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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links