What do you want from a hair & beauty salon? The answer of course is usually more than you get. It puzzles me, that given a girl's hair is her crowning glory, why so many hair stylists seem determined to dethrone us?
If you could list your fantasy salon what would your list include? A palace of pampering? A wide range of treatments in glamorous surroundings that won't send you broke? A salon that leaves you looking and feeling fabulous with a look you can without the need of a mass of product or effort? Experienced stylists and beauticians who know how to make you look and feel beautiful and aren't too grand listen to what you want without argument or attitude?
If you answered yes to two or more of the above, L'Etoile Elite Hair and Beauty is the salon you are looking for. Housed in one of Sydney's magnificent heritage buildings on George Street, beside Martin Place near the Ivy, the salon boasts some of Sydney's most elite stylists and beauticians in what can only be described as a jaw droopingly spectacular salon of vast airy proportions in heritage colours with a relaxed European atmosphere. The high ceilings diffuse the busy noise of dryers so you can actually hear yourself think and the decor is sumptuous and elegant without being fussy.
But perhaps the best part is the price. If you join their Black Unlimited Member's Club for $299 you can enjoy a wash and blow dry in their massage chairs for $30 - a price rarely matched even in outer suburbia. Another benefit of the L'étoile Elite club is the free keratin treatments which normally costs $500 in this part of town, especially if like me your hair is long. I don't believe anyone in Sydney can match that price. It seemed to good to be true but Eddie Azzi reassured me that I can have as many keratin treatments a year as I wished for no extra charge whatsoever whenever I came to the salon for a trim or a colour.
From the moment you enter the columned marble grandeur of the salon you feel glamorous. It is exclusive without being daunting. I always feel like I've had a mini break in Paris after an afternoon at L'étoile Elite (without the crippling cost of the airfare).
I arrived in Sydney from London a few years ago and only found this prince of salons after far too many encounters with a lot of overpriced frogs, who often left me feeling as if they were doing me a favour in styling my tresses or deigning to do my nails. I don't suppose I am easy to please. I know what I want, I am immune to flattery or persuasion and I don't buy product. I prefer to have my hair washed and blow dried in the salon which at the $35 L'étoile charge means I can satisfy my champagne tastes on my cheap plonk budget. And given that even my grotty local salon charges $50 for a wash and blow dry using cheap shampoo and conditioner I have made L'étoile my go to one stop beauty and hair spot. To be honest, at $35 for a wash and blow dry and free keratin treatments, it would cost more maintaining my own hair at home when you consider the price of quality shampoo and expensive product involved and that's before you consider the cost of a worthwhile blowdryer.
What I especially like about the professional level of service offered by the staff at L'étoile is that they are happy to assist and offer advice, but they are equally quite used to busy, wealthy women who know what they want and expect to have it delivered without a "we know better than you" attitude. Even the most senior stylist isn't too grand to wash your hair if the juniors are busy. They correctly presume every customer has better things to do than sit around reading OK magazine, though I admit to enjoying flicking through the pages of Hello and sipping my latte while I have my hair blow dried.
The beauty area is a silent sanctuary tucked discreetly at the back where you can chose from a large menu of massage and skin treatments, from the classical to the latest high science-high tech variety. It is the ultimate indulgence spending an hour of two having my entire body beautified and pampered before delivering myself up to my weekly wash and blow dry. At my age, I no longer see it as an indulgence but a necessary part of making myself business ready to face the week.
The stylists here are travelled and relaxed and the magazines are current. Their clientele ranges from the barristers and business men and women from the chambers and offices in the city, to tourists from the nearby Westin & Four Seasons Hotels along with the usual smattering of A-listers and celebrities who appreciate the quality and discretion of service here. Having said that, many of the women who pass through are housewives from the suburbs visiting the city for a spoil and a pamper. Everyone gets the same VIP treatment.
This is a large elegant salon with room to breathe and a relaxed atmosphere in which everyone is made to feel special not just the regulars. There is nothing worse than entering a new salon and feeling like you don't measure up; I know this having experienced it first hand when I first arrived in Sydney and endured the patronising treatment of trendy stylists looking down their pierced noses at me.
So yes, I have finally discovered my hair and beauty haven, my delicious escape and I'm sharing my Secret Sydney only because L'étoile Elite has so much room and so many stylists that I am not afraid of my haven becoming over-subscribed.
I agree the staff were great, and very friendly but for what I had done, color,wash and style, I was gobsmacked at the price. (Half a weeks wages for me) You definitely have to be rich to have your hair done there. Having said that I was visiting Sydney so won't be back any time soon.