Shopping: Cool fridges for thirsty customers

I Want To Own... A Designer Fridge
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The Independent Culture
A couple of years ago a friend of mine tried to patent the ice cube. Or rather, a mineral water sachet that could be exported to Third World holiday hot spots around the globe where it could then be frozen, thus guaranteeing red-nosed ex-pats and migrating package tourists decent gin and tonics without fear of catching anything nasty from the local water. Predictably, an American had already beaten him to it. As everyone but malt whisky snobs and real ale bores are aware, alcohol (like revenge) is best served ice cold.

Not just any old fridge-freezer will suffice, though - there's no point feeling superior in the off-licence because you know your bourgogne aligote from your Blue Nun unless your 13-amp appliance expertise is on a similar par.

You need a fridge so cool that it will send a shiver down your spine before you touch it, let alone extract an ice cube or beer bottle. Luckily, after decades during which fridges suffered from an appalling identity crisis - eventually they became so lost among the kitchen units that it was impossible to find them after a few glasses of wine - they've finally come out: they're now saying it loud, in sky blue, or pink, or just about any other colour you care to imagine.

After decades of a Henry Ford colour option (anything, so long as it's white), the British public is now treated to the choices that the Japanese have had for years.

If your only criterion for buying a new fridge is that it could be noticed in a crowded Iceland shop, then nothing would come close to Ariston's ERFV402 fridge-freezer (on sale in your local Comet), which, as well as coming in a range of vibrant colours, is available in a number of full- length graphic prints including giant limes, steam trains and a Manhattan skyline (for all those who think Michael Douglas and red braces are still trendy).

Equally eye-opening is the Oz from Zanussi (pounds 999), a company that used to pretend its products were beamed down to earth. Now it has finally created a product that really does look as if it were designed by alien intelligence. The moulded pod is reminiscent of the cryogenic freezers used to suspend the crew of Jupiter 2 in Lost In Space.

Zanussi's attempt at remodelling the fridge for the next millennium is brave, but unfortunately doesn't bear close scrutiny. The push-button freezer door is impractical and the netting compartments inside the fridge door look more like holdalls constructed for laminated crash-landing instructions and emergency sickbags, than handy storage for pints of milk.

Needless to say, these machines are not the preserve of the Elle Deco crowd - the last person to buy an Oz in one shop I visited was a wild- haired Essex woman, no doubt converted to radical design by an episode of Changing Rooms.

No, the design-obsessed are much more likely to be drawn toward the imposing chrome-clad monsters which dominate department stores, looking as though they were designed not so much for nuclear families, as for nuclear bunkers. But be warned: some makes are merely bog-standard white American fridge- freezers, given a trendy Full Metal Jacket makeover by former Trabant builders in Eastern Europe.

If you don't think stainless steel in the kitchen is just too early Nineties (or if have a family to feed), then your best bet of the bunch is the pounds 1,322 Siemens KS 32V97 (or KS 32V10 in metallic blue), part of a range that also includes stainless steel ovens, washing machines and dishwashers.

It's big (159cm x 71cm x 61cm with 11.2 cubic feet capacity, including separate four-star freezer), it's economical (fridge-freezers are graded A to G for energy efficiency - this model gets a B and costs about pounds 31 a year to run), and, most important of all, it's unique in coming with two stainless steel bottle racks capable of holding a dozen bottles of wine or beer.

Without wanting to be labelled the Prince Charles of domestic appliances, the ultimate bachelor fridge is a retro machine that harks back to the glory days when the design of something was only remotely constrained by its function. The Bosch KDL Classic is so indebted to its Fifties predecessors that its model numbers are 1950 (red), 1951 (anthracite), 1952 (blue) and, most impressive of all, the 1953 (good old white).

Smeg also does something similarly styled (and more than pounds 400 cheaper) but there really is no comparison. You have only to depress the chrome- finished cantilevered handle of the Bosch to be assured that your tinnies are languishing in near-zero heaven inside, and you can see this for yourself as soon as your eyes adjust to the halogen-lit brightness of the interior after you open the door.

Like the Siemens, the Bosch Classic doesn't have a ton of metal spaghetti stuck to its back; the aesthetically offensive grille is hidden behind a panel, as is the defrost overflow tray, which you'll never see because the fridge automatically defrosts itself and the motor evaporates the excess water. If that appeals to the slob in you, then the money-minded/ecologically conscious side of your brain will be wowed by the fact that this HFC- and CFC-free beast is about the most efficient machine on the market, costing pounds 14 or so a year to run.

My experience of Bosch after-care service is also excellent. When my washing machine blew its motor after an unexpectedly short lifespan (get the extended cover - it's worth the few extra quid), the engineer arrived within 24 hours.

Probably the biggest drawback of the Classic is its capacity (127cm x 67cm x 63cm, capacity 6 cubic feet inc four-star freezer). While the rest of the Bosch catalogue features fridge-freezers stuffed with enough food to keep a family of Gazzas alive for a month, all that's in their classic model is a slice of water melon, a few bottles of water, a litre of milk, some fennel and a cauliflower. As one salesman conceded: "This one's for the slimmers. It only fits about four beers and an M&S curry."

Which, of course, is all that many people are looking for in a fridge.

Incidentally, if you're concerned that all this talk about kitchen appliances is a one-way ticket to senile dementia, stop worrying. Sonic Youth named their last album after a washing-machine, and yesterday I saw the long- haired one of The Chemical Brothers walking down the road with a boxed Moulinex under his arm.

Apparently even the nation's top DJs aren't averse to the occasional spot of cake-mixing after a hard day's remixing.

FRIDGE MAGNETS

What's the point of buying something that's going to be the centrepiece of your kitchen if you're only going to cover it in phone bill reminders?

Besides, Statue of David and Venus de Milo magnets that you can dress up with bath towels and basketball socks are now just as uncool as fish magnets brought back from the Maldives, miniature corkscrew magnets with workable parts or numerous classic lines of fridge poetry.

If you must spoil the sleek curves of your new toy, then at least try to do so in an imaginative and original way. My own personal suggestion would be to buy an industrial-sized ring magnet and then attach your bottle opener to it.

E-FRIDGE

Those who wish to indulge in writing silly innuendo with magnetic letters should at least have the integrity to do it on a virtual fridge (Kevin's Fridge Magnet Page is at http://www.savetz.com/fridge/html). Don't be tempted to waste time trying to find fellow fridge lovers on the Net, though. The most interesting things on the information super B road are: 1) December 15 is Clean Your Fridge Day; 2) Gloria Estefan keeps wheat bread, yoghourt and turkey in hers; 3) Only 18 per cent of Americans defrost their freezer more than twice a year, and 4) a Sixties GE refrigerator starred in the B movie Attack Of The Killer Refrigerator.

CONTENTS

Any bachelor fridge should include in its contents the following. Freezer compartment: bottle of Stolichnaya, comedy ice cube tray (anything but pineapple-shapes), half-a-dozen frozen bananas (better than ice cream), plain chocolate, semi-skimmed milk and a pack of frozen peas (for strained ligaments after an ill-advised Sunday afternoon kickaround). Fridge compartment: A lemon, half a jar of pesto sauce (out of date), a pack of droopy celery (for the vodka), a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal 1990, a bottle of Mondavi Reserve Pinot Noir Reserve, four bottles of Budvar, and an obligatory Marks & Spencer curry.

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