If ‘Skate at Somerset House’ doesn’t get you in the mood for Christmas, then nothing will. For over a decade now, the 900-metre-square outdoor rink, set in the grand 18th century neoclassical courtyard, has provided London’s most picturesque setting for ice-skating (“London’s favourite ice-rink,” according to one paper. And “the coolest rink of all,” in the words of another). In what has become an annual tradition for me, I went down to Somerset House this week, once more to brave the ice – not to mention the countless couples in their first throes of love!
This year’s event is sponsored by Fortnum & Mason (another grand 18th century institution), and it was the extras that they had put on that made this year’s event such a treat. They hadn’t turned the ice eau-de-nil (their trademark colour) – but every other detail was beautiful. After I had finished skating under the 12 metre Christmas tree (adorned with Fortnum’s classic hampers), I headed for the Christmas Arcade. The pop-up store is situated in Somerset House’s elegant West Wing rooms and overlooking the ice rink. It has 15 rooms of Fortnum’s goodies, including their perennially popular Christmas hampers (think spicy Christmas pud to sparkling shortbread), gifts (truffles, candles, necklaces) and decorations (who else but the witty Misters F&M would think up a London taxi Christmas tree ornament or fill-your-own bauble?).
Frankly too exhausted to shop with any great commitment after my heroics on the ice rink, I headed next door to The Lodge, where I settled down to a bite to eat (quaffing the store’s famous Welsh Rarebit, followed by cream tea, truffles, fondue and champagne, since you ask; it is Christmas, after all and I stayed for a long time) and then topped it off with a ridiculously good Fortnum’s tipsy Hot Chocolate (they offer rare teas too and had I stayed a bit longer, who knows?). Forget après ski, this is après skate par excellence.
It was a wonderful afternoon and I’d encourage anyone who’s yet to catch the Christmas bug to head down there. Skate is open until 10th January. If you don’t fancy skating, then access to the Arcade and The Lodge is free.
Top Tip: Every Tuesday is Glad Tidings Tuesday at Skate, where there’s late night shopping, live music, events and tastings.
To Book: Go to www.somersethouse.org.uk/ice-rink.
Fortnum & Mason: Opening hours for the Christmas Arcade store can be found here.
Caroline Phillips is an award-winning freelance journalist who contributes to publications from Sunday and daily newspapers to glossy magazines and various luxury websites. To see more of her work, go to www.carolinephillips.net.