Cowshed Spa opened in New York's Soho House back in 2003, but it's only been open to non-members of the tony private club since last year. So when we were recently invited to stop by and try our treatment of choice, compliments of the house, our immediate response was a) yes please and b) deep tissue massage, thankyouverymuch.
We were psyched about the prospect of checking out what we'd heard was a really swell (as in schmancy) spa but didn't think the massage could possibly live up to that of our usual spot, a low-key, no-frills joint whose masseuses take their deep tissue pummeling very, very seriously.
The Cowshed facilities are lovely, with a candlelit lounge that boasts wide beamed wood walls and comfy leather chaises, and a beautifully appointed changing room featuring a modern mirrored vanity table with vintage glass drawer pulls, ivory leather club chairs, plush oversized towels, assorted high-end toiletries (from Cowshed brand lotions and potions to individually-wrapped combs and tweezers) and seriously yummy reversible robes - terry on one side, cotton on the other - that we instantly wanted to steal, ummm...purchase. So far, so good.
Things got even better in the treatment room, thanks to a heated massage table and essential oils from plants grown and blended especially for Cowshed - our masseuse recommended a mix of Moody Cow (rose geranium, linden blossom and frankincense) and Bullocks (camphor, eucalyptus and clove bud) to heighten our relaxation, both mental and muscular.
And oh, what a masseuse. As tall and willowy as a model, the extremely gracious and competent Rachel Pfisterer may have looked like a runway refugee, but she worked over our tired, aching muscles like a professional linebacker (we mean that in the best way possible). She also taught us a useful new massage term - "yummy ouchy" - to replace our clichéd "that hurts in a good way." And did we mention the refreshingly non-twee music (Etta James, Louis Armstrong, modern jazz) that serves as the soundtrack to a Cowshed massage?
We noticed a placard in the changing room from Tatler magazine, proclaiming Cowshed's UK sister spa - in Babington House, Somerset - the 2009 International Spa of the Year. If it's anything like the New York outpost, we can easily see how they nabbed that prize.
After our Cowshed rubdown, we wandered back out onto Ninth Avenue in a blissfully dazed stupor; relaxed, recharged and plotting our return (for which we will happily shell out our own hard earned coin).