rather by a combination of experiences that coalesce into a perpetually healthy lifestyle, one that’s transportable, constant and, ultimately, transcendent. The current wave hit city shores some 10 years ago, gaining momentum from the meteoric rise of Facebook and Instagram influencer-led marketing. The “wearable technology” breakthrough of the FitBit and Apple products added further thrust. In the years that followed, a series of personalities and new concept experiences catapulted wellness into the global mainstream. Here, we focus on wellness in London, looking at its eclectic, eccentric collection of wellbeing outposts while profiling its most prodigious personalities.
London was quick to join the conversation on clean eating. Always ahead of the culinary game, the capital continues to embrace lighter, planet-friendly fare. What’s more, it has stayed a step ahead of the wellness world’s wagon wheel of nutritional advice. The post-diet age was, in many ways, pioneered by London-based James Duigan, with his landmark Clean & Lean year-round healthy eating philosophy. His nutrition-as-lifestyle advice has since evolved into the Bodyism panoply, a collection of fitness clubs and cafés, each serving refined sugar-free options and natural supplements to boost workout performance as well as day-to-day health.
The past few years have meanwhile seen the mainstream development of vegetarianism and veganism as more and more studies confirm its positive effects on wellbeing. Increasingly, wellness-focused Londoners are switching to plant-based diets, with over seven per cent of the United Kingdom’s population saying no to meat. In the capital, Ella Woodward was one of the movement’s progenitors, launching her holistic Deliciously Ella recipe books. Her Weighhouse Street Deli has set the standard for London plant-based eateries, combining aromatic, organic ingredients with light-filled interiors and an ethics-first approach to sustainability.
Other influencers have expanded the plant-based school, adapting it to a variety of cooking styles and making it compatible with the newest trend in clean-eating: intermittent fasting. This concept trades restrictive guidelines for restrictive timelines, essentially stating: it doesn’t matter what you eat; it matters when you eat it. As studies increasingly validate the technique, a new breed of plant-based ingredients have entered the London market. Vegan burgers, hot dogs, tortillas, etc, have all gained popularity as they combine the no-longer-taboo tastes of traditionally heavy classics with the goodness of soil-grown ingredients.
Recently, Fitzrovia was doused in hot pink as the acclaimed Kalifornia Kitchen opened its “health is sexy” magenta interiors to the public. The iconic restaurant puts a vegan spin on classic American soul, as well as British pub food, with favourites including a battered banana blossom fish & chips, and a B12 Mexicali-style burger. In Chelsea, Wulf & Lamb has unveiled its “Run with the wolves. Eat with the lambs” menu, crafting large-portion comfort foods with guilt-free, planet-friendly ingredients. And complementing the London start-ups are international chains that have set up shop: By Chloe, America’s most popular vegan chain, now has four stores in the capital, while Dishoom harks back to the old Iranian cafés of Bombay, serving centuries-old vegetarian recipes in incredible Art Deco interiors.
At Red Carnation Hotels’ London locations, we have stayed up to date with the city’s healthy eating trends. The English Grill at The Rubens at the Palace presents a specially chosen vegan dish of the day, where plant-based local ingredients are expertly cooked on the restaurant’s Josper Grill. Likewise, The Chesterfield Mayfair launched a creatively curated plant-based menu earlier this year. Already, favourites, such as the vegan dahl with green chilli and wild rice, as well as the oat crumble, are gaining traction in the vegan world. Guests staying at The Chesterfield may also enjoy a vegetarian Afternoon Tea. And others restaurants in our award-winning collection continue to embrace seasonal vegan recipes—such as Cheneston’s Restaurant’s caramelised onion vegan gnocchi and The Curry Room’s warming vegetable korma.
The act of working out has gone far beyond an isolated hour at a standard gym. As London’s fitness market continues to saturate, its health centres continue to evolve. A self-professed temple, Equinox has led the charge for high-end fitness, introducing Kensington to its gym-cum-members club-cum-lounge in 2012. The US giant is now set to expand to up to eight locations by 2022, with its establishments just walking distance from The Milestone Hotel & Residences and The Chesterfield.
While Equinox pushes the boundaries of traditional high-end fitness salons, other London gyms are increasingly centring around the concept of the fitness class. Lasting less than an hour but burning near 1,000 calories, they are fast becoming London’s favourite method of getting in shape. Once again, imports from the US have awakened a hotbed of cross-cultural competition. Earlier this year, east coast cult sensation SoulCycle showed Soho its soulful spin classes, while Barry’s Bootcamp pioneered the high-intensity nightclub-inspired style of workout class in London as early as 2013.
