Thursday, 9 July 2009

Accidental Drinks: The Absolut Ice Bar, Mayfair

Aren't we all glad that terrible hot thing called summer has passed? Phew! Two weeks of moderate warmth during which we collapsed on tubes, sweated in the streets and whinged about the lack of air conditioning in our offices. In countries where they have such proper weather as standard, citizens would've probably reached for a second jumper. Here in London the most shockingly scanty and inappropriate attire appeared; items you would no more wear on a beach than to the office under normal conditions. Fans were fought over and window seats on buses provoked horrifying skirmishes.

Nestled in a Mayfair side-street however, some Accidental friends and I have found a refuge for the sweaty Londoner, or even the severely lost polar bear. Absolut Ice Bar (and here I will leave the corporate prefix, sorry Absolut), lurks in a corner of hidden Heddon Street, just of Regent Street. On entering "Zero Below" there is a standard-looking restaurant and bar, nothing remotely different from any other bar in the city, but move towards a strange doorway to the back however and a rather different drinking experience waits. In front of a set of plastic drapes, creepily similar to those concealing entrances to butchers' store rooms or abattoirs, stands a man who looks a little like a wardrobe master from a production of Dr. Zhivago. Sizing up drinkers in a second he hurtles large blue, hooded cloaks over their heads, pulling the fake-fire trims up around their surprised faces. All are ordered to stuff their fingers into matching blue padded mittens which makes it pretty tough to do anything which requires the use of one's fingers thereafter.
Wander through the ominous plastic curtain, and you find yourself in a chilly bunker, a collaborative effort between a vodka company and the famous Scandinavian Ice Hotel. Currently the Ice Bar is carved into a "factory concept" bar, full of vast icy cogs and wheels, flashing lights, big red Do-Not-Touch buttons and hazard signs. Every 6 months however, as is possible with an interior scheme made entirely of water, the bar is remodeled with a different theme.
Due to the extreme chilliness visitors to the Ice Bar have to book timed tickets in advance, but the booking fee includes the hire of the delightful blue cloaks, one's first cocktail (Absolut vodka-based naturally) and also one's first ice glass. Everything truly is made of ice, except the barmen who looked as if they'd formerly mixed cocktails for Scott on his last Arctic expedition. The Accidental chums and I lined up for our cocktails, picking the ones with spiced apple juice mixers, attempting to warm ourselves up by any means possible.

To avoid any tricky bottom-adhering-to-ice moments the bar is standing room only. Huddled in a group (conserving body heat!) we sipped our undoubtedly yummy cocktails and stared around at the flashing lights and the stunningly large amounts of, well, ice. Other drinkers clustered similarly, taking chilly photos with bare fingers, before rushing to put on their furry gloves once more.

Our allotted 45 minute timed slot was certainly enough (indeed the clipboard wielding woman on the door praised our stamina as we left!), as was the single drink in its hollowed-out icicle receptacle. After comparing who had the hottest lips, i.e. who'd managed to melt away the most of their ice glass, we all burst back out of the enormous fridge to have our cloaks ripped off us by Zhivago's valet. Blinking in the sunshine, and comparatively boiling heat, we headed off in search of a nice warm meal, as the thermometer continued to rise.

Absolut Ice Bar (31-33, Heddon Street, Mayfair, London) - for ice, icy drinks and shiny blue shell-suit cloaks!

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