I’M GAME IF YOU ARE

Darts, ta­ble ten­nis and mini golf get a cool makeover at a new gen­er­a­tion of Lon­don pubs

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION | ENGLAND - ROB MCFARLAND THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF NOR­WE­GIAN, VISIT BRI­TAIN, Z HO­TELS, BOUNCE, SWINGERS AND FLIGHT CLUB

Lon­don has no short­age of pubs. You’ll find one on al­most ev­ery street cor­ner, from cosy, wood-pan­elled old booz­ers to cav­ernous ware­house-like drink­ing dens. But a new gen­er­a­tion of Lon­don pubs has de­cided that serv­ing drinks is no longer enough. What peo­ple re­ally want are games. We’re talk­ing slick, cus­tom-de­signed venues where the games take cen­tre stage. Here are four of the best.

FLIGHT CLUB

Darts in pubs is hardly a new con­cept. Many older venues still have a soli­tary dart­board hid­den in a cor­ner. What Flight Club has done is take this se­date, rather old-fash­ioned pur­suit and made it sexy.

The com­pany has two Lon­don venues – one in Shored­itch and an­other in Blooms­bury. Both have beau­ti­ful in­te­ri­ors cour­tesy of the de­sign team be­hind up-mar­ket ho­tels The Savoy and The Zet­ter Town­house.

Each venue has mul­ti­ple oches (throw lines) split over two lev­els, with plenty of space to sit and chat when you’re not play­ing. The best bit is that the en­tire set-up is op­er­ated us­ing a touch-sen­si­tive screen. There are four dif­fer­ent games to choose from and the sys­tem au­to­mat­i­cally keeps track of turns and scor­ing.

There’s a wide se­lec­tion of wine and beers but it’s the cock­tail slushies that are the un­ex­pected hit (the rum-in­fused Coco Fu­mada is par­tic­u­larly good). Food-wise there’s a good range of share­able snacks, in­clud­ing slid­ers, lamb skew­ers and piz­zas. When the last dart has been thrown and a vic­tor has been de­clared, cel­e­brate in style with a Cham­pi­ons Cup – a cock­tail served in a show­stop­ping tro­phy.

Games from £15 (about $27) an hour.

FLIGHTCLUBDARTS.COM

BOUNCE

Dis­miss all no­tions of ta­ble ten­nis be­ing played in a flu­o­res­cent-lit sports hall. Bounce has taken the sport un­der­ground, trans­port­ing it into two dimly lit in­dus­trial venues com­plete with DJs and UV light­ing.

Its flag­ship venue in Far­ring­don has 16 ta­bles (in­clud­ing the of­fi­cial ta­ble from the Lon­don 2012 Olympics) and has hosted games for Elle Macpherson and Gwyneth Pal­trow. In 2015, it opened a sec­ond out­post in Shored­itch with 17 ta­bles, one of which was used in the World Cham­pi­onships fi­nal in Tokyo.

Both venues of­fer full ta­ble ser­vice so you can or­der food and drinks with­out miss­ing any of the ac­tion. Or you can dine in the ad­join­ing res­tau­rant which of­fers a menu of crowd-pleasers, in­clud­ing na­chos, slid­ers and stone-baked piz­zas.

Don’t be con­cerned if your ta­ble ten­nis skills are a lit­tle rusty. An army of net-wield­ing staff roam the venue col­lect­ing stray balls and top­ping up the buck­ets next to each ta­ble. And if you’re still ap­pre­hen­sive, steady your nerves with a pre-game Hur­ri­cane cock­tail. This po­tent com­bi­na­tion of rum, pas­sion­fruit and An­gos­tura bitters prob­a­bly won’t im­prove your game, but it will stop you from car­ing.

Ta­ble hire from £11 for 30 min­utes.

BOUNCEPINGPONG.COM

SWINGERS

Swingers is by far the most elab­o­rate of Lon­don’s new gen­er­a­tion of gam­ing pubs. Don’t be de­ceived by the provoca­tive name, this un­der­ground venue is all about golf. The own­ers have trans­formed a vast sub­ter­ranean space near The Gherkin into a ver­dant English coun­try golf club filled with trees, creep­ing ivy and two nine-hole crazy golf cour­ses. Whether you choose to tackle the Light­house or Wind­mill course, ex­pect to be faced with some fiendishly tricky holes in­volv­ing sand traps, jumps and even a loop-the-loop. Don’t worry if you’re not a golfer, the course re­wards luck as much as it does skill, and the com­plex’s five bars en­sure ev­ery­one stays in good spir­its.

The venue has been pop­u­lar with ev­ery­one from first daters to work gath­er­ings. The lay­out en­cour­ages in­ter­ac­tion and soon you’ll be cheer­ing on the ef­forts of the groups be­hind and in front. Once you’ve fin­ished your round, re­tire to the two­s­torey club­house for a drink on the ter­race. Food is avail­able from three of Lon­don’s best street-food ven­dors – DF/Mex­ico, Pizza Pil­grims and Patty & Bun – and nightly DJs en­sure the party kicks on un­til late. En­try is free. Rounds start at £10 a per­son. SWINGERSLDN.COM

FOUR THIEVES

To de­scribe the Four Thieves as just a pub does this Bat­tersea in­sti­tu­tion a grave dis­ser­vice. This en­ter­tain­ment metropo­lis has a buzzing res­tau­rant of­fer­ing ev­ery­thing from La­tinin­spired tor­tillas to full Sun­day roasts, a bar serv­ing more than 70 types of gin, a mi­cro­brew­ery and a spa­cious, heated out­door ter­race. Ven­ture up­stairs and you’ll find a Vic­to­ri­an­era mu­sic hall trans­formed into a gam­ing par­adise. In ad­di­tion to ta­ble ten­nis, pool and pin­ball, there’s a row of vin­tage ar­cade games, a vir­tual re­al­ity booth, minigolf and – wait for it – re­mote-con­trolled car racing.

This im­pres­sive set-up from Moon­shine Race­way al­lows up to 10 rac­ers to com­pete head-to-head on a proper mini race track. They’ve also squeezed an im­mer­sive es­cape room chal­lenge into the base­ment.

The venue picked up a best pub nom­i­na­tion from Time Out just two weeks af­ter it opened. And it has quirky decor and friendly staff.

FOURTHIEVES.PUB

THE OWN­ERS HAVE TRANS­FORMED A VAST SUB­TER­RANEAN SPACE INTO A VER­DANT ENGLISH COUN­TRY GOLF CLUB

PIC­TURES: FLIGHTCLUBDARTS.COM/ LON­DON, BOUNCEPINGPONG.COM

Flight Club Lon­don has made the se­date pur­suit of darts sexy; steady your nerves at Bounce Ping Pong with a Hur­ri­cane cock­tail.

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