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Aqua Sheko

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published November 29th 2010
Smooth, well heeled feet may seem like one of life's few unaffordable luxuries these days; partly because it takes ages to do a self service spruce up with a pumice stone, and partly because many of us baulk at the idea of baring our thorny, horny, corny, and possibly summer ripe feet to a pedicurist without first having a pedicure. But would you feel differently if you were leaving the task to be shared between 150 pedicurists, all with a very short memory span and lacking the ability to tell tales about the condition of your feet? Pedicurists who would actually thrive on the job? Because that's what Aqua Sheko promise with their fish pedicure.

Yes, it is called a fish pedicure because it's a pedicure administered by fish. To be specific 150 Turkish Garra Rufa fish, who use their tiny suction cup like mouths to scour off your dead skin for their own sustenance.

Don't be turned off by the idea that it might hurt: even the largest Garra Rufa at Aqua Sheko are probably less than five centimetres long – much smaller and thinner than an average goldfish – and the feeling of being groomed is more likely to make you laugh than cry. And don't be turned off by the idea that it might be cruel to the fish: they come from hot springs where not much else survives, so your feet are a feast to them.

You also need not be concerned with their hygiene: Garra Rufas secrete an enzyme in their saliva called diathanol, with sterilises the skin, and helps with the regeneration process. They're also kept in very clean conditions. The eight small, square, individual treatment tanks they service you from are filtered five times an hour and fed by a constant supply of oxygen to ensure a healthy environment for the fish, and are lit from below by ultra-violet lights that minimise bacteria growth.

Aqua Sheko's dιcor is dark Japanese minimalist – centred around the eight raised tanks. There's not much additional waiting space, so don't show up early. But when you do you'll be given a quick cold water foot wash by one of the friendly staff – and for the benefit of the fish – then shown to one of the square black leather chairs in a long raised row (there are three paired seats and two singles on the ends.). It's up to you how you take the plunge, but the staff advise you lower your feet slowly into the warm water... Some people need to accompany their submersion with a little squeal, a few with a larger squeal. But most people then spend the next few minutes fascinated by the writhing, yet gentle feeding frenzy happening around their tootsies.

Everyone's fully clothed and it's a uni-sex treatment room, which when I visited was quite chatty - everyone in the same 'boat'. But it's still quite relaxing, with complimentary green tea or water and the option to upgrade to Japanese lemonade. The oriental theme comes from the popularity of fish treatments in South East Asia, especially in Japan – where you can even have a whole body fish bath.

Depending on the condition of your feet to begin with the fish take off a layer to a layer and a half during a treatment – and because there's so many of them they give you an all over exfoliation, including a very neat cuticle trim, rather than just centring on problem areas. If you're still unsure there are two more points worth mentioning: 1. The British Medical Association of Dermatologists think it's a good idea, especially for people who suffer from minor skin conditions. 2. It feels like a light massage, and is such an unusual and surprising experience that watching them enjoy themselves over their work was quite a life affirming experience. And it made me feel better about the fish I ate for dinner after my treatment...

Deluxe Fish Treatment (45 minutes) £45
An initial foot wash, 30 minutes of fish pedicure, finishing with a 15 minute foot massage

Express Treatment (25 minutes) £30
Initial foot wash and 25 minutes of fish pedicure
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Why? Everyone's a winner - the fish feast and you get smoother feet
When: Mon - Sat 10am to 8pm
Where: 14 Holland Street High Street Kensington London W8 4LT, nearest tube stations High Street Kensington or Notting Hill
Cost: £30
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