The Handbook
The Handbook

Spoiler alert! The day after we published this (and the day before it took effect) the government decided to postpone bowling for ‘at least two weeks’… 

First they opened up craft shops, then the restaurants and spas and pools but still one piece of hospitality has remained firmly chained shut. Bowling alleys.

This weekend all that’s over, and finally we can sink three fingers into a covid-safe orb and toss it down a wooden alleyway as nine skittles quake. All while wearing clown shoes. It’s the dream we’ve been holding our collective breath for since March 23rd… Particularly ‘posh bowling’.

Bowling is a sport of the people, what activity could be more proletarian? You even have to share shoes! It’s the most every day sport, the game of the working man (and woman), used to only be able to enjoy in god-forsaken multiplex leisure centres, eating Wimpy burgers and sucking on a Slushpuppy. Well, take everything you think you know about bowling, and roll it down the gutters. Posh bowling has arrived.

London has posh everything, from the things that are actually posh (the Queen, Harvey Nichols, Sloane Avenue and so on) to normal things that London decides should become posh (from chip shops to Pippa Middleton). And bowling is just the latest thing to be taken by the scruff of the neck and forced to wear a pink shirt. And aren’t we glad for it? Here are our favourite posh bowling alleys.

Ham Yard Hotel

Ham Yard hotel is reopening, which means that the hotel’s fabulous (and incredibly posh) bowling alley is also closer to being accessible once again.

Decorated with two giant crocodillian driftwood decorations, the subterranean alley forms part of the hotel’s events space, The Croc (fear not, nothing to do with the shoes), and features an original 1950s alley that’s been transported specially from Texas.

The walls include two large scale Howard Hodgkin artworks and there’s, of course, a silver baby grand piano to tinker on when you’re not winning at bowling. Which is all of the time, if you’re me…

Where: One Ham Yard, Soho, W1D 7DT
Website: www.firmdalehotels.com

Courthouse Hotel

From one hotel to another, and another bowling alley (simply having bedrooms is so passé nowadays).

Shoreditch’s Courthouse Hotel has just added a bowling alley into the mix and the two lane facility can be rented out by the evening or by the hour, and there’s even a table football table (which the Americans irritatingly insist on calling fußball) and ping pong (aka table tennis).

Where: 19-21 Great Marlborough Street, Soho, W1F 7HL
Website: www.courthouse-hotel.com

All Star Lanes

It feels like All Star Lanes were ahead of the curve on this one and they really are the posh bowling experts.

The bowling experience is great, but so’s the food (cracking burgers). From Bayswater to nearby  Westfield (which hands-down beats shopping), the experience is fun and the cocktail menu worth it alone.

Where: Various
Website: www.allstarlanes.co.uk

QUEENS Skate Dine Bowl

An ice rink followed by bowling might sound like one of those weekend school outings that was only ever borderline forced fun, but at QUEENS Skate Dine Bowl they’ve dialled up the enjoyment and dialled back the arriving in a school minibus and my 13 year old self’s obsession with giant gobstoppers.

The 12 neon-lit bowling lanes are only rivalled for pleasure by the on-site MEATliquor concession.

Where: 17 Queensway, Bayswater, W2 4QP
Website: www.queens.london

Bloomsbury Lanes

If you were hitherto under any illusion that bowling was not firmly in ironic hipster mode, then Bloomsbury Lanes is about all the proof you need.

Not only is it in Bloomsbury, but as well as eight lane bowling they’ve also got karaoke rooms. So if you want to bowl a strike, then strike a pose, you can.

There’s also pizza, courtesy of Ray’s Pizza.

Where: Tavistock Hotel, Bedford Way, Bloomsbury, WC1H 9EU
Website: www.bloomsburybowling.com

Rowan’s Bowling

Did you know that Rowan in Arabic means ‘river in paradise’? No, I’m sure you didn’t and I’ll bet even more than the folks over at Rowans Bowling don’t either.

But if ‘river in paradise’ sounds far-fetched, ‘gutters in Finsbury Park’ is a bit more realistic. Rowans has imported retro American 10-pin bowling, not to mention karaoke.

Where: 10 Stroud Green Road, Harringay, N4 2DF
Website: www.rowans.co.uk