International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
Not long ago table tennis was a game played by geeky kids in youth clubs. Today it has reinvented itself as ping pong, and is making a cool comeback in London thanks to a wave of new bars centred around the sport.
The most recent of these hot spots is Bounce – a 1,160sqm venue in Holborn created by interior designer Russell Sage, whose accolades include the Zetter Townshouse hotel and the Savoy restaurant. An arc-shaped bar serving seasonal fruit cocktails wraps around the 17 ping pong tables, including one used during the 2012 London Olympics. Spectators are as welcome to play, and there is a restaurant overlooking the games area where up to 130 diners can feast on Italian dishes and wood fired pizzas.
Bounce only opened on 29 September, but ping pong fever started spreading fast and furiously around the capital in August with the arrival of Ping, an underground ping pong bar and kitchen in Earls Court. The casual venue has the laidback feel of a New York dive bar with neon artwork, mirrors and graffiti on the walls. Players take turns on three tables in the centre of the room, while spectators enjoy cocktails and freshly made pizzas on the sofas and armchairs.
A ping pong table has also popped up at the trendy Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington, which opened at the end of August. Hotel guests can drop by the game room for a quick game or anyone can rent the space for an event.
As a sport that was originally played as an after dinner game on the dining tables of 19th-century English homes, table tennis seems to have come full circle as a social activity. Perhaps this is because it is fun, not too strenuous and most importantly, relatively easy – even after a few drinks.
Malika Dalamal is the London Localite for BBC Travel