“ American restaurant, bar and bowling alley / Locations: Bricklane, Bayswater and Holborn „
Last week, I, and a few others, were treated to an evening of food, booze, bowling and karaoke (strange combination, I admit). And what a fun evening it was.
Having initially walked straight past Porchester Gardens, I duly backtracked, and turned into the aforenamed Gardens, and practically ran straight into it. I negotiated past the bouncer (who ever heard of a bouncer at a bowling alley, I thought. It made more sense when you realise they serve drinks, and so don't want teen bowlers invading the venue), and went downstairs. The place is decked out like an American diner - indeed, Americana is the theme, right down to the attire of the wait staff. It's big - bigger than you'd think. It doesn't have the seemingly thousand of lanes that a 'chain' alley might have; there are around six or eight, I'd guess (I didn't count) in the main room, and then two in the private room we ended up in.
We were lucky; our first drink (a bottle of Sam Adams in my case - a beer I do like, even though I am mostly a real ale drinker), drinks (red wine, white wine, or Coors Light) with dinner, dinner and a couple of cocktails were free. This is just as well, as an evening at All Star Lanes won't be a cheap one. The bottle of Liberty Ale (another nice American beer - slightly hoppy, though still fizzy) I purchased was £4.50 - rather pricey for a 12 oz bottle. There is a good selection of American beers (well, there is a large selection - there are some very good beers, but also some awful ones - avoid the Coors Light, unless you like making love in a canoe).
The main meals seem to hover at around the £10 - £15 mark - again, expensive for what is essentially an eating place attached to a bowling alley (though far nicer than the standard nacho fare of most alleys). Cocktails can reach the dizzy heights of £10; though they are nice, I'd avoid them for that reason.
The food is again, American themed. I had a seared tuna taco to start, which was quite nice (the tuna was excellent), though I'd have preferred it a little more adventurously spiced. The ribs I had to follow were good, but truthfully, don't hold a candle to 24 hour slow cooked ribs I've had in the States. But the sauce was tasty, and the spiced apple that accompanied it was a nice touch. It came also with cole slaw. This was better than many slaws I've had here in the UK. The view of other members of the party of the food was mixed - one lady had what she described as a disappointing macaroni cheese, and the burgers while apparently good, looked a bit overcooked, and those that ordered the burger were never asked how they'd like them cooked.
Following the meal, we were escorted to the private lanes, where little canapé deserts awaited us. I had a bit of brownie. Again, it was tasty, but uninspiring - competent but not hugely special. Cocktails were also on offer (supposedly one per person...I may have had more than one) - I was told what they were called, but I forget. It was seriously nice though - there was mint, raspberries and I think an American whiskey. Do bear in mind, however, they are expensive if you have to pay yourself.
The bowling was fun, even though I am the world's worst adult bowler. The lanes are clean, there is a good selection of balls of various weights and sizes. The electronic and automatic scoreboard made life very easy, as it seems only the most dedicated bowlers can remember what happens at the end of a frame if there is a strike or spare. The private room only has two lanes; this is worth noting if your group is large, as you may struggle to get everyone bowling in a given period of time. I can't complain too much, as our team won (no thanks to me), thus snagging me a £20 voucher for next time. I would point out, though, that £20 won't go terribly far, especially if food and cocktails are on the menu.
The private room also featured a karaoke machine. I declined to participate in that - I'm more of a finger-in-the-ear-folkie, but I can say that other members of the party enjoyed it immensely, and some had real talent. I did not examine the machine in detail, as I didn't 'play,' so cannot really comment on its features.
Should you care to bowl and actually pay for it, a game at peak times (after 6.00pm and weekends) will set you back £8.75 per person (ouch). Off peak, before 6.00pm Monday to Fridays except in December) is a slightly more palatable £6.25. They do have kids' bowling, though I do not know what time they allow children. All prices include shoe hire.
Monday to Thursday they are open from 4.00pm until 11.30pm (so there is a short off peak window there) - they are open most of the day at weekends, and shut at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. All this information can, of course, be found on their website (http://www.allstarlanes.co.uk/bayswater/bowl.aspx). They also have two other branches in London, should Bayswater not be convenient.
I really did have a fun time, despite my abysmal bowling performance. Were I invited, I would certainly revisit, and will be using my voucher. However, given the rather steep prices of food, drink and bowling, I'd hesitate to go 'just for the heck of it'.
For a party where you have a decent sized budget, however, I would certainly recommend this place for a good (albeit expensive) night out.