Ready, Steady, Blow

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When it’s time to check out London’s first ‘fast beauty’ bar, Julia Raeside doesn’t hang about

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 08.42.46I’ve lost count of the times I’ve sat in front of my laptop with curling tongs and determined jaw, trying and failing to copy a style I like the look of on youtube. My initial, “How hard can it be?” is always followed about five minutes later by a whiny, “I just want someone to do it for me.”

 

Good news. Just in time for the season of big hair, diamanté and mulled things, a twinkly new express beauty bar has opened in London’s Covent Garden. Blow Ltd is a (posh) Kwik Fit for your head and nails, offering a series of à la carte blow-dries, nail looks and make-up finishes to prep you for a night out or (judging by the 7am opening time) that important meeting. It’s such a good idea, I’m amazed no one has done it quite like this before.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 08.42.35The one-stop-shop concept appeals to me as someone who’s watched every TV make-over show going (bring back Style Challenge) and wished there was somewhere to get the same treatment without having to actually be on television. I just want a personal stylist, hairdresser and make-up artist permanently on stand-by like a Formula One pit crew. Is that too much to ask?

 

So on a drizzly Saturday afternoon in November, I follow a trail of sparkly Christmas lights into a plush shopping arcade – and there it is: a brightly-lit, glass-fronted temple to primping. The smiling receptionist takes my coat and hands me an iPad mini, loaded up with magazines so I can idly flick through Grazia while I wait.  School art benches line the ground floor salon, topped with small make-up mirrors and surrounded by shelves of product. Downstairs, another room packed with styling stations provides a less “shop window” area for the more self-conscious. I never understood that “let the world watch as you get your roots done” aesthetic in high street hairdressers but I’m not too near the window so I stay put.

 

My drink arrives while flat-screens flicker with video tutorials but none of them look like something me and my Babyliss could manage at home. I browse the nine hairstyles and three make-up and nail looks, settling on a lux blow-dry (super smooth, big waves, full of body) and blue nails because I let my son choose the colour before I left the house. I really want a halo plait but I’m too chicken to go for it on my first visit and I’m going straight out after this. The girl next to me is having a Hollywood starlet side-sweep which looks lush, if incongruous with her jeans and jumper. I guess she’s going home to change.

 

The prices are reasonable with a 15-minute manicure or make-up costing £15 and the 30 minute blow-dries all around the £25 mark. The focus is definitely on “express” here and my lovely stylist, Ronnie, moves at the speed of light while never appearing to cut corners. He says that they’re already experiencing an evening rush from about 4pm as office-types pour through the glass doors to get ready for their night out.

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 08.43.27My very short nails, painted by Simeon, have four coats applied impressively quickly but I have to ask for a cotton bud and some polish remover to do a quick tidy-up on both thumbs before I leave. The polish still looks good on Monday, only starting to chip and look tatty by Tuesday.

 

While my nails dry, Ronnie washes and conditions my hair and gets to work with a round brush and Velcro rollers. Within 30 minutes even my impossibly thick thatch is transformed into the kind of bouncing bouffe you’d more usually see swooshing along on top of Kate Middleton.

 

Make-up choices include day, evening and party looks – the latter in this case seems to mean red lips. I haven’t booked a make-up session but they’re happy for me to go downstairs to put a bit of slap on to go with my new look.

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 08.43.06I’d definitely book in for another session here if I’ve got a big night out planned. It’s the perfect opportunity to have an expert whip you into shape without paying the earth. The drizzle did its best to ruin Ronnie’s bouffing but the megaton of Elnette I insisted on before leaving kept it bouncing and sleek throughout my evening. And judging by the Patsy Stone-style fridge downstairs stocked with champagne, it’s the kind of joint you could turn up to with a bunch of friends and start your night early. If you’re not in London, I don’t think it’ll be long before there’s a Blow Ltd popping up in a town near you.

 

Blow Ltd is at 8 Slingsby Place, London WC2E 9AB. Website: www.blowltd.com

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