Here’s my review of Swanky Lash & Brow Bar, Portobello Road
I don’t go to salons for manicures very often. When somebody does my nails for me it’s usually at a beauty event. Having been painting my nails for some 22 plus years I’ve got the process down to a fine art. As my dear mother reads this she will no doubt be recollecting the time I first painted my nails with a Victoria Plum nail polish from a set I got for Christmas. “Wait until we’re up to use it!” was the cautionary advice my mother offered to the young lady keen to appear a little older in her beauty habits. Did I listen? Of course not! The end result? My parents having to rearrange the lounge so that the rug covered the pinky-plummy stain I’d left on the carpet!
When I received my invite to go to check out Swanky Lash & Brow Bar and have a manicure, I jumped at the chance. The established branch of Kensal Rise has been joined by a new offering on Portobello Road, the Ladbroke Grove end. The area has undergone a massive transformation since I was last there and has adopted a trendy village vibe with independent coffee shops and quirky boutiques.
I wish I’d been as fast to the salon as I had been to my front room all those years ago as I was over half an hour late for my appointment. As a PR I know how annoying and frustrating this is and how rude it looks! Unfortunately there was nothing I could do, I’d just had one of those mornings… And unfortunately but deservedly I had to pay my penance and wait in line due to walk ins.
Swanky Lash & Brow Bar is certainly a popular hit with the locals of W10/11 and even early on a weekday morning it was chockablock! It has a massive loyal customer base which includes several celebrity names including Caprice and Sienna Miller. I don’t spot any celebs during my visit but all of Swanky’s clients are very glam and hip.
The salon itself is immaculate. White, airy with big beautiful mirrors elegantly hung on the wall, their frames as well as the dressing tables painted white. The seats are a tasteful muted elephant grey with floral scatter cushions of cream, grey and highlight pink spersed about the place. Beautiful flower arrangements bedeck the counter by the window, in the centre of which is an ornate, Moroccan style brass sink.
Whilst waiting I choose my nail colour. I opted for a Butter London colour, as I’ve not had a manicure with this brand before and I’ve been eager to try it. The colour itself is called Brummie, a slight pearlised lilacy-purple. I’ve heard mixed things about Butter, from beauty pros and joe public alike. As regulars will know my favourite clean nail polish brands are OPI (which Swanky is also well stocked in!) and relatively new find Zoya. Donia later reassures me that Butter is a fabulous brand.
Scrap Brummie, as soon as the wonderfully dynamic Donia sits down with me we almost instantly decide that I shouldn’t go for purple! I’d already been talking myself out of it as I waited -“you always have purple nails, Rebecca why not have something different?” – and upon receiving this information Donia promptly picked out some hot colours which we swatched on my nails.
I had been eyeing up the gorgeous bright orangey-coral of the lady next to me, but in the end I plumped for green! Somewhere between jade and emerald, a real standout colour that has gone on so beautifully my nails look fake! Sonia’s also done a super job of shaping them – square oval with rounded edges – which adds to the fake-realness! Whilst Butter is a US brand, they’ve definitely had some consultancy on the polish names-Brummie and my final choice is called Slapper!
As we get talking it transpires that Donia (which really should be spelt Dounia) is an Arabic word which means “world”. Donia is Moroccan, from Fez originally, although her accent is London through and through; she’s been here since age 6. She never thought she’d end up in the beauty industry, having worked in various careers, the last one financial recruitment in the city. Fed up of being surrounded by men, Donia found the polar environment of the salon a welcome and refreshing change. But the salon is not just for the ladies, a guy comes in for a MANicure whilst I am waiting for my nails to dry. After reading that grooming sales increased by 31% from March to April this year I believe this sighting of man in beauty salon is only going to become more common.
As we near the end of the manicure, which included a nourishing oil treatment with a blend of rose, chamomile and other skin-loving ingredients, followed by a gentle scrub over the sink, Donia suggests I get my eyebrows done. I eagerly agree. Everytime I get my eyebrows done professionally I wonder why I don’t get them done more often and this time is no exception. Threading is undoubtedly the best method of tidying up brows; quick, painless and effective. This time I also got a tint which means no more colouring in my brows when I wear makeup-they’re already there!
Donia didn’t think my tint was dark enough, whilst I could tell the difference on my face, she could not! So another brief spell in the chair left me with perfect brows. Must keep this beauty habit up, it makes the face look so polished and picture perfect!
Although not a 100% natural and organic salon, I was impressed by the number of natural-based products on the nail station and they are also a stockist of Antonia Burrell organic skincare, a brand that is on my radar but I am yet to try.
I’m notoriously bad at keeping manicures perfect for any reasonable length of time, so I was pleasantly surprised that this one lasted a week and a half and now it just has a couple of minor chips hardly noticeable to others. I’m looking forward to returning to the salon for a pedicure very soon, watch out for that post! Maybe I’ll plump for an orange colour on my toes then. Have you visited either of the Swanky Lash & Brow Bars? If so, I’d love to hear from you so why not leave a comment below, Facebook me
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Biteable Beauty went to –
Swanky Lash & Brow Bar Portobello Road
335 Portobello Rd, London, W10 5SA. 020 8969 7580
For a Classic Manicure (£18) and an eyebrow threading and tinting (£6 and £10)
For north Londoners there is another branch –