Jean Claude Biguine, Bandra, Mumbai
At Lounge, we believe a bit of a challenge makes things more interesting. So we didn’t see why Mumbai’s newest French salon and spa, with 25 years of experience and 350 outlets around the world, should have it easy. The chain is best known for its hair services, but also has an expansive spa menu, plus a juice bar and lounge. Male executives can actually hold meetings with three to four colleagues in the Men’s Sports Hair Lounge, while getting a Golf Grooming (a hand and elbow treatment) or Men’s Day Out package (haircut and style, facial, manicure and pedicure).
I booked a haircut and a Phytomer Facial, but the challenge was the raw material I gave them to work with. In addition to having curls that border on unmanageable, a cutting-edge stylist at one of the city’s best salons had given me a haircut that promised to make me cool. It didn’t. Nine months later, what was left were two disconnected layers of hair—one at chin level, one halfway down the back. If a stylist could produce a halfway decent look from that, he or she would get Lounge’s vote. And gratitude.
The 5,000 sq. ft space is set over three levels in Bandra. Level 1 is for hair (a colour bar is one of the attractions). That’s where we met our French hairstylist Edwin and aesthetician Marion.
There are only two spa rooms on the second level, but larger and plusher than many we’ve seen at Mumbai’s day spas (complete with folded towel swans and scattered peach flower petals). Norah Jones was playing when Marion started our 50-minute facial, with cleansing and toning, using Biguine’s natural products. A scrub, a shoulder and head massage and two types of masks for different parts of the face followed. Most times, we could barely feel Marion’s hands.
The good stuff
The best part of my facial was the arm massage, complete with a hot towel and massage cream. It was unexpected, and a great way to spend time when the face mask is drying. After the facial, my skin felt nourished and supple.
Get yourself a new look at Jean Claude Biguine
The haircut, however, was what I would go back for. Getting a shampoo while spread out on a massage chair should be a repeat occurrence in everyone’s life. So should Edwin. The platinum blonde didn’t try to be a hair superhero. He honestly said there wasn’t much he could do with the way my hair was cut. Then proved himself to be a big liar.
With a furrowed brow he started snipping, switching between four different instruments (two scissors for texturing, one for cutting and a razor for thinning). He created bangs, reduced volume in some places and textured the ends with seemingly nonchalant movements. Meanwhile, in slow, accented English, he explained he was from near Marseille, it was his first time abroad, and he has observed that most Indian women want to keep the length of their hair. “The glamour always has to be there,” he says.
What really won him points is that he didn’t overload my hair with shine serums, curl enhancers, anti-frizz products and other gook hairdressers always put in. A little bit of shine serum, a quick blow-dry for the bangs and a diffuser to dry the curls was all it took. Also, he didn’t try to sell me any products after I told him my shampoo and conditioner were similar to what he had in mind. The end result was one of the best haircuts I’ve had.
The menu of treatments is quite vast, covering massages, body treatments, waxing, manicures and pedicures, as well as every service related to hair. If the quality of all these is at par with the haircut, similar service providers have something to worry about.
Even though the facial was pleasant, it wasn’t one I would fantasize about later, as the movements were too gentle. The shoulder massage didn’t take one to that state of near-bliss as it should have. If you’re eco-conscious, the disposable robe you’re made to wear during the haircut is sure to bother you. It seems too wasteful to bin it after one session.
A haircut with shampoo and styling is Rs1,690 after tax, which is higher than other top salons. The facial was Rs3,146, while a regular manicure is Rs450.
Bubble Lounge, Greater Kailash-II, New Delhi
There are two reasons why I avoid getting a haircut nowadays. a) For my nearly four-year-old daughter, long hair equals Rapunzel equals princess equals beautiful. Who am I to argue with that? b) I am spoilt. In the late 1990s, I got into the habit of getting my hair styled by a really super hairdresser—Monisha Naegamwala of the then Nalini and Yasmin, Mumbai. I can’t remember an instance when I left her chair looking like I did when I got in it. She would chat, talk, argue and convince me that getting a haircut was about getting a new look. If a tame trim was what one wanted, a roadside barber could manage that.
So when I set out for my appointment with Riki at the newly opened branch of Bubble Lounge in Greater Kailash-II, I was hoping that maybe I would find a hairdresser like Naegamwala. I could not have been more off the mark.
Riki, the hairdresser, who I had been told was the buzz of Bubble Lounge, and had trained at Toni and Guy, decided not to wait around for his only appointment of the day (I saw his roster, and yours truly was the only name in his column). “He was not well,” said the girl at the counter, casually adding, “Why don’t you come tomorrow? Go for a manicure today.”
Of course, Bubble Lounge did not think it was important to call and let customers know that their star hairdresser had taken ill suddenly, and how could they? The lady who took the appointment hadn’t asked for my contact details.
I dug in my heels, and requested the second-in-command to take charge. After waiting a good 15 minutes in a near-empty salon, Naveen “just in from Punjab, trained at Habibs and worked at Sylvie’s Salon, Amritsar” sauntered over. In less than 5 seconds he told me that my hair lacked volume and since I did not want the length to be compromised, he would give me one layer in the front, for “more volume”. There was no chitter-chatter about what I did, why I did not want to experiment, why I should go short…nothing.
Twenty minutes later, I was out of the chair looking like I did 20 minutes ago.
So were there any positives at all? You get appointments quickly. The guy who shampooed my hair knew his job. The water was the perfect temperature, and he threw in a 5-minute head massage, which felt relaxing. The hairdryer temperature was perfectly controlled too.
Bubble Lounge does not have a credit card machine yet. They charge Rs500 for a haircut, Rs80 for shampoo, Rs80 for conditioner.
Seema Chowdhry Sharma