The search to find the best of Asia in London


“You’re cold because your body’s weak” a woman from northern China with heavily pencilled in eyebrows told me as I lay on her massage table.

It was the kind of abuse I’ve missed. It was of course nothing to do with the fact that it was a cold afternoon and for some reason in England Chinese masseuses insist you undress completely rather than wearing a little pair of pyjamas as you do in China.

I quizzed Jianhua Tang, the Shanghainese manager of Dr China at 415 North End Road, Fulham, about this and she responded by saying “human resources cost more in the UK”.

No kidding. It’s why the massages we ex-expats grew accustomed to having regularly in China cost five times more here. And it’s why I am in pursuit of the best quality, best value massage in London, mentioned here.

Lucky for me, Chinese health shops seem to be springing up all over the place tapping into the vanity of the British X Factor generation.

As I sat drinking tea and chatting about Shanghai after my massage, two guys with hoods and baseball caps who looked like they were going to hold up the shop, enquired about a hair growth serum being sold over the counter, which according to the word on the street “really works”.

I sat mystified as they were informed of the regenerative powers of ginger.

What “really worked” about Dr China for me was the authentic verbal abuse, the mushy Mando-pop being played in the massage room and the plastic cup of tea leaves and hot water afterwards.

An hour’s massage is £45. They also offer acupuncture from £28 a session and cupping for £15.

Meanwhile, if you want to feel like you are getting a massage on holiday in Thailand (think Koh Tao rather than Koh Samui) head to Singhra Thai at 391 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich.

I went there on the recommendation of reader EQ. A one-hour massage also costs £45 and similarly no pyjamas are provided.

The mood created by the authentic-smelling oil and the piped in music was only interrupted by the fire alarm outside which beeped intermittently to remind someone to change the batteries.

You get a good kneeing and elbowing for your money and the fake flowers add a thrifty Asian charm.

So the next challenge is to find decent Chinese food in London. Jianhua Tang says there is none and I’m tempted to agree with her.

Any recommendations for where a girl can get a decent mapo dofu?




The cold turkey of a Chinese massage junkie


Standing in a room in a basement in Shepherd’s Bush this week stripping in front of a stranger, I thought “Hmm, I wouldn’t have done this before I went to China”.


It’s not that I have fallen down on my luck or chosen to supplement my income.


It was all in the name of finding a good massage.


I lamented with an NLE (Never Left England) friend recently that you cannot find a decent, good value massage parlour in London and he stared blankly at me, before his jaw sank and he wore the ‘You’ve changed’ expression that is becoming familiar.

“At one point I looked behind to see that my guy with his elbow in my shoulder blade had a mobile phone in his hand that he was straining to look at”


But the fact is that cushy expat lifestyles in China revolve around pampering and massage.


I’m not ashamed to say I went for a massage most weeks and once on a particularly stressful day went for a foot massage in my lunch break. I’ve been slathered in oil and cupped. I’ve been covered in seaweed, sanded down and massaged by a blind man. But generally, I was put in a pair of oriental pyjamas so I looked like something from The Mikado, and then pushed and prodded all over for an hour. A full body Chinese massage cost £8.

The 'Mute's Gate' to 'Wind Mansion' needs opening my Traditional Chinese Medicine instinct tells me

One of the few low points came when my friend and I found that our favourite place was full and we dashed to another, untested establishment looking for a hit. The smell of sandalwood and jasmine made us hopeful, the soothing pipe music even more so. But a short while after we lay down side by side and two young guys walked in, we heard them discussing our bodies to each other in Mandarin. At one point I looked behind to see that my guy with his elbow in my shoulder blade had a mobile phone in his hand that he was straining to look at.


But over time, I became hooked on massages.


And to cope with life back in London after four years in Shanghai I need to find somewhere I can go to re-up.


Ideally I’m looking for a Chinese lady who isn’t afraid to use her elbow on my spine and doesn’t shy away from cracking my neck – the one, two, three, jerk move that looks like it might be used to kill a turkey but releases a rush of endorphins.


I need someone who can dig her thumbs into the back of my head, will hit me on the head with the bottom of a clenched fist and forcibly separate my vertebrae. And hell, I’ll take an eyebrow stroke and earlobe tickle for good measure if it’s going. Is it really too much to ask?