If there’s two things in this world that I’m bad at, it’s being cool and playing ping pong. This might seem a bit of a problem when wanting to visit Bounce Farringdon, who sell themselves on those two features, but with a little determination, a bit of big music, and a drop of beer, it was time to see if even an unfit nerd could have fun at this East London hotspot.
The Venue and Atmosphere
The first thing you see as you descend into the bar is a blue plaque proclaiming that the rules of ping pong were invented on this very location, which would suggest the venue means serious business when it came to ping pong; walk down a few more steps and you’ll see that it’s anything but. To one side, the walls are adorned with newspaper headlines and the front covers of magazines, while the floor and pillars are made from alternating black and white tiles, giving the place a more relaxed vibe. To the other side, the entire place is absorbed in luminous neon murals, giving the beats pumping from the speakers an extra edge, adding to its reputation of being a fun drinking den.
The speakeasy styled bar takes up minimal space, with the 17 tables given priority square metres within the venue. Spectators can watch the action from simple high tables, or sit by the bar to try and avoid incoming balls. Bounce’s main focus is clearly the table tennis, but there are still crowds of after-work twenty-somethings attracted by the big music, electric atmosphere and reasonably priced drinks. Even if you weren’t a keen player, there’s still enough to keep you entertained while your friends are off using the tables.
The Food, Drink and Experience
My eternally patient friend and I started the night with ping pong, and we opted for an hour at the table, since I thought we’d spend most of the evening running after the balls that my idiot hand had launched across the bar. Luckily, we were armed with a bucket full of balls and there was an equally patient member of staff sweeping up the pile of balls on the floor in a net.
After about half an hour of my 'Extra Special Trick Shot' (smacking the ball too hard and hitting someone on another table), one of the venue’s Games Gurus emerged to mix up our evening entertainment. It's their job to organise the fun for groups of people, like creating a competitive tournament or supplying a variety of weird and wonderful games that revolve around a table tennis table. Our new friend competed against us with a comically small bat (I still lost), played a bit of beer pong (being formally trained in the battlefields of the DesignMyNight office, I was good at this) and he was so full of infectious energy it was impossible not to have fun.
Once our hour was up, we were lead into the restaurant, situated on a raised platform above the main bar to avoid the inevitable barrage of balls that could end up in your soup. The atmosphere is slightly calmer here, with the cool décor of the ping pong area replaced with a more traditional speakeasy aesthetic, while the semi-open kitchen adds a more gourmet vibe to proceedings. For drinks, I opted for a wonderfully refreshing Royale with Cheese (£9), for the Pulp Fiction reference alone, made from whisky, ginger ale, vodka, and finished with a Babybell garnish, whereas my friend decided on the Prohibition (£9), a whisky-heavy concoction.
Despite being ostentatiously a sports bar, the venue takes a lot of care with its food. We started off the meal with a Barolo cured beef carpaccio (£8.50), accompanied with hay smoked mozzarella and grilled peppers – a fresh appetiser that allowed the gentler flavours of the beef carpaccio to take centre stage - and a smoked ham Tuscan broth (£7.75), which acted as a hearty, warming counter to the storm that was brewing outside. While the pizzas looked tempting, we both opted for one of their main dishes instead, and we were glad we did. The baked Cornish hake (£16.50) was cooked perfectly, and peeled off in flakes, but the star of the evening was the slow cooked Hereford ox cheek (£16.50), with braised red cabbage & smoked garlic ciabatta, that was mouth-wateringly tender, with the red cabbage heightening the big flavours of the ox.
At Bounce Farringdon, ping pong is king, and you can’t help but have fun when playing with friends in that buzzing basement. The interior reeks of cool, from the speakeasy bar and restaurant to the creative and diverse decor, such as the neon mural room that other venues would struggle to pull off. But the place manages to be a bit more than just a sports bar by offering a menu filled with some delicious bites, friendly staff, and a soundtrack packed with tunes that attracts after work drinkers and sports enthusiasts alike. Even if you’re uncool or can’t play table tennis, you’ll definitely find something to like in Bounce Farringdon.