Bar Hutte, St James Quarter: We search for the Christmas spirit with Santa, hot chocolate and karaoke
My three-year-old nephew has developed his first phobia. Santa Claus.
Poor old Father Christmas is in the same category as the monsters who live under the bed, even though junior hasn’t had the formative experience of being made to sit on his knee for a photograph, like we had to do in Edinburgh’s Jenners as children.
I don’t know who’s going to deliver his gifts this Christmas. Santa will have to employ someone from Evri to dump them on the wrong doorstep and take a blurry photo.
Thus, we’re happy to have been a bit too early for the beardy man, on our visit to Bar Hütte to try their new Santa Claus Club.
For those who love the festive figurehead, he will be in attendance from 10am until 12.40pm every Sunday this month and at the same time on the 22 and 23 December, so kids can take a selfie with him. Apparently, they have employed the real deal, not just some fly–by-night.
As part of this experience, you get to use one of this venue’s karaoke huts for an hour and they’ll throw in a round of hot chocolate and colouring-in books.
We escape from St James Quarter, where the kids keep vanishing and we’d made the mistake of going into The Lego Shop for a look, before leaving empty handed and teary. (Me, as well as the three-year-old).
The après-ski-inspired Bar Hütte, which has popped up until January 2, is just round the left side of the main entrance of this venue.
Our pre-booked destination, Morzine, is waiting for us, with twinkly lights and fir swags inside.
Even if it’s Baltic outside, these shed-like constructions quickly heat up. However, the best thing about this attraction, as far as kids go, is that they are enclosed, so you don’t have to be on high alert. There can be no running off and disappearing into the crowds.
We all squeeze up onto the benches, which seat up to eight people, with a table in the middle, so there is no escape.
This is the attraction’s second year in the capital, though it’s their first Santa Claus Club.
After a quick demo from an elf, aka a lovely member of staff, the adults attempt to master the karaoke machine. I am useless, and keep scrolling the wrong way. Thankfully, the 11-year-old works out how to get to the songs we want. Along a bit, down a bit.
There are two mics, and she and her nine-year-old sister commandeer them. That is, until the eldest realises that there’s a large window at the end of the hut, which looks out onto the street. Then she hides under the table for a while, in pre-teen mortification, until a hot chocolate topped with tiny marshmallows provides a sugar rush of bravery.
If you want to order pizza, you do so via the QR code on the table, and they deliver them from nearby restaurant Salerno, which is up on the fourth floor of St James Quarter. We share a couple, for fortitude.
The grown-ups also need a bit of Dutch courage, to lubricate our windpipes. As far as drinks go, there is table service, and they occasionally pop into your hut to see if you need anything.
I sip one of their bombardinos, which is an Italian take on eggnog, with brandy, Advocaat, cream and marshmallows, and I also try a warm mulled cider. Both are heady, and I decide it’s time for Katy Perry’s California Girls.
This is my first time doing karaoke, so I stand up for the occasion and attempt to channel the Japanese businessmen who popularised this activity.
I start on my own, then everyone joins in. It seems ironic to be singing about sun-kissed skin and being so hot you could melt a popsicle when it’s zero degrees.
All of the Soutars have horrific voices. At one point, we’re singing in unison, and it sounds like a herd of tortured cows trapped in a burning barn. There are passers-by staring into our hut, some of them are laughing, others seem concerned.
The nephew is joining in with the singing, though he can’t read the lyrics on the screen, so is chanting ‘poo-poo-poo’ repeatedly. Unusually, for his age group, he’s a big fan of Blur, so we go for a bit of Park Life and Country House, and he starts to get the hang of it.
The cabin next door to us seems to be livening up too, and we can hear a group belting out Diana Ross’s Chain Reaction.
There’s a decent mix of music available here, including a section dedicated to Christmas songs from the likes of Bing Crosby and Wizard. There are more current tunes, as well as Eighties, Nineties and Noughties sections. Although the girls don’t know some of the songs, they’re happy to read the screen and do a bit of monotone rapping. I am surprised that they do seem to know Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. It seems that the love of cheesy pop passes between generations.
We leave feeling a lot more jolly. Add Santa to the mix of karaoke and hot chocolate, and this is a lovely festive treat.
For most people, that is. I know someone who was extremely happy not to meet him.
The Santa Claus Club is £30 for two to eight people, for bookings, see www.barhutte.co.uk