Restaurant review: Bounce, 121 Holborn, London EC1


Normally when I'm shown to a far-flung table in a deserted corner by the loos, I'm tempted to complain to the management. But never have I felt more grateful for a Siberian placement than at Bounce, where our table was for table tennis. Thanks to our isolation, the wild flailings, reckless volleys and inter-generational conflict of our family ping-pong game went largely unnoticed by the early adopters who fill this super-cool new bar.

Bounce is the latest development in themed socialising for jaded urban fun-seekers who demand more from a night out than a few drinks and something nice to eat. We've had bowling and burgers, and table football for hipsters; now, from the team behind All Star Lanes, prepare for ping-pong and pizzas.

A cavernous former nightclub buried under a Holborn office block, Bounce looks stunning – dark and sexy, two words not conventionally associated with table tennis. It's the kind of place you'd expect to find in Manhattan rather than just off Hatton Garden. Designers Russell Sage Studio have pulled off the same magic trick they achieved at Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen, making a bland, modern space feel like some rediscovered old light-industrial treasure, without any hint of the ersatz.

Acres of ping-pong tables stretch off in all directions, surrounded by moodily curtained corners, come-hither booths and enough reclaimed fixtures and fittings to stock a breaker's yard. A monumental bar wraps around a corner of the room, giving it the feel of some Prohibition-era speakeasy, albeit one filled with suity men slamming small balls at each other. And floating above the playing area, for those whose preferred indoor sport is eating and drinking, there's an attractive mezzanine restaurant area serving posh pizzas.

We felt we'd earned a carb-fest, after an hour of fierce play (or, more accurately, five minutes of fierce play and 55 minutes spent hunting under tables for lost balls). "I'm slick with sweat," Harry announced appetisingly, as he flopped down at our table after trouncing the six-year-old. Too late, we discovered that of all the vintage ping-pongiana covering every wall, we had opted to sit next to some 1960s photos of voluptuous dolly birds playing in the nude. That certainly added a new dimension of awkwardness to a meal with two young boys.

The menu, which is also available to order table-side, keeps things simple; some basic antipasti, a handful of mains, and a selection of hand-thrown pizzas from the enormous wood-fired oven. Only the pizzas were any good; the bases nubbly and just thick enough to hold with the fingers without risking the dreaded droop. Of our shared starters, shaved slices of raw courgette came ineffectually dressed with lemon and chilli, while burrata had been robbed of any of its creamy character by overchilling, and came with chunks of the kind of beetroot you snip out of a store-bought vacuum pack. Our only off-pizza foray was also a mistake; a Vesuvian cauldron of wild boar stew, the meat badly trimmed and tough as an old plimsoll, served with nothing more than a couple of slices of plain ciabatta.

There's a perfunctory selection of desserts, including an unseasonal Eton mess – possibly in tribute to that great champion of wiff-waff, Boris Johnson – and a decent chocolate mochaccino (trans: mousse in a coffee cup). With coffees and a few beers, our bill for four topped £100; steep, given that the food was really just a side-order to the ping-pong. And with table-hire at £26 per hour in peak time, and £18 off-peak, it's not a cheap night out.

But it's a fantastically fun one. The music is great, the staff upbeat and appropriately bouncy. Even at 6pm on the first Monday in January, the place was packed. Pushing through the excitable crowd surrounding the exhibition table imported from the London Olympics, it was hard to spot anyone without a drink or bat in their hand, and a big grin on their face.

As an event destination, Bounce would be as perfect for a first date as for an office party, though it probably helps if you can already play a bit. And I say that as the proud holder of a News of the World Table Tennis Diploma for most promising player of the week, awarded at Clacton Butlins in 1973. I've still got the certificate, if anyone from Bounce would like to get in touch.

Social ping-pong is apparently all the rage in the States, and Bounce looks set to get the scene going here. It's the biggest thing to happen to table tennis in the UK since Chester Barnes rocked the game in the Seventies with his controversial square bat. If you stick to the pizza, you'll eat pretty well there. And if it doesn't roll out into a successful brand, I'll eat my bat.

Bounce, 121 Holborn, London EC1 (020-3657 6525). Around £20 per head, excluding drinks. Ping-pong tables: £26 per hour peak time; £18 per hour off-peak

Food ***
Ambience *****
Service ***

Tipping policy: 'Service charge is 12.5 per cent. All tips and service charge go to the staff'

Side orders: Game on

The Lanes

Try your hand at 10-pin bowling at this popular spot, which serves a good range of pizzas and craft beers.

The Lanes Bristol, 22 Nelson Street, Bristol (0117 325 1979)

Friends of Ham

This charcuterie bar is worth visiting for its fab name – but also for the fact that customers can play a game of shuffleboard while they're waiting for their order.

4 New Station Street, Leeds (0113 242 0275)

Bar Kick

Tuck into a tapas platter of chorizo picante, fennel salami, manchego, mahon, vine tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil while you enjoy a game of table football at this brilliant bar.

127 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 (020-7739 8700)

Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Recruitment Genius: HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver / CPC and HIAB Training Provider

    £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver is required t...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Scandi crush: Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    Th Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

    Rebranding Christmas

    More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up