Bounce London is actually on the location where ping pong was created and patented by John Jacques III in 1901. According to their website, Ping Pong was the precursor to Table Tennis as Jacques wouldn't let the Table Tennis Association use his trademark 'Ping Pong'.
Bounce is in a basement on Holborn and has an industrial exposed pipe-work high ceiling and an American diner decor with the tiled walls and 60's and 70's music.
Ping Pong has been popular in London for the last few years as the craze for bowling in London has calmed down and that has coincided with table tennis tables being left across London in parks to use for free. Quite frankly I have never seen a paddle or ball near these tables so I'm not sure of their spontaneous use abilities but I have watched an organized group of friends bring their own and have a game so I'm sure they are used.
Anyway, Bounce opened in October 2012, so not long after the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games which featured Table Tennis. One of Bounce's founders was a co-founder of All Star Lanes so from making bowling a fun night out for the 'cool kids' he plans to do the same with ping pong.
A friend from London On The Inside convinced me to try Bounce London so I went with my six year old daughter and two friends.
Our booking was made online and we arrived at exactly the time requested – 15 minutes before the start of our play time. We went to the Reception/Ping Pong Check-In and I was surprised to be told to come back in 10 minutes. The Receptionist didn’t tell us where to wait, and didn't make the obvious suggestion to go to the bar or the restaurant. I pointed out I had an excited child with me and the Receptionist still did not offer any ideas so we suggested we'd watch the people playing from the top of the stairs leading down to the tables. We did this for ten minutes - and particularly watched the four empty tables right in our line of sight – and then returned to ask if we could go down. A member of staff escorted us to a table and gave us a bucket of balls and paddles and we thought we'd just get on with playing and having fun.
While I looked at the menu to get ready to order food and drinks, my daughter was trying to catch a ball that had bounced off the table and hit her head on the corner of a stool. In the semi-dim lighting it was hard to assess the injury but staff were able to provide some ice to lessen the bruise. I then just saw sharp edges everywhere - the corners of the ping pong tables themselves are particularly sharp - but we were all more aware whenever we bent over to try and retrieve a stray ball. I realise Bounce is primarily an adult space but as the game does involve plenty of bending over to pick up balls less sharp edges would be appreciated.
Anyway, we ordered drinks and food and it came pretty quickly. The table at the side of the ping pong table is not big enough for food and drinks and I didn't want to sit on the bar stools and face a wall (plus these were the stools my daughter had hit her head on) so we were lucky to find a free booth a bit away from our table. A few more booths would be great but I guess they take up playing space.
Food and Drink
The St Paul's virgin cocktail was great and the pizzas are thin crust New York style and are lovely but very unwieldy to eat. I'm glad we were sitting down as it was a messy enough experience and plates would have been appreciated.
This stopping and eating was also using up our table booking time so it might have been better if staff had suggested we go to the restaurant and our pizzas would be ready at the end of our playing time.
Fortunately we had an hour booked so we resumed playing after eating messily and quickly. We had fun and sang along to Beatles tunes while trying to spend more time hitting the ball than chasing it around the room.
Who Should Go?
Playing ping pong with friends is fun and Bounce London is already popular with the after work crowd and the late night 'cool kids'. Drinking cocktails is a large part of the evening's entertainment and I suspect the bar and restaurant are more utilized at these times. I didn't really get to see these areas as a member of the waiting staff comes to the ping pong table to take your 'court-side' orders.
You book by the table and not per person so this is a great venue for large groups. As we visited on a Sunday lunchtime we saw families, large groups of adults and even children's birthday parties at different tables around the room. This would be a great place to bring teenagers in London as mum and dad can have a bottle of wine and hang out with them. Sundays are off-peak and children are welcome but it's adults only for the evenings Monday to Saturday.
Bounce London has a great venue but staff and service are what's not up to scratch. No-one came to us when it was time for us to leave the table. Our lights dimmed so we knew our time was up but no-one came over and suggested we have a drink, get a snack, think about re-booking, etc. It's that kind of service that's missing here. I've seen an online review stating a group of girls stayed to play the group of men who had next booked the table but were then asked to leave by staff as their time was up. That's the kind of odd lack of service that happens here.
While I've seen others complain about the table rates I think the rates are fine for a group sharing.
Sadly, the Receptionist's attitude and the lack of service won't have me rushing back but if you're in a large group and want a half hour or an hour's fun out of the rain then this place is fun, just know what to expect.
Address: Bounce London, 121 Holborn, London EC1N 2TD
Official Website: www.bouncelondon.com
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.