It is with a degree of trepidation that I enter the new Pedi: Mani: Cure Studio by Bastien Gonzalez at The Landmark Mandarin's Oriental Spa in Hong Kong. My feet haven't seen the inside of a beauty salon for months.
The man behind the studio-within-a-spa is in hot demand, accustomed to exercising his craft on celebrities, sheikhs and a dedicated following of clientele. Stars book months in advance for his services. Gonzalez has massaged Robert de Niro's feet. He has sliced Naomi Campbell's calluses. He jets around the world, splitting his time between his native Paris, New York, London and Dubai.
He greets my shameful feet with a large smile. 'I like a challenge,' he says. And so begins a pedicure with a mission. 'A true pedicure is about curing the foot,' Gonzalez explains, as he sets to work with his sterilised kit, holistic ethos and podiatry know-how.
The latter was acquired after a ski accident at 18 left him in intensive physiotherapy for months. For five days a week for six months, he set to work on his injured knee. A fascination with proper alignment - notably in ski boots - was born, and Gonzalez set his sights on podiatry training.
By the age of 23, he had opened his first podiatry office in Paris, and it wasn't long before he was involved with the celebrity set.
'The idea of this treatment is to give an education to people,'' he says, as he warns of the perils of not fully drying your feet when the toenails have been damaged, allowing fungus to creep in. He is also an advocate of not clipping nails too deep, and keeping them square. He then cleans the nails with a diamond-dusted drill.
Gonzalez prefers to work on dry skin, and although he has developed a line of varnishes, he is wary of over-painting your toes. One of his main tools is a chamois leather buffer, which he uses to bring a natural shine (thanks to some mother-of-pearl buffing cream) to the toes. His narrative includes core advice on keeping the nails healthy. 'Clean the nails,'' he stresses, as he gouges out dried soap and dirt. He recommends a toothbrush to carry out the task at home.
'Calluses mean neglect,' he explains. He is against pedicures, which are aggressive on this front, stressing moisture is key to keeping the foot clear of this particular calluses.
He also gives some basic advice for Asian climates: talcum powder is key in fighting humidity.
The final step is the massage. His hands glide over the feet and legs like butter. There is pressure where it is warranted, as well as gentle twists and turns that put the average pedicure to shame. My feet come out of the experience with a renewed vigour.
The Bastien duo (hands and feet) treatment costs HK$1,500 and lasts 75 minutes, while the Bastien Pedicure, (60 minutes), is HK$990. The studio also offers other treatments, including a manicure (45 minutes/ HK$790, and a foot or hand massage for HK$690).
Gonzalez also his own line of products which are on sale at the spa, including a scrub made of black diamond (HK$910/200ml) and a silky talcum powder infused with sage and cypress (HK$380/50g).
The Oriental Spa at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen's Road Central. Tel 2132 0011