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Dubai, UAE

Chillout Ice Cafe (Ice Bar)
Compilation: Haj Seyed Reza

Frost Time in Dubai's Ice Cafe
Deep-freeze dining debuts in Dubai

Temperature at Dubai's Times Square mall had crashed to sub-arctic levels as the Middle East's first ice lounge, Chillout, had opened.

Frost Things First

Almost everything at the restaurant is sculpted out of ice. Diners will sit on ice benches or chairs, eat at ice tables, out of ice plates, drink from ice glasses served from a bar made of ice.

" We want Chillout to be part of people's lifestyle and not just a unique experience that will fade away with time," Spokesman, Sharaf Group said. "It even has an ice gallery showcasing Dubai's landmarks."

Complimenting that is an ice portrait of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Freezing at minus 6 degrees Celsius the dining area is, well, biting cold. A whopping Dh9 million investment, the restaurant is Dubai-based Sharaf Group's enterprise while technical inputs came from Canada-based Iceculture Inc, who are credited with building ice lounges around the world, informed a spokesperson for Sharaf Group.

"We want Chillout to be part of people's lifestyle and not just a unique experience that will fade away with time," he said. "It was a special operation which took a year and a half to carry out.

Chillout Specs

The 2,400 sqft restaurant has three areas. The lobby and the lounge areas are separated by what is called the Buffer Zone. Once in the lobby, visitors will be given thermal gear to protect themselves from the chilly conditions.

It comprises a hooded parka (a heavy jacket), disposable woolen gloves and a pair o shoes. Visitors are advised to first spend a few minutes in the Buffer Zone to get acclimatized. The temperature in the buffer zone is set at 5 degrees Celsius which gives the body time to adjust to the sharp drop in temperature in the dining area.

Cold and Beautiful

Once inside, the first thing I learnt was that, contrary to my fear, nothing was wet or dripping. I touched the walls, the sculptures, the tables and chairs to see if they were wet. They were all made of ice all right, but wet they were not. "It is a popular misconception that furniture at an ice restaurant is wet. It is the moisture on the surface of ice that gives it the wet feel. There cannot be any moisture at minus 6 degrees. Every bit of it turns to ice," explained the spokesperson.

The restaurant, which will serve cold cuts, cheese, juices, ice creams and mocktails, can accommodate 40 guests, including relatively intimate table-for-two arrangements for couples. Seats are cushioned and acrylic-topped tables are adorned with decorative pieces sculpted from crystal clear ice. Vapour-mouthed visitors can feel secure in the knowledge that there are sheepskin throws for the asking should things get too nippy for their comfort.

A looming chandelier in the middle of the lounge is made out of ice blocks strung together by cables, as are ice-beaded curtains in the couples' section.

Impressive Lights

In addition to the fact that this is a non-alcoholic restaurant, what makes Chillout different is that the lighting here is amazing. "It almost makes the ice a secondary feature," said Julian Bayley of Iceculture Inc. And it shows. The diffused lighting is constantly changing colours as it filters through clean blocks of ice, filling them with low-lux hues of varying patterns. "As far as the ice component is concerned, there are several features that are exclusive to Iceculture Inc.

"Also, the ability to produce portraits in ice with nothing more than food colouring and snow is something I don't think has been done before, to my knowledge," added Julian. First-timers must be cautioned that the only thing hot in this restaurant is the samples of spices framed with ice blocks and embedded into the wall, of course, made of ice, providing a curious backdrop to the juice bar. Coming as it does in the hottest part of the year the timing of the coolest place in Dubai couldn't have been better.


* The ideal time to spend inside an ice restaurant is 30-40 minutes. While in other countries people are asked to leave after that period, Chillout will not follow that policy.

* There are no toilets inside the restaurant.

* The workforce comprises people from cold countries such as Romania and Russia to
ensure they can withstand sub-zero conditions.

* Workers at the restaurant are instructed to step out to normal temperature at regular intervals.

* Special lights called LEDs have been used.

They do not emit heat hence do not cause the ice to melt.

* All the ice work was done by Iceculture Inc in Canada and was shipped to Dubai in temperature-controlled reefer containers.

* The flooring of the restaurant is made of special anti-skid ceramic tiles.

* Chillout is claimed to be the only ice restaurant in the world to serve food round the year.

* Other countries that have ice bars and restaurants include the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Cool Facts

Location: Times Square mall, between the 3rd and 4th interchange on Shaikh Zayed
Opened: Thursday, June 21
Timings: 2pm to 10pm (Saturday to Wednesday and 2pm to midnight on Thursday and Friday)
Tel: 04 - 341 8121
Cover charge: Dh60, includes thermal gear and a free mocktail
Cold cuts: From seating to glassware to cutlery and crockery, everything is cut in ice

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