Pubs With Games
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The symbiotic relationship between light competition and drinking is one of the great harmonies in life and excellent lubrication for gearing into a catch up at the pub. There’s only so many times you can ask about someone’s job and how their mum is doing before you have to start getting inventive with your conversation topics. But inject some friendly antagonism and you’ll unlock an unlimited supply of dynamic back-and-forth for you and your drinking partner - these are some of our favourite pubs for games.
This old Victorian free house has most things you could ask for from a boozer - a nice garden, live music, good food, plus it's family run but with a slight edge of rowdiness come evening time. As for activities we're talking pool, darts, board games, and the once ubiquitous and now nearly extinct fruit machine - when were all the fruities replaced with small plates?
A proud member of the New Ownership Survivors Guild, The Monty has been given a bit of a facelift whereby the punky roughness has been replaced with something more kitsch. And we're OK with it - especially considering the vast array of games they've added, from pinball and arcade machines to table football, board games and shuffleboard (like curling for old people that aren't Canadian).
Most people know The Water Poet for its giant (for Shoreditch) outdoor area - a fairy-lit courtyard of bohemia - but a lesser known treasure is the pool room. With dark-wood flooring, gold accents and low lights, you almost long for a Mad Men-esque smokey haze to add to the aesthetic. You can reserve one of the tables and the other is saved for walks-ins, which seems perfectly fair to us.
This drinking hole keeps things simple - and not in a stripped-back scandi-chic way, but more of a 'how things used to be' way. That means old-school decor, a nice range of ales, and some games of the classic variety. We’re talking backgammon, dominoes and chequers. Sitting here in King's Cross surrounded by the clack of counters, you can really start to channel that Victorian London worker aesthetic you've been working on since you finished Peaky Blinders.
This Leytonstone institution is a gargantuan jack of all trades that actually manages to master a fair few of them. It's usually filled with a cross-section of the community and has enough varied activities to keep them all entertained: food, booze, gigs, festivals, free film screenings and classes. On the game front, you're looking at table football, an arcade machine and board games. If you get bored here, that's on you.
A table-top gaming pub upstairs and and a video game cavern in the basement - this feels like the kinda place the kids from Stranger Things would hang out if they were British and old enough to drink. There are dozens of table-top (that's nerd for board) games to play for free, from Monopoly all the way to more obscure classics like Cosmic Encounter. Downstairs they have both classic and modern games consoles so you can crush your pal at whatever version of Mario Kart was popular when you were a kid.
A city pub through and though, The Bell’s Aldgate postcode means it pulls in a more office-y crowd than we’d like - but come outside of the post-work-pint hours and you’ll find a perfectly charming spot for a drink. While the beers are pretty standard, the rough wood panelling, eclectic furniture and some odd artwork give you plenty to look at. And there’s a sweet basement games room with pool and table football for you to prove your worth.
Make it out to this Thames-side pub in Hammersmith and you might just think you've fallen asleep on the bus and found yourself in Oxfordshire. Overlooking the river, it's got a real country-pub vibe, but it's in the activities department where the Black Lion truly shines: they've got darts and ping pong tables outside, plus a proper vintage skittles alley - one of the last in London, don't cha know.
The pinnacle of a pub with games: a sprawling maze of rooms that range from conservatories, to dance floors, to drinking dens, to regular pub lounges. Head upstairs and you’ll find the playground of your eight-year-old self's dreams with retro arcade machines, mini golf, virtual reality, an immersive escape room, and - overlooking everything in all its glory - an eight player RC-car race track! Damn, even our eight-year-old selves lacked that much imagination.