As a family unit we don't really 'do' bars and pubs much. My younger, but legally old enough to drink, brother is the fiercest opponent to drinking with family. Still of the age where drinking alcohol is with the sole purpose of getting bladdered, he sees no point in going for a drink in a bar with the 'rents. I'm slightly older and consider myself in that one regard, slightly kinder. When my parents were on a day trip from Portsmouth to London I defied my sibling's wishes to leave my parents in the dark about London's nightlife and dragged them, unawares to Ice Bar London.
I kept it a secret until we arrived at the destination, so they were surprised when we were greeted at the entrance with thermal fur-lined coats and gloves. At first my mum was horrified that she wasn't dressed appropriately. The lady attending the door and greeting customers assured her that her boots were fine and that the coats would keep her cosy. Once that hurdle was over with the excitement kicked in.
They were in a bar, a London bar, and not just any bar, a bar whose interior is made entirely of ice. Pardon the pun, but this was 'cool', by anyone's standards, and as my sixty-something parents slunk smugly through the entrance and headed to the bar, their faces said it all. They were very impressed indeed. No sooner had we been given our drinks, my father had spotted the small area of seating in the corner of the room, beelined for it, and popped himself down. Insisting it was more fun to 'watch' when seated, and terrified of another group of visitors who were clearly eyeballing the seats, he remained glued to the chair for the entire 45 minute session. The sensation of being in what is essentially an ice chamber is certainly unusual and my dad seemed to think of it like an attraction in which, much to my amusement, he took on the role of both commentator and spectator. Myself and my mother mingled in a duo around the room looking at the quirky ice sculptures, a mixture of animal theme and London landmarks. The theme at the moment is 'wild in the city'. A giant gorilla head was the most popular of the sculptures, and the two of us eventually fought our way through the buzzing crowd and earned ourselves a snap alongside it. I adjusted my fur hood, feeling sure that this photo would rear its face at the next family get-together.
The three of us were impressed with the drinks menu which had plenty of variety in terms of both spirits and flavours. You get good value for your money, as they certainly pack a punch...even despite the ice cold temperatures, two cocktails in and we were feeling merry. Served in ice glasses that slowly mould to your lips as you sip, it's pretty special. You can swap for a new glass if you want. I'm pretty hot on minimising the damage that I do the environment, so was really pleased to have my conscience regarding the water wastage in this instance eased. It takes 40 tonnes of ice to build the ice bar and all the other icy components, and every drop of that water is from an environmentally friendly source. Its cut out of, and shipped over from the frozen Torne River in Jukkasjärvi, Northern Sweden. Ice Bar London work hard to ensure the sustainability of their concept, and strongly believe in the importance of protecting the environment. In this respect I think that Ice Bar has a better offering to other UK based venues which feature ice sculptures (I heard there were a heap at Winter Wonderland, but to my knowledge none of the water/ice is ecologically sourced). In addition, although the theme of the bar changes frequently enough, the brains behind Ice Bar are respectful of the hard work and creativity that goes into the designs, and the theme changes every few months.
Before we left the ice bar my dad, who is Iranian, said that he would like to go from there to a bar where it was hot and sandy, and you could sit on Persian carpets drinking cold drinks and smoking hookahs (shishas). The coats and gloves are incredibly effective at staving off the cold, but after half an hour or so of sipping from an ice-cup, the lip chill does start to seep in a tad. But that is all part and parcel of the fun, and novelty of the experience.
It may not have been the Sahara dessert but we warmed up in the next best thing, the cosy, not-icy, bar. Friends of mine have said good things about the cocktail menu, and happily, I was not disappointed. I can say with confidence that the cocktail which I had was hands down the best sweet cocktail i've had yet. It was a sweet one, a beveragey-spin on a crumble desert, even topped with crumble topping. I had asked the waiter his favourite and he had highly recommended it to me... and it was a fantastic choice. My dad opted for his favourite- a whisky, and my mum chose a chic cosmopolitan (not one she'd seen on the menu but one which the barman was more than happy to make). The waiters and barman in the warm bar matched the high standards of those in the ice bar, combining knowledge and attentiveness with a friendly demeanour. The bar was chilled and snug, and the three of us whiled the best part of an hour away effortlessly, before drifting off home ward bound, tummies nicely rounded by tasty drinks.
Our favourite things about the ice bar (in dad, mum, myself order respectively).
That crumble cocktail...
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