A new table tennis venue in London has given Scarlett Johansson's favourite sport a classy new makeover. With a cocktail in one hand, and a bat in the other, Y! Lifestyle headed to Bounce to give it a wiff waff
Bounce London is probably the best thing to happen to ping pong since Forest Gump. The classy cocktail bar is part pizza restaurant and part ping pong playing heaven. The venue buzzes with the plock plock of speeding ping pong balls and brave waiters navigate trays full of cocktails between the tables, careful not to tread on an errant ball.
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Borrowing from the US craze that counts Scarlett Johansson, Susan Sarandon and Axle Rose as fans, Bounce offers a swish evening of ping pong hither to unheard of in the UK, where the sport has a rather geeky image. An image the £2.5 million new venue is set to change. With low lights, exotic cocktails and stone baked pizzas that can be ordered to the restaurant or straight to the table tennis — sorry, ping pong — table, it has sexed up the parlour sport no end.
Self-confessedly uncoordinated as we are, Y! Lifestyle booked an hour on the table to find out what all the fuss was about. And fortunately for us, it wasn't long until our flying balls were noted by more than just the agile bar staff and we were pitied by ping pong pro (or as he insists, just a guy that 'knows the basics') Olly, whose job appears to be walking round the tables offering advice, banter and where appropriate, insults, to unsuspecting ping pongers. He has a microphone though, so he must know his stuff.
After giggling through our games and sending balls to all points of the compass we finally master (with Olly's advice) how to correctly hold the bat for the maximum chance of connecting with the ball. Or egg, as we're told to imagine it. And success. We're rallying all over the place until our time's up and reluctantly we have to move on to the more sedate pleasures of eating and drinking.
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On neighbouring tables there are some serious games going on, with keenos bashing the balls enthusiastically, making me fear for everyone tucked into the booths between tables, trying to have a nice drink and watch a bit of live sport. But similarly there are some hopeless cases to keep us company. Olly clearly hasn't made it to their table yet.
Fortunately for spectators, table tennis balls are reassuringly light and handy ball boys wander around with nets to collect and replace them in mini buckets by the side of each table.
Beyond ping pong
The food is a pretty standard pizzeria that overlooks the bar and tables. Restaurant conversation competes with eclectic beats that boom out around the venue, ranging from Vanilla Ice to The Knife. If you don't fancy a sit down meal, pizzas and sharing platter options can be brought to your ping pong game for tableside snacks.
With shiny tables lit up by overhead lamps, clean bats and a couple of feature tables that can be hired for a slightly higher price (the Olympic one has a light up base of blue Olympic rings), Bounce is a far cry from the community centre table tennis clubs and dog eared fold up tables dragged out of the shed by dads around the country every summer holiday. And built on the site where ping pong as we know it was first created and patented in 1901, Bounce is certainly bringing the sport full circle.
The game adds an extra dimension to a night out (while supposedly burning around 250 calories an hour), though it might be worth booking the table for your arrival, rather than later in the evening when you've sampled several of strong cocktails on offer. There are only so many ball boys after all…
Tables start at £10 for 30 mins and private rooms can be hired for groups. Check out the Bounce London website for details.