Belle Toujours opened in November 2012, in a Victorian townhouse on Cathedral Road in the Pontcanna area of Cardiff. The salon's owner, Claire Bellamy wanted to offer a hair and beauty destination where both men and women can have all of their hair and beauty needs attended to under one roof. Under the roof of Belle Toujours, you will find a hair salon, nail studio, barbers and day-spa.
I had heard great things about the salon on Twitter and Facebook, so was really looking forward to sampling some of the Belle Toujours experience for myself when I was invited to "discover the luxury world of Belle Toujours", and to be part of their Beauty Forum last week. Everything I had read about the salon prior to my visit, had led me to expect a high-end salon, offering a pampering experience, which I would then make a mental note of for future 'treats' and special occasions. However, the salon proved to me so much more than that.
From the outside, the salon looks smart, but still understated. As soon as you step inside, you are immediately struck by the care and attention that the owners have clearly taken with the renovation of the building. They have managed to revive the Victorian character and features of the original building, and combine it with a monochrome modern light and airy feel. It was refreshing to see that they hadn't just opted for the generic 'cookie-cutter' spa decor which so many other spas are guilty of.
The ground floor of the building is devoted to the hair salon and nail studio. It was amazing how as soon as you set foot inside, you felt like you were a world away from the road outside.
As part of my invitation, I was given the opportunity to select two treatments from a sample treatment menu. My first choice was a cut and blow-dry by the Salon Director, Simon Daniel. My reasoning was that although I have had some good haircuts in the past, I have yet to find a salon where I am guaranteed to leave every time with a haircut that I love. Maybe that is partly my fault, as I tend to tell a hairdresser to do what they think best, which very often means that after a perfunctory "what do you usually do with your hair?", they proceed to not do very much with it! However, Simon took the time to find out what I do with my hair on a daily basis, when I go out and exactly what products I use. He also puts you at ease, so that I didn't feel like a freak when I admitted that my daily hair routine consists of: wash hair; tip head upside down, and blast dry. Which I will admit is mainly down to me not being much of a morning person as opposed to thinking that that is the best way to style my hair!
Simon opted to cut some layers into my hair and to curve my fringe slightly to soften it. On paper (or rather tablet screen) it might not sound like much, but it made a big difference to my style. The layers have helped to give it more shape and bounce. In fact, Simon managed to give me exactly what I wanted, without me even knowing what I really wanted! He also carefully explained what products he was using, which was useful, as although I have heard of Joico products before, I have never had them used on my hair. Very often in salons, the style director can be amazing, but some of the other stylists don't always match the same standard. However I know that the bloggers that had their hair cut by the other stylists were also delighted with their experience.
|The finished haircut. Please excuse the slightly bemused half-smile on my face. I always feel really silly taking photos of myself!|
My second treatment choice was a gel bio sculpture manicure. As a beauty blogger who hates having bare nails, everyone I know was very surprised when I said that I had yet to try any longer-term manicures, e.g. Bio Sculpture, Shellac or Gellish. Therefore I was delighted to have the opportunity to try a Gel Bio Sculpture manicure for myself. I will save the details of my manicure for my mid-week manicure feature next week, but by now (spoiler alert!), you probably won't be too surprised to discover that it was fantastic!
So far, so fabulous! In the interests of balance I have racked my brains to try and think of some negative aspects of my Belle Toujours experience, but I'm afraid that the cynical amongst you are going to be disappointed. I honestly can't think of any! After a few less than impressive salon experiences, I was concerned that a luxury salon which had opened with such a fanfare might be full of pretentious staff, with eye-watering prices enough to make a lady's mascara run. But I am glad to report that I was extremely wrong on both counts. The staff were fantastic: friendly, professional and attentive, but never made you feel that they were fawning over you, which always makes me feel uncomfortable. And the prices were most definitely within my reach, and compared more than favourably to other salons in the area which claim to offer a premium salon experience.
One of the things that had intrigued me about the invite was that Belle Toujours had scheduled a third of the evening to a face to face session at Jolyon's No 10, to ask bloggers for detailed and honest feedback on their Belle Toujours experience. All too often brands view blogger events as an opportunity to (quite understandably) simply push their PR messages, without being interested in receiving honest opinions on their products and services. It was refreshing to see a team that genuinely wanted to hear our thoughts on the salon and any areas that we thought that they could improve upon. Bloggers can be a very picky bunch, so I think it says something for the salon that we all genuinely struggled to think of anything that could be improved upon!
I would highly recommend Belle Toujours to anyone, and will definitely be paying a return visit. In addition to booking a haircut, I can't wait to book myself in for one of their Elemis beauty treatments. The only questions are when, and whether to opt for a facial or a massage, or maybe both?! I am tempted to opt for the facial, as they are currently offering their Twitter followers a free spray tan with any Elemis facial booked in April. Accessible and affordable luxury, just a stone's throw from Cardiff City Centre. What is not to love?!