The evening started with a quick change in the toilets at Paddington Station (haha, classy as ever). I’d snoozed a bit too long that morning (Mondays are always sooo hard for getting up early) and so I hadn’t had time to put together a good desk-to-drinks outfit (post on this coming soon). Instead I threw a change of clothes in my bag ready for the loos and then hot-footed it over to ICEBAR LONDON (I'm not shouting, they just format the name in all caps) which is hidden down a little alleyway off of Regent St, London.
At the entrance, we were given different coloured, rubber wristbands (a throwback to those charity ones everyone used to have at school - black to show you’re in the fight against racism, red against Aids etc). The bands signified what time we were to go into the ICE BAR as it's operated on 40 min time slots due to the sub zero bar temperatures - brrrr! We were also handed an ice breaker (like the pun?) challenge each. A genius move at any mixer event where some people can be shy about approaching others - it gives you an opening line. My paper said ‘find someone who has eaten crickets before’. Sadly I never did find said person but if you have, please leave a comment below! It still counts, I'll tweet Lauren- the challenge never stated an end date!
As we entered, we checked our coats and were immediately invited to help ourselves to a complimentary cocktail, already lined up along the warm bar. I call it the 'warm bar' because, and I didn't know this either, but as well as the famous ice room, ICEBAR LONDON also have a very nice, toasty room temperature bar and a restaurant so that, when you've had all the fun of the ice room, you can still carry on your night in style. I can also attests that the warm bar makes a very mojito a very good mojito indeed. On my way into the bar I spotted Becky of Becky Bedbug, who I’ve spoken to before on Twitter and briefly at other events, so we had a bit of a chin wag about how we didn’t recognise anyone there before heading off to mingle.
With these kind of events it’s best just to sidle up to a group and wait for a gap in the conversation where you can politely introduce yourself and extend a hand. It can seem scary at first and, I’m not gonna lie there is the very, very occasional time, you greeting will be met with a blank stare but nine times out of ten, people are super friendly and more than happy to chat - it’s what they came for after all!
I settled into talking to a friendly bunch who were impressively positioned equidistant from the bar (cocktails here) and the door (canapés here) - no bearing on my choice to wake to this group of course... By the way - I am now officially obsessed with a canapés. ICEBAR had them down to a ‘T’ from bite-sized burgers and bruschetta to mini sausage rolls and salmon, there was no nibble I didn’t enjoy and I really happily could have cleared each platter that came out. Also, god bless the waitress who waited patiently each time she produced a new platter as I and others snapped away, playing with my camera settings (as quickly as I could) to make sure I got a nice shot of all of the deliciousness to show here on my blog.
|Photo credit: RDA Images|
I lost track of time chatting happily with the other girls and after a short while we were invited into the adjacent room for a talk with ICEBAR LONDON's Head of Sale and Marketing, Tom Hunter. Spying seats and tables, I took the opportunity to grab a mushroom risotto which required two free hands to devour - not something I’ve mastered whilst holding a mojito, a handbag, a DSLR and a conversation. I feel like that’s one of those octo-mum, ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ type moves, ya know? The ones only super-mums can master like my friend, Natalie, who can chat, soothe and feed a grizzling baby and neatly consume an entire pub lunch at the same time. There's a reason why I do not have kids yet. I can barely feed myself neatly. Anyway, I digress. - found a chair, ate my risotto (loooved my risotto), listened to Tom.
Terrific Tom, as I’m going to call him here because he was seriously the most enthusiastic and
welcoming blogger event host I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Terrific Tom told us all about how was he was warned off of bloggers and how, being a writer himself, he knew better. He actually writes for Phoenix magazine and their Digital Editor, Molly Flat, (equally lovely and enthusiastic) also spoke inspiringly about the power of blogging and how excited they both are to work with any great writers, regardless of their medium. So, as I said, Tom decided to completely ignore the advice to avoid us bloggers likes the plague and chose to instead welcome us with cocktails, canapés and charisma. And Ice. Lots and lots of beautiful ice. A genius move if you ask me because we’ll all be shouting about the experience from the rooftops for weeks to come.
