Forget the quiet pint and catch-up with pals, London’s going out-out options are now chock-full of fun-forward bars that offer way more than a boring booze-up. From a game of shuffleboard to a very 20th-century Street Fighter II tournament, the capital now has just about every conceivable niche covered when it comes to IRL activities. Here’s our round-up of the best.
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A relative newcomer to London’s increasingly crowded activity barscape, this vibey space at The O2 in Greenwich is the go-to for wannabe Ronaldos. Games-wise, there are four football challenges – think spot-kicking targets on a digital screen in either league or sudden death modes – and there’s restaurant-grade food (chicken burgers, poké bowls, smoked tempura tofu nuggets et al) as well as fancy-looking cocktails from three separate bars and a Willy Wonka-inspired dessert room, too. Meanwhile, the newly launched Boozy Breakfast Burrito Brunch – which includes a line up of meat or vegetarian burritos, spicy sides like loaded nachos, cocktails, plus 60-minutes’ playing time – can be booked for £45 per person. Open until 1am Fridays and Saturdays.
Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX
Who knew fuddy-duddy 'dad game' darts would have such a moment? This immensely successful chainlet now has four outlets in London and it’s not hard to see why. Of course, a game of darts is surprisingly good fun any night of the week but add to that a smart, fancy-looking milieu, some dependably boozy cocktails and well-executed (and fairly priced) comfort food and, boom, smiles guaranteed. They can do very large groups, too (up to 50 at the Bloomsbury outpost). Open until 2am Fridays and Saturdays.
Following on from the success of their first venture, Flight Club founders have taken another old-timey game and supercharged it with some state-of-the-art tech to bring it into the 21st century. This time, it’s shuffleboard. Electric Shuffle combines the traditional game – sliding a puck down a long wooden table into scoring areas without it toppling off the edge – with a slew of other challenges designed to test your poise and precision (not easy after a few of the house cocktails). Playing areas can be booked for up to 16 people, and with intuitive touches like point-tallying tables and screens to order food and drink from, we recommend sliding your way into this one pronto.
10 Bermondsey Street, SE1 2ER
10 Cabot Square, E14 4EY
A souped-up, indoor crazy golf venue was also going to work in London’s financial district – but there’s also a just-as-swish outpost in the city’s West End. Both are based on the same concept: a choice of two nine-hole courses followed by dependably delicious eats from some very competent comfort-food players: burgers from Patty & Bun; slices from Pizza Pilgrims; tacos from Breddos. Booze is way above average, too. And there’s an open-bar option for groups of up to 20.
West End: 15 John Prince's St, W1G 0AB
City: 8 Brown's Buildings, EC3A 8AL
Now with two London venues (at Farringdon and Old Street), this deservedly popular, highly coveted spot (book ahead) is part-club, part-ping-pong bar. There's a a reliably uptempo atmosphere with good tunes, fab drinks and a mixed crowd that isn’t taking anything too seriously – least of all the table tennis which can be played straight or 'Wonderball' style (with the added digital whizz-bangery). There’s also beer pong and shuffleboard. Tournaments can be arranged for large groups (of up to 500, they reckon).
Farringdon: 121 Holborn, EC1N 2TD
Old Street: 241 Old St, EC1V 9EY
Cocktails and clay-pigeon shooting: what could go wrong? Well, yeah, but, while you do hold a very real-feeling rifle, you shoot into a screen. Either way, this new, smart/swank space in Moorgate offers large, private booths for up to 20 people to play several different types of virtual shoot-em-up. Food is no afterthought. In fact, Roger Olsson from The Dorchester has created a menu of fancy finger-food: venison Scotch eggs, truffle popcorn, celeriac with chimichurri... you get the idea.
55 Moorgate, EC2R 6LL
More shuffling, which makes it a thing? The easy-to-learn game – invented way back in 16th-century England – has yet again been happily revitalised and given some hipster-y, 21th-century pizzazz at this cool, two-level space in Shoreditch. You’ll get it when you get there (but, think, curling, without the ice) and more or less anyone can be good at it (so masses of first-time-lucky potential for non-sporty types). If not, the clubby vibe, lengthy beer list and seriously good pizza make up for any shortfall in shuffleboard skills.
4 Ebor St, E1 6AW
Now with three spaces in London, this throwback arcade bar is the go-to for retro-fabulous gaming with dopamine hits straight from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. They’ve pretty much got everything covered: play anything from Daytona USA to Donkey Kong, Space Invaders to Street Fighter II (the list goes on). The beer menu pleases geeks of a different stripe, and there’s decent pizza as well as regular comedy and live-music nights. Four Quarters East in Hackney Wick has an outdoor garden by the canal for the summer months.