Out cold

Sunday, October 2, 2005

LONDON -- A chilly bit of Scandinavia csme to the heart of London's West End Saturday with the opening of Absolut Icebar, a bar made entirely out of ice right down to the art on the walls and the glasses for the drinks.

Situated next to the accompanying room-temperature Below Zero restaurant, the bar is kept at minus 23 Fahrenheit year round. For a cover charge of $22.20, patrons are given a thermal cape, thick gloves and a glass made out of ice before entering the second of two airtight doors designed to keep heat out.

"It's an experience rather than a traditional bar. We feel we're really offering something different," said Anette Eliasson, manager of market communications for V&S Absolut Spirits vodka company, which opened the bar with partner company Icehotel.

The Stockholm-based franchise launched the first Icebar in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, in 1994 within Icehotel, where visitors stay in the comfort of a warm sleeping bag in an icy room. Since then, Icebar locations in Stockholm, Sweden and Milan, Italy, have been met with success, prompting a fourth permanent location in London.

"This is where trends come from, so that's why London was important to us," Agnetha Lund, director of Icebar International, said.

Bar patrons who would like a warm meal will find European cuisine and lounge-style seating at Below Zero restaurant next door. Fred Olsson, managing director, said the menu features dishes that can be shared among friends.

All the ice for the bar is imported from the Torne River in the north of Sweden, where the pure water and river freezing process make the finished product "crystal clear," according to Lund.

The entire venue will be redesigned and rebuilt every six months, because the ice will gradually melt with daily use and the body heat of the crowds, Lund said. Icebar commissions artists to sculpt the decor on site, and opening day art includes a floor-to-ceiling vodka bottle and partial human figures along the walls.

The 10,764-square-foot bar has a capacity for 60 people. Pre-booking for one of the 45-minute time slots is a must.

On the Net

n www.belowzerolondon.com

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