Spreading rapidly from downtown New York through the European capitals and now looming as close to our fair city as Aberystwyth and Bristol, the social table tennis bug has already shaken the established nightlife of cities across the globe. With bars like Varsity Roath and Porters already prepping the Welsh capital for the outbreak by arming their premises with tables, we at Cardiff City Table Tennis Club believe it won’t be long before the phenomenon makes a significant impact on our city. To make sure you’re ready we count down the top ten spots around the world to find that winning combination of drinks, friends and a sport that anyone can play…
10 – Dr Pong, Berlin
Continuing the aesthetic from the city’s famous nightclubs, the rooms at Dr Pong are bare, with hardly any furnishings at all. It’s not the feng shui of the place though that makes Dr Pong a magnet for locals and tourists alike. The bar has a world-renowned reputation for pure raucous fun, making it a cultural mecca for the thriving table tennis scene that spills out of Dr Pong every summer and across the graffiti-strewn tables of Berlin’s parks and backyards.
9 – Kosmonaut, Manchester
This former cotton mill in the Northern Quarter became the Kosmonaut in 2012 and the venue’s new owners wasted no time in opening up their large basement as a high-quality table tennis space. The basement is also the place to go to catch some of the city’s top DJs soundtracking play at one of Kosmonaut’s famous ‘Pasta Paul’s Ping Pong Parties’. It’s not the only bar in Manchester to try the potent mix of table tennis and partying though as both Gullivers and Twenty Twenty Two also feature large rooms wholly dedicated to the sport.
8 – Du Pong, Copenhagen
The home of social table tennis in Scandinavia is nestled in Copenhagen’s famously stylish Nørrebro district. Du Pong was started by local students who wanted to make going out in their city an even more social experience. The bar they created is famous for its ‘around the table’ group challenges; an elimination competition where multiple players run in circles around a table trying to return a ball, one after the other. The venue’s website promises simply “sweat, love and cold beer” before advising us “play with heart and drink with your mouth.”
7 – Kongs of King Street, Bristol
A bar dedicated to the frankly inspired combination of table sports and retro arcade games. Kongs of King Street takes its name partly from its location on Bristol’s best street for independent bars, known as part of the ‘Beermuda Triangle’, and partly from the fact that the venue boasts an original 1981 Donkey Kong machine alongside Street Fighter and Pac-Man. This playful place has already inspired much giddy excitement among the young and young at heart since its opening less than six months ago. The fledgeling love affair between table tennis and British cities was already at work in Bristol prior to the arrival of Kongs, however. Roving table tennis social clubs like the Kings of Ping and Ping Pong Parlour have long preached the virtues of play in parties.
6 – Ping, London
Billed as a “shabby-chic hangout for London’s young creative minds who want to relax and unwind in a visually stimulating and interactive environment”, Ping couldn’t be more unashamedly hipster-friendly if the actual building grew a beard and tied its hair in a top knot. The walls at Ping strive to remind the cliental of how all the famous and beautiful people play table tennis as photographs of Audrey Hepburn, Bob Marley and Elizabeth Taylor, all with bats in hand, stare out over the tables to judge your technique.
5 – Wiff Waff, Aberystwyth
Wales’ first table tennis bar opened in the seaside town of Aberystwyth last September. The venue’s archaic name is complemented by a whacky old world public school theme. Nineteenth-century bats feature on Wiff Waff’s ever-present logo, and the bars fittings seem built from old gymnasium ropes, parts of a PE changing room and a Victorian-style writing desk from which you can collect your bats and balls. It’s all so eccentric, Boris Johnson would be proud.
4 – Ping Tron, London
More of a pop-up party than a fully-fledged bar, but Ping Tron looks such a spectacle that it just has to make the list. Organisers bring a custom-built lightproof box along to bars, industrial spaces and art galleries, inviting party-goers to step inside. Glowing in the dark players find bats, balls and a table marked out only by UV paint. What happens next is an approximate estimation of what people in the 1980s probably thought table tennis would look like by the year 2015.
3 – Gossima, Paris
This spacious former car showroom is now home to ten isolated rooms split across two floors, with each room dedicated wholly to a single playing space. After witnessing the success of similar bars in the US and Germany, Gossima was opened in an upmarket district of Paris by a successful events marketer and a former Olympic finalist. The ornate bar has quickly become a popular unwinding point for young Parisians, with a décor and vibe distinctly French in its laid-back ambience. The bar’s curious name comes from one of the old interchangeable titles used for the sport in nineteenth-century England; a name which has in modern times gone the way of Wiff Waff and Flim Flam and fallen far out of use.
2 – Bounce, London
Built on the very site where the first ever official ‘ping pong’ set was manufactured by the Jacques Brothers in 1901, this huge 12,000 square foot venue includes an ornate fifties-style cocktail bar created by the famous interior designer Russell Sage. There’s nothing retro about the venue’s centre court, though, as bounces also boast the futuristic curves of the very same table tennis table used in the 2012 Olympic Final.
1 – SPiN, New York
The place where it all began. SPiN was opened in 2009 by veteran Hollywood actress and self-styled “Ping-Pong propagandist” Susan Sarandon. All Susan needed to do was mention her ground-breaking new venture in a couple of high profile interviews and suddenly SPiN was a new favourite night spot for the city that never sleeps. Today SPiN boasts seventeen top quality tables, bands playing every weekend and celebrity patrons ranging in quality from Justin Bieber to Jan-Ove Waldner.