We’ve come a long way since the days of grimy East End snooker halls and chewing gum on your bowling shoes. These days, London’s activity bars offer good food and drink with a little sophisticated fun thrown into the mix. Here are 7 of the best.
Drop it like it’s hot at Baranis
The Game: Pétanque
What’s the deal? This chic Provencal cocktail bar claims to feature the UK’s only indoor court dedicated to pétanque – a regional form of boules where the goal is to drop metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball, on a gravel pitch. Sporty Francophiles can limber up their throwing arm as they sample a variety of pastis, or specialist cocktails ranging from the Pomme Fancy to Julie’s Mamou.
4pm-late Tues-Fri, 5pm-late Sat, free but booking encouraged.
Take the ‘biscuit’ at London Shuffle Club
The game: Shuffleboard
What’s the deal? Shuffleboard, in which two teams use a ‘tang’ (a long forked stick) to push a ‘biscuit’ (a disc) into a scoring zone, first became popular on Transatlantic cruise ships early last century. The game has had a hipster revival in recent years, and after a series of pop ups London Shuffle has just launched London’s first permanent shuffleboard bar in Shoreditch, complete with a sunny outdoor terrace. Guest DJs, an airstream cocktail bar and pizza are all on hand to keep you shuffling in style.
12pm-11pm Tue to Sat, 12pm-6pm Sun. £20-£40 per hour, per lane.
Hit your targets at Flight Club
The game: Darts
What’s the deal? While most people love the odd round of darts, it’s fair to say that the game hasn’t always had the trendiest of reputations. But the traditional pub pastime is taken to the next level at Flight Club, which uses slick technology to help you play a fast-paced, multiplayer game complete with instant scoring and dart tracking. With venues in Shoreditch and Bloomsbury, you can order nibbles and drinks (including cocktail slushies) as you throw your way (hopefully) towards a bullseye.
Various times, £15-£120 depending on time and size of group (from 2-40 people).
Take your shot at Sink Pong
The game: Beer pong
What’s the deal? Once upon a time, beer pong was a mysterious American drinking game which us Brits only saw during rowdy party scenes in high school movies. Now, however, the game has well and truly infiltrated our shores, and Sink Pong is probably the best place in London to give it a go. In true homage to the USA, you can dine on a range of American classics such as burgers, chicken wings and fries, while you live out the college frat house dream.
10am-12am Mon-Wed, 10am-12.30am Thu, 10am-2am Fri, 12pm-2am Sat, £20 a table.
Spin to win at Bounce
The game: Ping-pong, table tennis, or– if you’re Boris Johnson– whiff-whaff.
What’s the deal? If you like to incorporate an element of good, clean competitive fun into your socialising then this ping-pong bar, with venues in Farringdon and Shoreditch, is for you. The likes of Elle Macpherson and Gwyneth Paltrow have both been spotted at Bounce, which adds to the table tennis experience with UV lights and an array of DJs. The Farringdon branch is actually located on the very same site that ping-pong was first created and patented, all the way back in 1901, so you’ll be on hallowed turf.
Various times, £5-£6 per person.
Putt on a show at Swingers
The game: Crazy Golf
What’s the deal? Crazy Golf has evolved from something you used to play on rainy seaside holidays with your Grandad into a favourite millennial night out. Various bars across the capital now offer the opportunity to pitch and putt, but Swingers is one of the best. Their City venue, complete with nightly DJs and a clubhouse gin terrace, is styled like a 1920s country club. Meanwhile the newer West End branch, featuring a unique bandstand bar and a 3D photo podium, is themed around the ‘English Riviera’.
Various times, £10-£13 per person, per round.
Make your move at Draughts
The game: Board games
What’s the deal? If you’re after an activity bar which will challenge your mental faculties, and not just your physical prowess – or if you just really, really like board games – then you need to head over to this dedicated board games cafe and bar quick smart. Both the original venue in Hackney, and a new branch in Waterloo, offer an absolutely enormous library of games, featuring old favourites like Backgammon as well as an array of more unusual games such as Eldritch Horror or Salmon Run. Game on, and geek out.
Various times, £5.