Brooklyn Bowl, the highly acclaimed New York institution, has finally dropped a much-anticipated anchor here in London. Self-styled as a ‘destination entertainment experience’, the London version stays true to the winning format, boasting bowling alleys, live music, multiple bars and a restaurant serving up legendary fried chicken, all under one very large roof.
When you take in its 12 bowling lanes, huge dance floor, bar area and segregated restaurant, it begins to make sense why Brooklyn Bowl chose the O2 as its home. The sprawling 800-capacity venue is decked out in a characteristically all-American style, inspired by its Brooklyn origins. Retro neon signs, lots of dark leather, exposed brick, enormous disco balls and circus murals you can poke your head through all contribute to the hip Coney Island theme. The all-under-one-roof format works, as the restaurant is behind a wall, tucked away from the main open-plan bowling and bar area, and so feels like a restaurant within its own right.
It remains to be seen whether the hipsters its creators hope to attract are willing to travel out of Shoreditch and over to the O2. In a venue as big as this, it can look empty very easily, and pulling in the crowds will be paramount to creating a buzzing atmosphere to match that at its Stateside siblings. Having said that, the crowd seems to be a good mix of large groups of friends and cosy dates. As the perfect venue for a birthday or work social, big groups are likely to become the norm.
With a large stage, dance floor and first rate acoustics, live music performances are at the heart of Brooklyn Bowl and are likely to govern both the crowds and popularity of the venue over its first year. The US version has hosted huge stars like Kanye West and Guns’N’Roses, so if this venue follows suit, success is likely to follow. Between live sets, the playlist pumped throughout the venue is suitably eclectic, favouring soul and RnB classics.
Brooklyn Bowl are mighty proud of their fried chicken, and once observed in its crispy golden glory, served alongside smooth mash and honey and bacon dressed greens, it’s easy to see why. But rest assured their burgers are equally good, served with perfectly salted, crispy French fries, and portion sizes are reassuringly American. The usual suspects - including macaroni cheese, pulled pork, ribs and pizza - make up the rest of the menu, and there is a reasonably priced kids section made up of smaller portions for little ones.
There are three bars dotted around the venue, all stocked with just about anything you could ever want. There are two types of Brooklyn lager to choose from as well as locally sourced brews from Meantime. Specialty Margaritas come in a delicious frozen strawberry option, and all beers and cocktails are available to buy by the pitcher. There are also some typically over-the-top milkshakes - like the Bourbon and Nutella shake - and root beer floats, as well as a modest selection of wine.
The Last Word
With its slick, themed décor and diverse attractions, the success of London’s Brooklyn Bowl will rest upon securing the same calibre of acts as its American counterparts - everything else is already in the bag.