I’m going to let you in on my worst kept secret: I don’t like winter. Cold weather, short days, and layers upon layers of clothing aren’t really my thing. But sometimes when I’m on the brink of booking myself a one-way flight to the tropics, I am reminded that there are a few good things about winter in London. This weekend was no exception. Here’s why.
On Saturday I was invited on an all-day adventure to discover some of London’s winter highlights. The day consisted of three parts: food, drinks, and fun, all of which seem like good elements for surviving the short, freezing days ahead.
I started at a chocolate making class. Chocolate isn’t the most wintry of foods, but given that the day was created by Switzerland’s tourism board, I could see the connection. The class was all about making chocolate truffles, which appealed. The fact that it was run in a conference room with no sink and that we weren’t even asked to wash our hands before passing around communal bowls of chocolate did not.
Sanitary lapses aside, the class was both informative—we learned that the world’s first chocolate bar was made in the UK—and fun—we stirred, rolled, and coated our very own truffles. If this was winter, I was on board.
From there we moved on to the drink part of winter in London. This took place at the Icebar, a Swedish establishment just off Regent Street that featured a bar made entirely of ice. Entry was timed, and attendants literally threw a giant furry poncho over each guest’s head before she or he went into the frozen bar.
Inside the temperature was -7 degrees Celsius (that’s 19.4 degrees Fahrenheit for all you Americans out there). It was really cold. Really, really cold.
But also really beautiful. The room glowed in blue and purple light, and the whole place felt like a winter wonderland. From ice tables and sculptures to an ice bar and ice glasses, the concept was a frozen Gesamtkunstwerk.
Sadly, my freezing fingers only lasted about 10 minutes before they had to press the exit button and decamp to warmer climes. I sat at the exterior bar while waiting for the rest of the group, and then we headed downstairs to the restaurant for lunch.
Which was disappointing. My scallops were overpowered by an incredibly strong garlic sauce and my duck was tough, fatty, and flavorless. Add to that the strict one-starter, one-main policy, and I left the restaurant as hungry as I entered it.
Thankfully the day looked up from there. How could it not with a trip to the ice skating rink at the Natural History Museum? As we glided across the busy ice, the sun set behind the building, illuminating the sky in a cascade of yellow, pink, purple, and blue.
At the end of the day, I left with a feeling of optimism about spending winter in London. Hopefully it will last until the weather warms up (probably sometime in May), but if it doesn’t, I can always drown my Seasonal Affective Disorder in chocolate truffles, numb it in the Icebar, or warm it up with a skating session. Bring on the cold!