After the introductions, we returned to mingling (well, some of us went back to the bar but we won’t judge... haha). My new pal, Dani and I paired up to ‘work the room’ together (it’s much easier to walk up to a chatty group in pairs) and began scouring for the friendliest-looking people. Dani had a great theory about spotting the ‘lone wolf’ meaning to scout for someone who looked a little left out to strike up a conversation but pretty much everyone was happily grouped off and chatting away (which was nice, even if it did thwart our tactic).
We ended up awkwardly hovering at the edges of conversations for a while waiting for an opening but, at some point, you just have to bite the bullet, smile widely, stick our your hand and say,‘Hi, I’m Jade, what’s your name?’. The typical exchanges then ensue, ‘what do you blog about?’, ‘how long have you been blogging’, ‘oh wait, your that Amy!! I totally follow you on Twitter!’ and these then give way to more colourful (if somewhat cliché now I think of it, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing) chats about careers, favourite makeup brands, boyfriends and general bemusement about ‘the whole blogging thing’. Oh and periods. I genuinely found myself talking about periods at some point. What can I say?
|Photo credits: RDA Images|
At around 8pm another gaggle of giddy girls returned, excitedly chattering about what they’d witnessed. This could only mean one thing. It was finally my turn in - THE ICEBAR. Btw any time that I write the words 'THE ICEBAR', it’s supposed to be read in a dramatic, deep, booming voice that represents its magnitude. So anyway, as I saying, I was about to enter - THE ICEBAR (duh! duh! duhhh!.) We were ushered into a cloakroom area where we were given, well, cloaks. A little Harry Potter-esque now I come to think of it - a fact which I did not fully appreciate at the time (sad face). After a slightly awkward exchange with the cloakroom attendant during which I apparently failed to understand how to use a neck hole, I was fully kitted out and ready to go in. I glided (I like to think I glided) through the double doors and into THE ICEBAR.
|I look so goofy in this photo. I must have been mid sentence or something! Photo credit: RDA Images|
It's at this point that I should mention that this actually wasn't my first time at ICEBAR LONDON. I'd been once before, may moons ago (as in seven years' worth of moons) for a friend's eighteenth birthday. Great night - tiaras, white stretch limo, the whole shebang (yes we were those girls - and we loved it!). It was a really fun night and I remember thinking how cool it was at the time. Little did I know years later I'd be invited there for free and treated to free cocktails and food, pretty damn cool. Aaaanyway, the point I'm making is that, while I remembered I thought it was pretty cool, that's pretty much all I remembered so I was itching to get back in their and relive it all again. It did not disappoint.
I was immediately struck by the undeniably beautiful blue hue of the ice. Fricking GORGEOUS. The folks at ICEBAR LONDON had take the time to place beatiful blue and pink lights under the ice and the result is breathtaking. I've always said I want blue lights like these around the outside of my
Oh the room. Once a year, the THE ICEBAR is completely dismantled (presumably there is melting involved?) and tonnes of new ice block from the frozen Torne River in Jukkasjärvi, Northern Sweden are shipped in (no it does not just come from 'a tap' somewhere in London as I thought!). This pure, natural origin is what gives the ice its crystal clear transparency. Anything less pure would be cloudy. The Swedish ice blocks are then built up inside the bar and and carved into beautiful designs, ready for us to enjoy. This year's theme is 'ICEBAR LONDON Rocks' and so the bar has been adorned with giant, hand-carved skulls, the biggest of which weighing an incredible metric tonne. There's a life-size electric guitar, an ice throne, pointed studs all around the bar and, most impressively of all, a wondrous wall featuring a beautiful woman with countless rock legends, from Blondie to Bowie, tattoed intricately into her arms. It was really funny to try and spot them all. The detail is incredible. Whichever genius carried out the carving must have used a pin for some parts because the detail is just that precise.
