Relaxation and fruity cocktails at Barking pop up spa and bar

It’s a lovely, warm Friday evening at the borough’s quirky, new pop-up bar and spa the Barking Bathhouse.

With a canopy of cucumbers above me, I feel my ‘end of the week’ achey muscles relaxing as masseuse Elena Klein works her magic on my back and neck.

Nearby a group of 20-somethings sit around one of the bar’s simple wooden tables enjoying some fruity cocktail concoctions made from locally grown produce.

The Barking Bathhouse, in Axe Street, is certainly not your average spa. When you first walk in to the temporary wooden building you’re struck by its industrial, rough-around the edges feel - not exactly what you’d associate with relaxation.

But the laid-back mood of the staff, the clever lighting and the green vegetation that pops up here and there ensure your visit is a stress-free one.

Plus of course it’s difficult not to relax when you’re receiving a wonderful massage by Elena, soaking up the heat of the sauna and catching some rays in the outside sun room.

The two-month project, which forms part of London arts initiative CREATE, aims to give local residents and those from further afield a unique and wallet friendly spa experience.

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But it’s also helping four therapists from Barking and Dagenham to set up their own business by offering rooms in the building rent-free.

Elena, of Blithbury Road, Dagenham, has worked for many years as a masseuse on cruise ships but is now expecting a child and wants to freelance in London.

“Although my time here is only temporary it’s a great way for me to build up my clientele,” she explains. “And the fact I get the space free is fantastic.”

She says the response from clients has been very encouraging: “Most people are bit shocked by the place, because it kind of came from no where and it’s a bit different. But they like it and many want it to stay.”

Nail technician Louise White, of Becontree Avenue, Dagenham, adds: “I’m really glad I got involved in this project. It’s such an interesting idea and it’s a great way to get my business off the ground.”

The Barking Bathhouse, designed by Something & Son, opens Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until mid September. Use of the sauna and ice room costs �2 for borough residents. Treatment costs vary. A number of music and comedy shows take place every weekend. For more information go to