Located next to the Jo Malone counter on the ground floor of Manchester’s central branch of Selfridges, Blink provides a range of decadent beauty treatments to the city’s glitterati. Regular clients can book in for a session, or – if you’re more opportunistically minded – you can do as I did, and try your luck by turning up on spec and smiling widely.
It was that time between Christmas and New Year where everyone’s still a little full from feasting and no-one really knows what day it is. I had an hour to kill before the boy returned from watching his beloved City play. My arms were laden with bargain-stuffed shopping bags, and my nails – well, as usual, my nails sucked. I’d stumbled across Blink earlier, while idly googling for the “best manicure in Manchester”, but hesitated before making an appointment. Luckily for my cuticles, the universe was on my side that day, and the smartly-dressed team found a gap in their bookings.
“I’m free now, if you like?” said the smiley, dark-haired beautician who stepped to the counter when I asked about nail treatments. I had the choice of a Polish and Go, priced at £17, or a full blink Manicure which would set me back £30.
“It depends on the state of your cuticles, really,” she mulled as I held up my hands for inspection. “The £30 one takes longer, but we do more shaping and cuticle care…”
“Probably the £30 one, then,” I admitted. It had been your standard-issue family Christmas and although hugely enjoyable, my nail beds had not come out the other side unscathed.
This was my first time having a manicure outside of packaged-deals as part of day spa retreats, so I was a little unsure of what to expect – especially when the beautician asked me to pay up front. She spotted my microsecond-long hesitation, and explained: “That way you don’t have to fiddle with your purse afterwards, when your nails are painted…” This attention to detail really impressed me – it might be standard practise for nail bars, but I’d never thought about it before. I relaxed, and knew my crappy excuses for fingers would be in safe hands.
We stood in front of the wall of OPI colours: she pointed at various options she liked, while I gazed blankly, overwhelmed by choice. In the end I chose a nude/grey shade which she recommended and a few days later, I realised I should have asked what the name of the polish was. I’m a terrible beauty blogger. If you go to the exact same Blink bar, it’s the pinkish grey on the bottom right hand side of the display. Helpful?
Back in Selfridges, I hopped up onto the stool and she went to work. I’ll draw a curtain over exactly what was involved to get my nails into shape.
Once my nails had been coerced into something looking a little more human and my cuticles had been massaged, buffed and oiled (with Essie’s apricot cuticle treatment – I’ve since invested in my own bottle) she started applying the colour in quick, confident, neat slicks.
The location of my chair meant I was able to watch a succession of happy customers have their eyebrows threaded, coloured and coaxed into shape by Blink’s small army of beauticians, while I also enjoyed the delicious scents wafting over from Jo Malone. I was the only person sat at the nail counter that day, but the rest of Selfridges’ basement was abuzz with sales goers hunting down bargain-priced beauty from nearby counters laden with goodies.
While I daydreamed about cut-price cosmetics my technician cracked on, methodically working across each nail, and almost before I knew it she was pulling out a bottle of Seche Vite top coat for the final touches. I’d thought Blink was tightly tucked up in bed with OPI, so asked about the variety of brands in use: she explained that Blink choose OPI for colour, and a selection of different products for topcoats and care depending on how good they are. She also revealed that Essie and Seche Vite are actually owned by the same company – who knew? (not me. Strike two.)
The clear glaze of top coat was applied as dextrously as the colour, and I was ready to go – just as soon as I’d spent a few minutes lounging in a bucket chair, happily wafting my freshly-painted fingers under Blink’s marvellously retro nail drier. I couldn’t turn the pages of the copy of Vogue sat on the counter in front of me, despite trying to channel Matilda, but there was plenty to keep my magpie mind occupied.
When the nail technician returned a few minutes later to pronounce my fingernails safe to leave, I hopped out of the chair, strolled to the escalator and rode back up to the busy streets of Manchester, beaming at my hands every time I opened a door or whipped out my cards to pay for yet another bargain.
Three days later, I headed off to Marrakech for a week of rummaging through dusty markets, devouring tagines with bread and getting scrubbed down in hammam spas – and my nails still looked awesome (see below). Thanks, Blink – you’re my new hand heroes, and I might just make a trip to your bar into a regular treat.