Got one of those mates who tells the same old yarns every time you go down the pub? What you need is a distraction. There's no way we can cover every pub in London that has games but this is a hearty selection of our faves — and we've been to most of them too. Got your own contender? Let us know in the comments.
Pool and bar billiards
We begin with the less ubiquitous/more befuddling game of bar billiards. You'll find it in: the marvellously old fashioned Dog and Bell in Deptford; the sprawling King William IV between Walthamstow and Leytonstone (accompanied by a roaring fire and one of London's cheapest pints); the Pembury Tavern in Hackney (with its excellent cask ale selection); the Royal Albert in New Cross (although a bull was hogging the table when we were last there) and the legendary Hope in Carshalton.
With pool, the options are almost endless (we're not going to count clubs here). There's a pair of tables at the Banker in the City and the Water Poet in Spitalfields. Play on the red baize watched on by a moose in the Chelsea Pensioner in Fulham; chalk up at the Earl Ferrers in Streatham (they've got darts too); play at the no-nonsense Lord Nelson on the Isle of Dogs; upstairs at East Finchley's Madden's; or at the Landor in Clapham. Or make use of the dedicated games rooms at the Old Ship in Limehouse and the Beehive in Bruce Grove. Yes, there are loads more, but these are the ones we've tested out.
Ah, magic darts. From our pub database we recommend the Birkbeck Tavern in Leyton (which has not one but two boards — plus a sign politely telling you to watch out for stray darts), the Boleyn Tavern (a proper West Ham boozer with a gorgeous stained glass ceiling), the Old Sergeant in Wandsworth (good for beginners, the board is in the garden), and the Bobbin in Clapham (yes, they have darts in Clapham). Darts fanatics Capital Arrows have targeted many more pubs across the capital so we'd also suggest you check out their extensive dart board listings.
Why use your whole body to play football when you can do it using a single wrist? For table football, or fussball if you insist, Cafe Kick in Exmouth Market and Bar Kick in Shoreditch allow you to have a 'kick about' while watching real men play actual football on the TV. The table at the Forest Tavern in Forest Gate has ethnically diverse players; you can commit the ultimate sin of having a kickabout in church at the O'Neill's in Muswell Hill; play a match or two at (best-named boozer in London?) Pepper Saint Ontiod; with the gentleman footballers at Crouch Hill's Stapleton Tavern; while you're waiting for the toilets to free up at the Actress in Dulwich (the table is positioned just outside the facilities); among vintage tobacco signs at the Alexandra in Clapham Common; at the Lukin in Fitzrovia, or at Crystal Palace's Westow House.
We've written a whole article on where to play board games in London, and to be honest, so many pubs have them these days (particularly Antic pubs) it's hard to miss them. We would, however, draw your attention to a couple of specialist cafes, namely Draughts in Haggerston (London's first board game cafe) and new kids on the board the Library Pot in Richmond, which has over 250 board games (modern Euro games as well as old classics) and lays on a Mahjong evening every Tuesday.
Downstairs at BrewDog in Shoreditch is now a subterranean games arcade by the name of Two-Bit (It's got Space Invaders and a Metallica-themed pinball machine). A former butchers on Rye Lane in Peckham has won city-wide plaudits in its guise as the Four Quarters (80s/90s arcade games downstairs, a great spread of games consoles upstairs); or you can sup on cocktails named Earthworm Gin and World of Barcraft at Loading in Dalston. A special mention, too, to Simmons in Soho, which has a Sega Mega Drive in the corner, and the Bell in Aldgate, with its Nintendo Wii. Oh, and upstairs at the Four Thieves in Battersea there's a rather cool multiplayer car racing track, with steering wheels and everything.
For over 400 of London's greatest pubs, check out our database.