The Great British night out has changed. Londoners thirsty for novelty are looking to a new wave of venues that offer competition with their cocktails. Think beyond the local pub with its pre-smoking-ban dartboard and decimated Scrabble. These bars with games are there to get our adrenaline flowing and even tug on our nostalgic heartstrings. They’re also perfect for getting the conversation flowing between you and Susan from HR on your office outing and airing friendly rivalries in what starts out as a healthy way.
Virtual shooting at Mac & Wild
This central London outpost of the Scottish Highlands offers a totally vegetarian hunting experience where your group can take aim at simulated deer on a giant projector screens. The totally un-vegetarian haggis pops you can eat while you’re doing it are absolutely ridiculous and best ordered by the dozen and washed down with a Buckfast. The whole basement shooting range can be booked out in advance and will accommodate up to 80 guests at a time.
The virtual deerstalking is more challenging than you might expect and sure to inspire some competitivity and bonding on any work night out, especially if you happen to crack into the solid selection of Scotch whiskies on the bar. The list is helpfully broken down into flavour profiles so it’s easy to find a dram to suit your taste while you’re blasting digital fauna. Also highly recommended is the Auld Pal Negroni, made with Hendricks, Suze, camomile and gorse flower.
Retro video games at Four Quarters
The original Four Quarters on Peckham Rye has long been a destination for lovers of vintage arcade cabinets and craft brews. The second site, opened in Hackney Wick in 2017, is a much more ambitious affair which adds a full cocktail bar, outdoor seating, and a pizza oven. The decade spanning collection of games Includes arcade classics such as House of the Dead and Street Fighter II, as well as tables for multiplayer sessions on old-school titles like Frogger and Galaxian. There’s even consoles so you can shed a quiet tear while playing Sonic on a Megadrive just like the one your mum took to Sue Ryder while you were at uni. In fact, this temple of nostalgia is so committed to delivering pop-cultural Proustian moments that their pizza menu is Ninja Turtles themed and their website is a Geocities.
Cocktails start at £9 but they run a happy hour from 5-7pm during the week when most of the list is £6.50. Booths and tables can be reserved free of charge if you fancy a night partying in the inimitable glow of the CRT monitors.
Pétanque at Baranis
If you’ve ever complained that it’s difficult to find an indoor pétanque court in the UK then fear not, mon ami, because Baranis in Temple has got you covered. Come for London’s most complete pastis menu but stay for the game in which you pitch a metal ball down a gravel court towards a smaller wooden ball and attempt to foil your opponent’s attempts to do the same. You know the one, you played it on the beach that time on holiday and got surprisingly vicious about winning.
The court is free to use but signing up in advance is highly recommended. If you do wind up having to wait, you should be kept busy by the French accented cocktail list and Provençal nibbles. The Mauresque 1840s cocktail with Absinthe and Orgeat is authentically Gallic and highly recommended but will throw you off your pétanque game if you sink more than a couple.
Board Games at Draughts
For anyone who likes their thrills analogue will be well served at London’s original board game café. This year saw Draughts move to new digs in a grade II listed former pie and mash shop on Kingsland road. Guests will find over 1,000 games to choose from which range from the familiar to the esoteric. So not to worry if your experience level with board games extends to an annual Monopoly breakdown during family Christmas or if you’re a Netrunner veteran.
One of the most appealing things about Draughts is that playing board games with a craft beer in front of you is a great way to forget about your phone for a bit. The whole business feels so refreshingly tangible and as such just has to be good for you. There’s also a programme of events in the evenings including pop-culture pub quizzes and group roleplaying games. The sister location in Waterloo is also well worth a visit and boasts a food menu by Jones and Sons that includes comfort food like Buttermilk fried chicken, tacos, and mac and cheese.
Curling at Sliders
If you’re looking for something a bit more physical than an evening playing Settlers of Catan then Sliders sits at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Right here in London you can try your hand at the ice-based stone chucking game of curling and even drink a few cocktails while you’re at it. This is perfect for anyone who wants to relive the 1924 Chamonix Winter Olympics when William Jackson led the British team to gold medal winning victory against Sweden (no, anyone?).
Sliders is nestled with the mega-church of gaming that is Queens of Queensway – where bowling, ice skating, and Amercanist drinking passtime ‘beer pong’ can also be found if you’re so inclined. Food is supplied by the original London dirty food dealers Meatliquor who are on call with hard shakes, hotdogs, and their signature burgers. Just as well, as curling is hungry business. It would be rude not to order the ‘dead hippy’ while you’re there – it’s the sandwich that launched a thousand burger pop-ups. A new addition to the site is Liquor Lanes – five bright red bowling lanes available for private hire that come supported by their own bar. Big Lebowski references appear to be encouraged.