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)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
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

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?