Let’s face it, Londoners love a concept. With the likes of ping pong, darts, crazy golf and karaoke now in our boozers, merely drinking in a bar is so 2001. Nowadays, everyone loves to get competitive while at the same time a bit merry (a good idea? I think so) and All Star Lanes have this combination covered.
Just off Bloomsbury Square this venue is more than unassuming. I say unassuming, but we definitely would have walked by the place if wasn’t for the little neon sign at the the top of the winding stairs. Walking into the venue was a vast contrast from the dark Monday night we just escaped from as bright lights and vibrant music occupied the space, with one thing instantly creeping into mind - bowling.
The venue itself has several different areas; a private room with a bar and two bowling lanes - officially called ‘The Clubhouse’, the main bowling area, a restaurant and a bar. All separate entities, it’s an amazing venue to explore, if you’re a kid like I am that is. Dotted round the venue are cabinets with an array of vintage bowling pins in them, and on closer inspection I noticed these were all signed by celebrities; who knew Emma Watson liked a bit of ten pin. Monday night means Groundhog day in All Star Lanes, and for those who don’t know, that's two rounds of bowling for only a tenner. As this is obviously a great deal, it normally brings the punters in and this evening was no exception. Filled with co-workers having a mini tournaments (one crowd bought some medals for the occasion), gangs of friends taking turns to attempt and strike and one awkward looking date, this was no dreary Monday night in the venue. We were placed in The Clubhouse for our two rounds and my god, you don’t know luxury until you can bowl and order drinks at the same time. Yes, I’m aware that I’m amused easily. While we were off to a good start, I quickly realised I was no match for my opponent who even surprised himself by getting not one, but five strikes; at least I had the bar.
After being oh so badly beaten at bowling (I don’t want to talk about it), hunger got the best of us and we decided to head on over to the restaurant. American style cooking is most definitely my favourite and I was Hank Marvin’ at the stage. Looking at the menu, we decided to go with Chicken Wings(£6.50) and Loaded Nachos’ (£10) for starters, followed by Buttermilk Fried Chicken (£12) and Baby Back Ribs (£18) for mains. As you can imagine, we weren't planning on using the cutlery.
Out came the starters and our tummies rumbled. The chicken wings had a stunning BBQ sauce with a rich, lip-smacking texture and the nachos weren't shy of cheese alongside a classic blend of salsa, guacamole and sour cream. After devouring these, we moved on to our mains and to say it was a messy affair is an understatement. Buttermilk chicken is a personal favourite of mine, it's a dish that's welcoming and warm; it's also a dish that All Star Lanes evidently nail, bringing about the all important chicken crunch to this American staple.
The atmosphere of the venue varied from room to room; in the restaurant large groups mainly occupied the space for leaving do’s or birthdays with the occasional bowlers boasting about their win. In the bar it was mostly a casual affair for those who just wanted to have a quiet drink and relax before or after their game. The bowling areas as you can imagine were the liveliest of spaces with people enjoying themselves playing the sport.
If its fun and games you’re after, literally, All Star Lanes is clearly the best choice around. Just make sure you practise a bit beforehand in case you haven't played a while, and be sure to get familiar with the buttermilk chicken burger like I did.