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London’s first Russian bath house: full steam ahead at Banya No 1

Oak leaves, a steam room, vodka and crayfish, Banya No 1 serves up London’s first Russian-style bath house experience – and one that certainly helps with the post-festive hangover

The assignment was to discover the ultimate truth about hangover cures. Who does one ask about such things? I tried Andrei Fomin. After all, I reasoned, Andrei used to run nightclubs all over London – Propaganda in Wardour Street, that was him – plus he has a lot of witchy knowledge about herbs that his grandmother taught him. And, the clincher, he’s Russian. Andrei tells me he has given up on nightclubs, “the false promise of paradise”, and started London’s first Russian bath house, “a real promise of good health”.

That is why I am here, I reflect, as I lie in a steam room, head covered in oak leaves, while a large Latvian man lightly spanks me with fistfuls of more oak leaves. It’s called parenie, which must be Russian for “attacked by a friendly compost heap”. Then I am manoeuvred outside and positioned under a large wooden bucket with a rope that my large Latvian … Why is he pulling that? Aargh! Freezing douche. Twice. Then it’s into a huge wooden tub, freezing again. Someone wraps me in a white sheet and sends me over to the relaxation zone.

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