Four ping pong tables are packed reasonably close together, but the friendly vibe (even on tournament Tuesday) gives license to players to freely roam the wooden floors for ping pong balls or grab one from the communal red tin collection pots. Tables are available on a first come, first serve basis with no charge (you can call up to book too). Black and white photos of Bob Marley and Audrey Hepburn playing table tennis are blown up on one wall, while funky red and black paddles adorn another.
Not only does Ping have great atmosphere, its pizzas are some of - if not the – best in London. Head chef Bruno Elias gave up a career as an architect and mamma mia are we happy about that. His pizza bases are light, the dough left to proof for a couple of days. Ping make their own mozzarella balls and marinade pork chops for four weeks, making it the perfect venue for spectators as much as players.
Aside from eating in its diner, catching a film in its private cinema, or looking for love at its weekly speed dating event, you can head to the top floor every fortnight for a spot of BEER pong, a variation on the ping pong theme. Entry costs £15 for teams of two, which includes three pints each plus more beer for the winners in the shape of a £30 bar tab. To book email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't expect jolly, drunken japery, however; competition is fierce and this is a sport to be taken seriously (minus the name).
No sooner had Ping opened its doors in west London, when along came Bounce (pictured above) to the east. Situated in the City of London, near High Holborn, Bounce is slick and shiny, the opposite to Ping's rough and ready, shabby chic way. Expect bankers and City workers in their droves. Housing an impressive 17 tables, including an official 2012 Olympic table, this is undoubtedly London's largest table tennis bar. Book a half hour slot for £10.
Bounce now has UV lights, so you can play table tennis in the (sort of) dark and feel like you're in a Daft Punk video. Enjoy cocktails, pizzas and dishes such as wild boar stew and a whole slow roasted chicken. Boutique beers from Battersea and Kentish Town are also on the menu.
Before all this table tennis with drinks malarkey began, The Book Club was the only place you could go to indulge in a quick 15-pointer then re-hydrate with a bottle of Rioja. Its only ping pong table is still in high demand and its prominent position in the window means only the capable, the unself-conscious or the very drunk will mind being watched by the rest of the punters.
The table is free to use on a first come first served basis so sit on one of the communal tables casually sipping a drink then dash for the free table like Andy Murray heading for the baseline in a five-set nail biter. Weekly Tuesday night competitions cost £5 to enter and check the Book Club's facebook page for details of its monthly multi-table competition down in the basement.
Is it a cinema, a cafe, a bar, or, in the words of an over-earnest regeneration officer, ‘a social space'? Yes it is ALL of these things and so much more. Skip the films and intellectual chatter and head down every other Tuesday for Pongathon. It's free to drop in and watch, so wont cost a penny to soak up the visual art displays and listen the DJs. To play ping pong, however, incurs costs that vary depending on if you're hiring a table or taking part in the tournament. Call up the box office at www.Pongathon.com to check.
Play ping pong in the great outdoors, in Soho's Golden Square, on one of the two free tables and catch a tan (OK, more likely a cold) as you smash and volley your way to victory. Celebrate in the trendy (and adjacent) Graphic with a gold paint tin: a cocktail of premium spirits brought to drinkers by bar staff singing Spandau Ballet's ‘Gold!'. So fitting. Loved by Soho's media crowd, Graphic is a must for gin lovers too: there are 180 varieties of mother's ruin.
Playing table tennis in a 19th century restored music hall is pretty special. Wilton's is London's last remaining music hall, complete with fairy lights which hang from a high ceiling which itself creates beautiful acoustics. It would be a crime not to go along and cheer, at the very least. Wilton's hosts regular ping pong tournaments. They sell out quickly so be quick or call ahead to see if you can bag your own table in a private room (limited availability). Players pay £5 to play, supporters are welcome for free but can amuse themselves with music, dancing and drinks from the attached 18th century terraced houses and pubs. Brick walls, a piano and leather armchairs plus fabulous cocktails in the old green room.
Doodling may be the main attraction of The Doodle Bar but while creative types draw pretty pictures on the giant whiteboard and chalkboard walls, the less artistic can take advantage of its free ping pong table instead. Set in a beautiful airy space, and filled with rusty turquoise chairs, rough wooden worktables and Victorian-style green and white tiles, this is a great daytime hangout. Grab a tasty lunch from next door's Street Kitchen and bring the take away to Doodle (don't worry, you are allowed).
Bored with ping pong already? Don't worry, there's still lots of other bars and pubs in London with bar games worth discovering.
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