Growing up in the West Country bowling alleys were always perceived as a hangout for kids. A typical weekend would see the ageing interior littered with exhausted arcade machines, threatening groups of teens and exasperated dads trying to prevent the inevitable mayhem that only a group of sugary-drink filled children can cause.
Fast-forward some 15 years and I now live in London, where apparently anything goes. Grown-up ball pits, adult museum sleep-overs and adult Lego evenings are a thing here. Activities from my youth that I presumed I would never enjoy again were instantly no longer off-limits to me. With this in mind and in an attempt to shed those memories of dull bowling alleys of the past I headed down to a recently revamped All Star Lanes in Shoreditch.
For anyone who visited previously the changes include a transformed restaurant layout, a slick new cocktail lounge and a new area named ‘The Penthouse’ – a chic private space that draws inspiration from the starlit roof terraces of Manhattan.
In homage to its trendy and artistic location the design also incorporates cues from the local community, including two bespoke murals from acclaimed East London-based street artist Zabou. Known for her bold and thought-provoking pieces across London, Zabou has created an urban inspired mural in the restaurant and a vintage bowling display in the lounge bar. There is also a stunning art installation using discarded and disused pins.
The first thing that becomes apparent upon arrival is that this is not the traditional bowling alley from my youth. The majority of the site is occupied by the aforementioned restaurant space which is already vibrant with families, friends and parties. The bar that serves the bowling alley is not dissimilar to any up-market bar around the local area. It is impressively stocked with skilled bartenders going to work on cocktails such as the All Star Martini, the Jack Daniels infused Apple-Ation and the alcohol induced Flaming Zombie.
We have a short game of bowling which lasts around 20 minutes. There are a limited number of lanes so booking ahead on the weekends is essential. Following the bowling we decide to check out the restaurant. The food, as expected at a bowling alley is home-style American cooking and ensures there is something for everything. To start try the delicious Maryland Crab Cakes; succulent blue swimmer crab with sweet potato and a chilli and pickle dip. Follow that with some of ASL’s excellent fried chicken; I opted for Buttermilk with jerk gravy which gave it a nice little kick. Having a lot of fun by this point I skipped dessert and instead ordered a Love Potion No.9. Advertised as a ‘sharing cocktail’ Finlandia Vodka, raspberry puree, apple and lemon juice are mixed in a large fish-bowl style glass and finished with a touch of passion fruit.
At this point memories of weathered bowling alleys of years gone be were a distant memory (this could have been down to that last cocktail.) All Star Lane’s in Shoreditch is a trendy and hip venue in its own right. The bowling alley adds an extra dimension to All Star Lanes but is by no means the focal point. If you’re after incredibly skilled staff making great food and drink in a cool venue then get down to Brick Lane; and leave memories of bowling alleys of the past at the door.
Words by Jack David