Play at the pub: London’s top activity bars

Who knew that an evening of chucking pins at a wall would be such fun?

Actually, I did have a sneaking suspicion it might be. When Mike and I first started going out, we ended up at his place one night watching the World Darts Championships on the telly with his housemates. Naturally I was furious to have to play second fiddle to a parade of balding, middle-aged men gently sweating on the box, but then I started getting really into it. It’s quite exciting in its own way, and the rhythmic heavy breathing of the top competitors, none of whom weigh less than 300 pounds, can be quite soothing.

Anyway, Flight Club in Shoreditch (and also Bloomsbury) makes it EVEN MORE fun, because it’s all computerised and there’s waitress service and a reaction-cam. We went for one of my housemates’ birthdays and had an absolute hoot, and the oches (rhymes with ‘hockey’ – it’s what they call the individual little darts areas) are very reasonable if you’ve got a few of you going. They do book up really far in advance though, so if you want one for a birthday or special occasion I’d make a reservation at least a couple of months in advance.

But there are oodles of game-themed nights out to be had in London right now, and here they all are:

As above, in Bloomsbury and in Shoreditch.

The damage: £30/hour per oche. An oche fits 20 people but only 12 people can play at a time.

Live your best 11th birthday party life at one of London’s many bowling alleys. All Star Lanes’ alleys are probably the best, with surprisingly decent food and a kitschy 1950s theme complete with photobooths and milkshakes. They also have private alleys for parties (or, in my case once, if the people in the lane over are little shits and keep deliberately throwing the ball into your pins. Don’t be afraid to make a scene, is my advice.)

Locations: Bayswater, Brick Lane, Holborn, Stratford and Shepherd’s Bush.

The damage: £9.95/game (peak) or £7.50/game (off-peak), including shoe hire.

There are three big players when it comes to boozy crazy golf in this town: Plonk, Swingers and Junkyard Golf. Common themes include UV paint, junk food and thumping music, and they’re all pretty similar. Swingers is the classiest affair – especially its brand new West End location – Plonk the most rough and ready.

The damage: Plonk (Dalston, but also with pop-ups in other locations): £12pp for two rounds; Junkyard Golf (Shoreditch), £11.50pp per round peak/£9.50 off-peak; Swingers (City and West End locations): £13pp per round peak/£10 off-peak.

Swingers West End

Particularly popular with Americans, there are quite a few shuffleboard venues popping up at the moment. There’s The Vine, Kentish Town, in the north; Burdock and Broadleaf, both in the City; and The Little Shuffle Club in Shoreditch.

The damage: Free to play at Burdock; £10/half hour at Broadleaf; £20/hour at The Little Shuffle Club. At The Vine, there’s free play on Mondays, £20/hour peak (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays) and £10/hour off-peak.

Shuffleboards at The Vine, Kentish Town.

I’ve never been able to get on board with curling, probably because my dad has a habit of announcing he’s going to ‘curl one out for Jesus’ whenever he goes for a shit. But everyone always goes nuts for it every time the Winter Olympics are on, so here we are. Queens is the only year-round curling venue with six permanent lanes, plus they have an onsite meatLIQUOR to curb any post-curling munchies. There’s also an ice rink and a bowling alley.

The damage: £108.90 (including £9.90 booking fee) per lane, with a maximum of eight people.

Draughts is the big one here, with over 900 board games to choose from. Maddeningly, you can’t make a reservation at the weekend and the wait can get pretty long. They’re based in play at slot machines Hackney, but they’re due to open a new venue in London Waterloo soon.

The damage: Cover charge of £5 (or membership for £25/year).

Last time I went to Bounce I had a fantastic time, despite having torn some ankle ligaments a week previously and having to play in my invalid state. Playing table tennis on crutches is no joke, but they have a good bar and decent pizzas so it was still larks.

The damage: £31/hour per table peak, £21/hour per table off-peak.


I have to include this in the interest of completeness, but it involves going to Bar Kick in Shoreditch, which is terrible, so…don’t, is my advice.

The damage: Pay-as-you-go football tables are £1 a go.

Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.