Ice skating and gin toddies above the London skyline

If I’d been asked a few months ago to name all the ice rinks in London, I’m not sure that ‘John Lewis, Oxford Street’ would have made it on to the list. Even less so, the ROOF of Britain’s best-loved department store. And yet, that’s where I found myself earlier today, admiring the twinkling Christmas lights dotted along Oxford Street whilst pirouetting around the rink with MB like a modern-day Torvill and Dean.

Okay, so that last part isn’t strictly true (if only!) but we did manage a twirl or two and we did thoroughly enjoy ourselves in this little-known wintry paradise reposing above London’s West End. John Lewis has teamed up with Sipsmith to create a “modern-day interpretation of London’s Frost Fairs”, which were held on the frozen-over Thames during the 17th century.

Alongside the ice skating, original Frost Fair attendees would have enjoyed an array of treats, most famously hot gin paired with gingerbread. With that in mind, next to the rink is a rooftop gin hideaway.

I’ll be honest: the ice rink is fun, but it’s miniscule. It’s also, in case you were wondering, not real ice but synthetic. In advance of your skating session you are sent a list of helpful instructions about how to navigate a synthetic ice rink, including “Bend your knees”, “Turn your feet in at a slight angle” and, brilliantly, “Know your limitations – and try not to exceed them”. I think it’s safe to say that MB and I stayed well within our limitations as we shuffled around the rink like a couple of geriatric penguins.

Joking aside, if you thought real ice was difficult to skate on, it pales in comparison with the synthetic stuff. Indeed, I was left wondering if I should have partaken of the hot gin on offer before, rather than after, the skating: it might have improved my technique.

That said, once we’d tottered off the rink and claimed our complementary drinks (hot mulled gin for me and hot mulled apple juice for an annoyingly virtuous MB), we were able to fully take in our surroundings and appreciate the cracking job that John Lewis and Sipsmith have done in creating this tranquil oasis in the heart of the West End.

It’s a rather fabulous garden: a rural hideaway to which you can escape from the hustle & bustle of our beloved city. It’s absolutely lovely – and so unexpected;  I heard about this place literally a few weeks ago, when I saw the ice rink advertised. Apparently, it transforms into an outside bar during the summer months – and let me tell you, I will definitely be visiting. Just look at the photos below: isn’t this place fabulous?

There is even a ‘rooftop cabin’ that you can book for private lunches and dinners: see below. Add to the mix that Sipsmith is hosting a series of weekly masterclasses aimed at budding gin enthusiasts and really, how can you go wrong?

This is a great experience. It’s not aimed at hardcore ice skaters, who would scoff at John Lewis’s small, but perfectly-formed rink. It’s a fun activity to do during the winter months: the views and the mulled gin setting it apart from any of London’s other ice rinks. I can’t wait to visit again during summer, when the rink will have been replaced by an outdoor bar and we’ll be able to watch the sun set over one of London’s oldest streets.

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