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Ice Ice Baby
Absolut Ice Bar (London)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Absolut Ice Bar (London)
Advantages: The experience, vodka cocktails
Disadvantages: Pricey evening.
When the opportunity to visit London's Ice Bar (I don't believe Absolut sponsor it anymore) came up I jumped at the chance. It is apparently run by the people who operate Sweden's Ice Hotel. The Ice Hotel being quite a pricey short trip, I thought a compromise, with a visit to the Ice Bar, would do until the lottery win happens. The Ice Bar is the UK's only permanent bar made of ice and is regulated at -5 C. You go in for 40 minute time slots wearing special thermal capes and gloves.
I arrived at the venue on Heddon Street (just round the back of Regent St South) and was greeted on the door. It is advisable to book which my friend had done, so I just gave the party name and someone escorted me to the restaurant downstairs where we were meeting and I was shown to our table. We had a large square table in a corner and it was a nice private space. The restaurant wasn't particularly busy for 7.30 on a Friday night. I perused the drinks menu and noted it to be quite pricey. Cocktails start at £8.30 and wine from £17. A friend and I decided to share a bottle of Chilean Chardonnay-Sauvignon at £17.50. We agreed to all buy drinks separately to avoid the potential awkwardness of splitting the bill when some people may not have drunk as much as others. They bar staff were happy to do this and seemed used to large parties having separate tabs. A service charge of 12.5% was automatically added.
We had decided to order some nibbles to share before we went up to the ice bar (we had a booked slot for 8.45 pm). We had olives and feta, root vegetable crisps (all £2.50), meatballs, a chorizo dish, a chilli prawn dish (most people's favourite - had a bit of a kick to it I understand) which were £6 each. In addition there were a few veggie mini pizzas - cheese and tomato, cheese and red pepper - and tempura vegetables with a garlic mayo dip. The tempura onion rings were divine and interestingly they had tempura avocado which was a new one on me. To be honest it didn't gain anything for being in tempura batter. I didn't see either of these latter items on the menu, so cannot comment on their prices as we split the food bill.
At out allotted time to go into the Ice Bar we were collected and escorted back up to the ground floor where we could bypass the queue. We told to stand still while they threw the thermal cape over us, which has a little hood to it and we stuck our hands through the flaps and could wear the gloves (on elastic). The Ice Bar is not a large room but suitably busy that we didn't really appreciate a lot of the ice work until we were leaving and the place had thinned out. The floor is non-slip metal and a tad on the sticky side. I wasn't cold during our 40 minute session but I had deliberately worn boots, I think if you wore more open shoes you would feel it. The only bit that got slightly cold was my wrist poking out from between the end of the glove and pocket of the cape. We handed our drink token in and chose our cocktail which came in a little chunky square ice glass. I would recommend you rotate which side you drink from as otherwise it starts to melt on one edge and then you look like you are dribbling which is never a good look. For my first drink I chose the Park Lane which is vodka, blue curacao, lychee juice and lemon juice. It was a very nice drink, slightly sweet but not overly so. It is not a large drink but fairly strong. For my refill (£6.50) I asked for a recommendation from the bartender and she suggested the Icebar London drink which she claimed tasted like apple crumble - and she was right! It contained vanilla vodka, blackberry liqueur, apple juice and cinnamon syrup. It was a tad on the too sweet side if I am honest. Non-alcoholic cocktail refills are £3. As well as vodka cocktails (the majority) they did offer rum, bourbon, tequila and gin based ones. Champagne ones were available for a supplement of £4
Prices are as follows (40 minute session with thermal cape/gloves includes a free drink and ice glass):
Sun-Weds (all afternoon/evening) and Thurs-Fri Afternoons: £14 (£12.50 in advance)
Thurs-Fri Evening (from 6.30pm) and all afternoon/evening Saturday - £16
On Fri/Sat at 8pm there is champagne session for £24 which includes a champagne drink and drink of your choice.
After the ice bar we moved up to the main ground floor bar where the staff had reserved another table for us, as they advised that the restaurant would get quiet and there would be more atmosphere here. I decided to try a cocktail and went for an apple mojito. Unlike a conventional mojito, which is Bacardi based, this one is made with vodka, apple liqueur, apple juice, mint, and fresh apple and lime. It did taste a bit mojito like - I suspect that is the sugar and mint. For £8.30 (plus service charge) I did get a large cocktail and a long drink. I assume you may avoid the service charge if you go to the bar yourself, but as waiting staff are milling around all the time, you would probably by waylaid before you got there.
The only toilets I saw were downstairs near the restaurant. The Ladies' facilities were modern and clean, with speedy hand-dryers.
The Ice Bar is open seven days a week, but restaurant meals are only Tues-Sat, although I understand that nibbles and small plates are available all the time. If you are visiting the Ice Bar I advise booking - firstly because it can be popular at peak times and secondly because it can be cheaper if you are coming off-peak.
Overall I really enjoyed my evening and found the staff attentive and professional, the décor and ambience pleasant. They played Funky- House type music in the background, more for atmosphere, rather than dancing, it certainly wasn't loud enough to intrude on conversations. I noticed a few mid-week offer signs, so this is something to consider - more information will be on their website. You are in central London so prices are at a premium, overall I don't think I had much change from £50 once I'd paid my admission, food and drinks so it won't be the cheapest night out you ever had. For a fun night out with a difference I think it is worth doing and I am glad I tried it, although I don't feel the need to go back. I understand the design of the bar changes twice a year.
Summary: A night out with a difference