Ping-pong: we're having a ball!

London's hottest new venue is a… table-tennis club. Simon Usborne grabs his paddle and finds out how the game is becoming a social staple

We queued around the block behind velvet ropes for the launch party of a new bar in London. Inside: the sounds of cocktails being shaken, camera shutters clicking, canapés being consumed… and the ping-ponging of hundreds of little plastic balls.

Bounce is a cavernous former nightclub transformed with £2.5m into a ping-pong paradise of 17 tables, a 40ft bar (make mine a Wiff Waff, a G&T with a twist) and a 95-seat pizza restaurant. If table tennis has for a few years threatened to achieve what few indoor sports do – a semblance of cool – then Bounce seals its ascendancy.

Across Britain and beyond, a Victorian parlour game latterly played in church halls and on rickety garden tables – or by Olympic automatons – is spinning into new arenas. At least one member of Made in Chelsea attended the launch in August of Ping, a smaller venue in west London, while bars in cities all over the country are hosting ping-pong nights or clearing space for tables.

We look to New York for the origins of the new, sociable ping-pong. Susan Sarandon, the actress and table-tennis nut, was among the investors in SPiN, a Manhattan club that has spawned three more branches across North America since it opened in 2009.

Britain, too, brims with celebrity ping-pong fans. One Direction play backstage after gigs, Damon Albarn is obsessed, and U2 frontman Bono hosted a tournament last month at a GQ awards after-party in the home of PR bigwig Matthew Freud.

Elle Macpherson has booked a table at Bounce but the club welcomed sporting celebrities to its launch last Thursday. Timo Boll, the German world No 7 (above), left jaws slack after an exhibition game on Centre Court, a table salvaged from the London Games. So too did David Wetherill, the Brit with a crutch whose superhuman shot at the Paralympics has been viewed six million times on YouTube. He played for much of the night with the British Paralympic silver-medal winner Will Bayley, who said he hoped the post-Paralympic buzz would help his teammates to secure sponsorship in the run-up to Rio.

Watching it all alongside hundreds of amateurs beginning to see double was Dov Penzik, 37, a former county-level player who as a teenager competed for Britain at the Maccabiah Games, the so-called "Jewish Olympics". He had the idea for Bounce three and a half years ago and co-founded the place with Adam Breeden, the man who made bowling cool with his All Star Lanes clubs.

"It's a dream come true," Penzik told me after the launch. "Ping-pong was never regarded as cool. As a kid I played in dingy gyms and had to drag friends along to join in. But I always knew it would work as a social sport. People are realising how accessible the game is. It's also very theatrical to watch."

Bounce's final touch: its claim to be the home of ping-pong. There is some truth to this; the site near Chancery Lane was once the headquarters of Jaques, the posh English games company which patented one of the earliest versions of ping pong in around 1900. Back then, a trend swept Britain going on to take only 110 years to bounce back.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England