January 27, 2016
Having opened ten years ago in the heart of London, it seemed high time for us to return on offer our thoughts on what is perhaps viewed by locals as a London novelty. Just how cold would it be and it is worth a visit?
Upon arriving at the Ice Bar, you’ll find yourself rather shocked that it is located where it is. Taking a side road off Regent’s Street, the venue itself is located at the end of a small cul-de-sac of small restaurants, which also includes the non-sub-zero part of the establishment. We’re not sure who this part of the business is aimed at – why would you visit the Ice Bar and not experience the ice part? – but it appeared like a smartly laid out wine bar, with comfy chairs and a number of visitors.
What we were interested in though, was the cold cavern to the right of the main area, where an assistant told us to take off our glasses before throwing over a specially made poncho. Without so much as a pause, he then pressed a button, the door flung themselves open to his left and we stepped on into an area the size of a small lift. The wall on the other side soon made way and we walked on into the Ice Bar itself. It's all very modern, which you can't say of every venue in London!
It’s very hard to describe exactly what it’s like to walk into an Ice Bar because to be honest, it’s exactly as it sounds. It’s a bar made of ice. There you go! But it’s still a peculiar position to find yourself in with twenty or so others all milling about at the same time as you. All dressed in the same strange Inuit-esque costume as you and all just as fascinated by the fact everything is made of ice. If anything, it’s a call back to years gone by – nobody wants a selfie in the Ice Bar! Everybody is passing around their phones asking if you can take a photo of themselves against the cool carved backdrops.
The Ice Bar changes its aesthetic every year and this time round, it’s gone for a rock and roll feel with a couple of ice skulls (including one six footer), a rockstar mural and the opportunity to stand behind your very own ice drumkit and ice guitar! Well, until somebody else pops along behind you asking if you can now take a photo of them behind the ‘instruments’ instead. And all the while, your feet are getting colder…
So it’s time for a drink! Every visitor to the Ice Bar gets a cocktail included and you’re allowed to pick from a fair number of concoctions. Is bourbon your tipple of choice or maybe you’re more of a Vodka drinker? There’s sure to be at least one drink to take your fancy. Due to the conditions, you don’t get to see the extravagant cocktail making display you’ll find in a number of London hubs, but there’s still some novelty to be had – your glass is made out of ice and what’s more fun than that?
After sitting down on the Ice Bar throne or in the Ice Bar booth, you down your drink and there’s not a lot more to be done. You probably won’t want to hold an event here all evening (we can’t imagine any of our musical acts being able to perform to their best in such conditions) but it’s a fascinating experience and perfect for a one off evening that encompasses the entire space with a small number of guests being allowed in every half hour or so. Really though, forty minutes is just about the right amount of time to spend there so the organisers have it just right. As you return to the land of the living, you’ll be grateful to feel the conditions outside (even our visit in January had us sighing at the relative warmth of the cold night air) and all that’s left to do is to remark about what a cool experience it was.
Ultimately, it’s an extremely fun thing to do in London that won’t break the bank and more than surpasses its novelty beginnings. You’ll be glad you visited but you probably won’t feel the need to return for a number of years. Even so, to steal a famous slogan - Ice Bar. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
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By Henry Fosdike