In its wake, a host of likeminded salons have established themselves. 1Rebel, in a variety of studios around The Montague on the Gardens, diversified the Barry’s plan into three distinct fitness class types: boxing, spinning, and high intensity interval training. Boxing giant Kobox has focused on combat sports fitness, while American dancer Simone de la Rue brought her dance-centric fitness classes to London earlier this year. And, across the capital, Australian fitness leader, F45, has taken the fitness class to the next level, offering continually changing classes to keep muscles straining.
Alongside fitness classes, the evolution in app-based technology has brought individual, open air exercise back to London. Joe Wicks, one of the UK’s most famous fitness influencers, has launched The Body Coach 90 Day Plan, an app-based body transformation tool that pairs equipment-free workouts with accessible recipes. As research increasingly identifies high intensity interval training and calisthenics as the most beneficial forms of exercise, London’s National Park City status will only make working out even more accessible. Guests staying at any of our London hotels are within easy access of the seven-mile Princess Diana run, which brings together London’s four central city parks in a scenic, leafy tour of the capital. Additionally, guests staying at The Rubens at the Palace and Hotel 41 can enjoy London’s historic embankment running routes. To add variety, guests at The Milestone can take interval training underwater, making use of the hotel’s incredible resistance pool, and guests staying at Hotel 41 can enjoy private yoga lessons on its incredible roof deck.
Mental health has become an increasing concern throughout the world’s main cities. The urban mode of life is, at times, one of fast pace and high stress. Increasingly, wellness plans step in as an antidote to city pressures. In London, this adaptation has led to the birth of some extraordinary spaces. In Belgravia, the pioneer has been Re:Mind, a studio offering relaxation classes, similar in concept to the capital’s high-intensity fitness espresso shots. Here, even indoor space has been painstakingly reworked, with an interior designed specifically to generate the cleanest air possible—from specifically chosen plants, chemical-free wood, and ceiling ventilators. Its classes, meanwhile, entail less-than-an-hour relaxation sessions, using sound and breath coaching to detox the body. The studio is a short walk from Hotel 41 and The Rubens.
Heartcore, on the other hand, pairs low impact Pilates and yoga workouts with a focus on meditative wellbeing and hygge-inspired interiors. Its studios can be found throughout London, with two just stone-throws from The Milestone and The Chesterfield. Alongside, Barrecore uses the slow-moving, balanced movements of barre-style ballet training to nurture the body’s natural breathing rhythm. Traditional spas, too, have undergone rebranding in the UK capital. In South Kensington, Banya No.1 injects the little-explored world of Russian thermal treatments, offering guests joint-relaxing sauna-set experiences as well as chthonic Russian brews for electrolyte balance. Meanwhile, at The Egerton House Hotel, The Montague and The Rubens, treatments have become unshackled from the traditional spa space—a carousel of award-winning therapists can offer guests everything from massages to reflexology in the comfort of their own room.
Wellness continues, not only to grow, but to thrive in London—and a large reason for this is the city’s ability to stay ahead of the trends. Looking towards the industry’s future, corporate wellness, technologically enhanced environments and complete sustainability are progressively appearing on the horizon. And the capital is well ahead of other cities in incorporating these themes into their wellness collection. Already, several businesses are partnering with the above fitness, spa, and relaxation studios to combat workplace stress. To anticipate the rise in social wellness, many outposts are adding larger “hang-out” spaces and café-like snack posts, with the aim of fostering like-minded communities. As studies confirm the additional benefits of social workouts, London is well-poised to, once again, be a world-leader in the new trend.
Likewise, studios such as Fly LDN are experimenting by adding immersive technicolour-LED displays to their yoga classes. The wellness studio is joined by First Light, which uses the positive effects of euphoric light to positively affect your circadian rhythm. Meanwhile, Sweat & Sound rotates around hidden hideaways—each visually stunning—and combines them with tailor-made epic live music sets. They are the beginning of wellness’ next evolution: experiences that simultaneously boost every aspect of human health, both mental and physical.
Farm to table-style seasonal eating continues to dominate the capital, with transparently sourced ingredients on full show for the consumer. Many of London’s wellness outposts are fully on-board with ethically sourced ingredients—but the boundaries of organic are already being transcended. The East London Juice Co. delivers concoctions as far as possible comprised of wild-harvested botanicals, reducing their brews to the bare essentials for healthy imbibing. Its quest for ingredients as untouched by humans as possible is the origin of a new hyper-organic movement that will—no doubt—come to dominate wellness spaces years down the line.
Wellness is here to stay in London. Its many forms can be enjoyed from each of Red Carnation Hotels’ London properties, whether that be our in-house offerings or nearby neighbourhood favourites.