Time was when you had to decide between things for your evening plans. A game of ping-pong, or a trip to the pub? Old-fashioned arcade machines, or a classy wine bar? These days, you can do both at the same place. A slew of trendy bars across the county offer games along with their Bloody Marys and pork scratchings.
At Draughts, in Haggerston, punters can choose from a library of over 600 board games – everything is here, from classic Cluedo to controversial Cards Against Humanity. Craft beers and tempting snacks are on offer, and it can get packed – booking is advised. Board games are also the order of the day at Noughts and Coffees (see what they did there?) in Edinburgh. Here you can have a go at a huge array of games from the familiar (Jenga, Guess Who?, Monopoly etc.), to the more niche, such as the Star Wars edition of Risk and the terrifying sounding, Zombicide.
Darts in a nightspot may not sound revolutionary, but Flight Club, in Shoreditch, does it in such a modern, classy way that it’s like an entirely new game. Glamorous local types battle it out with slick dart-tracking technology and high-fives all round. The venue is all wooden booths and enormous ‘pizza paddles’. A new venue is about to open in Bloomsbury, too.
For those who long for nothing more than to re-live their childhood on a night out, we present Dalston’s Ballie Ballerson, the ball pit for grown-ups. 250,000 clear plastic balls change colour on the LED dancefloor, while upstairs there are glow-in-the-dark murals and DJs playing funk. Cocktails are themed around the planets: Neptune is based on charcoal and liquid nitrogen.
Golf is no longer the preserve of middle-aged men cloaked in tweed and inferiority-complexes. At Swingers, the stereotype is pastiched with a 1920s-style clubhouse and well-heeled City workers getting competitive over indoor crazy golf. Food is courtesy of three of London’s hippest vendors: Pizza Pilgrims, Patty & Bun and Hoppers.
Loved the giant chess scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? The Bel & Dragon, in Cookham, is for you. Not only is it steeped in history, it also has a massive checkers board in the garden – perfect for big groups after a summer afternoon of Pimms and food sourced from local suppliers and artisans.
If Pokemon Go brings you out in hives and Candy Crush leaves you cold, try Four Quarters in Peckham. The vintage pinball and arcade games couldn’t be more charming, or more fun – Pac Man really is as good as you remember it being. The machines run on American quarters, available at the bar, which also serves up bourbon and food from Americana pop-ups.
Are you brave enough to pit your wits against some of England’s brainiest undergraduates? Thirsty Meeples, in Oxford, gives you the chance to do just that. With some 2,500 games in the café’s library, you can try your hand at everything from Napoleon-themed strategy tests to new games being trialled here. Food is basic brain-fuel: toasties, milkshakes and cakes.
Manchester’s The Green offers a panoply of fun and games: there’s foosball, gaming and pool, as well as indoor golf (you can even take golf lessons). Karaoke is on offer for those who prefer their competition to be verbal, and matches are played on massive screens, if you just want to watch the action.