Now I know some of you are wondering - 'but how cold is it'? Honestly, it's really not that bad. I'd say that the 40 minute slot is the perfect amount of time in there (funny that). My fingers were going a bit numb by the time we left but that was only because I kept taking my gloves off to take photo after photo - ski gloves are not DSLR friendly let me tell you. In fact, on entering the room my pal Poppy even commented that she genuinely thought her student house was colder at times. Now, having a been a student myself I can totally relate to a having a cold house (my mother was appalled when she visited my house for the first time) but I'd still say that if that if Poppy's house reaches -5° then I'm very concerned for her health! I forgot to ask her at the end of the session if she still felt the same way. I have a feeling she may have changed her mind. Sipping from glasses made of ice really wasn't uncomfortable at all either, just really, really refreshing. And the cocktails were gooood and very affordable. I highly recommend the We Will Rock You - sweet, strong and similar to a Pornstar Martini without the fizz. Terrific Tom reminded us not to try to keep them as souvenirs - they will melt haha. Clearly people have tried before...
Needless to say, I consider ICEBAR LONDON is a must-see experience at least once in your lifetime if you're ever in London. As I said, this is the second time I’ve been now and it definitely won’t be the last. It's a great place to take people for a novelty night out - how many times can you say you drank in a bar made entirely of ice? This is the closest I’ll probably ever get to staying in the famous Ice Hotel, Sweden and frankly I prefer this. A cool atmosphere (pun intended), delicious drinks and I still get a warm bed at the end of the night - done! Entry starts at just £13.50 and includes a free cocktail which means it's a steal compared to other London bars which don't have their own climate. Honestly, it's worth going just for the beautiful Instagram photos alone. Speaking of - do you follow me? Here is my Instagram profile link so you can see more of our night.
Lauren had also kindly arranged for us to have a private room at Dirty Martini, so at around 9.30pm we said our goodbyes and headed off, but not before grabbing a swag bag of goodies. The cool, reusable bag emblazoned with the ICEBAR LONDON rocks emblem held some touch screen friendly gloves (soooo RIDICULOUSLY handy because I'm just about sick to death of freezing my thumbs off by sticking them out of my faux leather gloves to text on the way to work). There was also a a copy of this year's ICEHOTEL Art & Design catalogue, a beautiful collection of professional photographs of this year's ICEHOTEL suites along with snippets form their designers all printed onto thick, matte paper that makes a satisfying swish when you turn a page. This will take pride of place on my coffee table this season. We were also generously gifted an issue of Phoenix magazine which, after meeting Molly and Tom, I absolutely cannot wait to get my teeth into.
Swag bag in hand, we headed to Dirty Martini, Hanover Square, making the short walk around Picadilly Circus and settling into a sexy room complete with quilted leather sofas and our own bar already lined with a variety of martinis and bubbly. I snapped up a Cherry flavoured one which was really, delicious - sweet with just a hint of sourness to stop it from becoming sickly. I also later snuck a sip of Megan's Pornstar Martini (my control drink when testing a bar's beverages) which had a unique almond flavour that I liked. I really love the decor in this bijous bar. Little cubby holes, low leather stools, soft gold candle lighting and and heavy suede curtains give it old school glamor but with a modern menu. They also played Justin Bieber's new song which, if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know I'm uncomfortably obsessed with. They also do half price happy hour meaning cocktails at just £4.50 a pop - winning (yes, I'm still saying that).
With a few top-notch cocktails in us, people felt more at ease and the conversation evolved into juicy (but always friendly) debates about the state of the blogosphere, Zoella (always a topic at these things - she’s kinda like marmite to bloggers) and whether we’re being savvy entrepreneurs or selling our souls to the devil by monetising our blogs... Some very interesting points raised for both arguments but that’s a topic for another day! I'll definitely be coming back to this Dirty Martini again, it's a great spot for chilled catch-up cocktails in the week. A nice ambience, plenty of seating and no crazy queue at the bar.
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x Jade Mercedes Fraser x