Redefining Cool – Extreme winter drinking at London’s IceBar

by Hope Wisechild


You’ve seen Lapland’s IceHotel on television, you’re intrigued by the thought of staying there overnight, and yet… you can’t quite gather up the resolve to move away from the fire and do something about it.

Well, if you’re living in or visiting London this winter, you could sample modern ice living in less than an hour. IceBar by IceHotel provides a 40-minute experience including a cocktail served in a hollowed-out ice cube.

At a consistent 5º below zero, and with a £13-£16 entry fee, this is an attraction rather than a place to arrange to meet friends, yet Londoners who’ve known about it since 2005 keep going back. So what’s going on?

The original ice bar is at the IceHotel in Jukkasjärvi, on the banks of the wild Torne River in Swedish Lapland, but the idea of taking the experience to the city soon led to the IceBar Stockholm.

The London bar’s current directors had already chosen pedestrianised Heddon Street, off London’s bustling Regent Street, for their new cocktail bar when they visited Stockholm’s IceBar and were smitten.

Perhaps it’s their passion to recreate its welcoming atmosphere and delicious cocktails as well as the challenging ambient temperature that makes it such an irresistible treat.

With the exception of non-slip metal floors. the environment, including chairs, tables, walls and bar, is all hewn from specially imported, crystalline, pure ice from the Torne River and redesigned twice a year.

This season’s theme is by Jens Thoms Ivarsson and Mikheal “Nille’ Nillson, who use lighting and 34 tons of ice to explore the concept of architecture, creating the ambience of a slick, relaxed city loft apartment decorated with ice-carved architectural drawings. Cool, up-to-the-minute sounds complete the effect.

Before you pass through the airlock, what they call ‘Designer thermals’ are provided for you – actually a festive-looking blue cape with a fur-trimmed hood and special gloves. Pleasingly daft, they certainly do the job more conveniently that changing into your Damarts.

A drink occasionally slides off the slick surface of an ice table, and you’ll probably start shivering after about half-an-hour, but it all adds to the fun in this grown-up grotto, and the staff (also only allowed to stay for 40 minutes at a time) are efficient and witty yet laid-back.

Make a night of it with cocktails in the waiting area, a reasonably-priced top-up in the ice bar itself, and a warming cocktail in the snug leather sofaed Wolf Bar to get your circulation back.

A visit to the adjoining BelowZero restaurant, which more than holds its own as a West End eatery, completes the evening, and look out for special offer packages. Or children are also welcome, making it a fun afternoon excursion. You can book in advance from the website.

If you’re one of those people who likes to pinch a glass as a souvenir (you know who you are) be warned – you could end up with a chilly puddle in the bottom of your bag.


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