Bowled Over | All Star Lanes Bayswater, 6 Porchester Gardens, London W2 4DB
I used to go bowling a lot and I mean a lot! Every weekend from the age of about ten to around fifteen, my Saturday would involve a morning movie, a frame or three of bowling and an hour or so browsing in Cloud Nine – the local record shop. That was before they ripped down the cinema and bowling alley and built an ASDA superstore (and I discovered girls). The last time I went bowling, a couple of years back, I won the tournament and as a forfeit I had to squeeze into a ladies size 8 mesh knit jumper – not a pretty sight!
I’ve tried taking my kids bowling but the nearest they’ve been to smashing a strike is on Wii sports. So Saff and I enlisted the help of a couple of friends who wanted to share the ‘full All Star Lanes experience’ with us. Plus JB and Jess certainly know their way around an American diner inspired menu, they have multiple US immigration stamps on their passports to prove it.
We set off to visit the All Star Lanes‘ Bayswater site. The location suited both of our journeys home – the Circle and District line easily taking us to where we needed to go. You can’t miss the entrance, big flashing lights and vintage styling. So far, so good. Once inside (and down the picture framed stairway), this vintage theme continues.
As you would probably expect the decor is 50s diner/bowling alley inspired as seen in countless Hollywood movies. But fret not, this isn’t at all tacky, it’s been done really well. The bar area has a real exclusive feel about it – talking of exclusivity, the private bowling room is fantastic (more on that later).
What really surprised us was the quality of the food and the friendly, efficient service from all of the staff. We assumed that as the primary reason for visiting All Star Lanes is to bowl, the food would be an afterthought – we were a captive audience after all, like the motorway services. Wrong! Of course you can get better burgers and ribs elsewhere in London. But I can tell you that you will not get better a classic diner menu and go bowling!
Before we wrestled with the menu (we wanted to make sure we covered all the major food groups – beef, pork and chicken) we hit the cocktails. We ordered from their ‘Creations’ section, all exclusive to them, plus the pun-tastic names appealed to us. JB’s Aloha Jar (£7.5) was suitably girlie – Finlandia vodka, pineapple juice, passion fruit, lime juices and orgeat and the main reason he ordered it – an umbrella, we knew they’d come back one day. Jess went for a Pisco Inferno (£8) – a twist on the classic Sidecar with Aba Pisco, King’s ginger liqueur, honey and grapefruit.
Saff ordered their award-winning Caipriamble (£7.50), champion of the ASL Finlandia competition 2014 – Finlandia vodka, fresh grapefruit and lime, all muddled with sugar. Whilst I opted for The Tom Selleck Sour (£8.50) – Gentlemen Jack whisky and Amaretto, shaken with lemon and cranberry juice, a fruity take on a Whisky Sour and strong enough to put hairs on your chest.
Starters can be tricky to pick when there’s four of you sharing, luckily Jess and JB have similar tastes to us. I love buffalo wings, so no compromise there but my selfish tendencies were eased by the Ribs & Wings sharing platter (£14) – chicken wings (BBQ or buffalo) and baby back ribs, with celery and blue cheese dip – easily enough for three. The Buffalo wings could have done with a little more hot sauce but there was absolutely nothing wrong with the flavour.
I asked for JB’s opinion on the ribs, ‘they’re good’ came his muffled answer through a mouthful of meat. High praise indeed especially as he had recently spent two weeks in Texas on a BBQ pilgrimage (oh, and a wedding). We supplemented this with some Popcorn Squid (£6.50), served in a cute American style Chinese takeaway carton with a big dollop of garlic mayo.
Main course was so much easier to choose. Saff went straight in with the Buttermilk fried chicken (£12) with sweet potato fries and homemade BBQ sauce. The chicken had a delicious thick, crunchy, spicy coating around moist, tender breast meat. Saff felt the sweet potato fries were a little dry, possibly oven cooked rather than fried, luckily the BBQ sauce came to her rescue.
Now Jess did something quite unexpected and ordered a Superfood salad (£10) a big plate piled high with quinoa, kale, spinach, pumpkin, pomegranate, seeds, rocket, toasted pumpkin seeds and a fresh beetroot dressing – colourful and heathy! Then she ordered a side of their excellent Mac n’ Cheese (£4.50). That’s more like it Jess – gooey molten cheese, you simply can’t get better comfort food than that.
JB also caught me with a sucker punch, I was certain that he would have gone for a burger, but no it was the Chargrilled Swordfish (£14.50), well you think you know someone. I loved the look of his slab of blackened swordfish, with its Cajun spiced rub served with guacamole, grilled lemon and fries, so much so that I almost wished I’d not ordered my burger, I said almost!
We were in a bowling alley so I had no other option but to order The King Pin (£12). That and the fact that this 6oz Dedham Vale chuck and rib beef patty was topped with Monterey Jack and treacle-cured bacon. But that’s not all, it came ‘crowned’ with a mac n’ cheese croquette.
Why these discs of Maccy C encased in a golden brown breaded coating are not elsewhere on the menu is a huge mistake, it tasted just too damn fine to be hidden within a burger. The actual patty was good if just a little too ‘clean’ for my liking. I do like a good dirty burger, one that dribbles down my chin and stains your shirts! Oh and don’t miss the warm and fluffy Pretzel bread (£3.50) with smoky cheese sauce – sticks of joy…
By this time we were getting a tad full. So when our brilliant waiter asked us if we wanted to see the dessert menu our response must have seemed a little unenthusiastic. His beaming smile must have hypnotised us, for as soon as we’d swallowed the last mouthfuls of our mains there was a huge dessert in front of us. Well I say us, it was only Saff and JB who had an actual dessert, Jess and I had a boozy shake each.
Saff’s Fresh Waffles (£5) served with vanilla ice cream, maple syrup, marshmallows and Wonka Sour Nerds (yes you read that correctly) was easily enough for two to share. So I played the dutiful husband and helped her finish them, I know, it’s a hard life. JB didn’t need much help demolishing his home style American pancakes (£6), with a choice of three toppings including, of course, ice-cream.
Meal over and it was time for the next phase – the actual bowling. Whilst sat at our table we couldn’t help but notice how the teams of bowlers were whipping themselves into an excitable frenzy. They were having fun, proper high-fiving, back-slapping, piss-taking fun and we wanted a slice of that pie (not literally, we were absolutely stuffed). They were obviously ignoring the handy illustrated guide to bowling etiquette, especially rule #4 ‘Don’t be a douche’.
There are six lanes situated just in front of the restaurant available for £6.95 off-peak and £8.95 peak. Keep an eye out for their deals, like Ground hog(Mon)day, Book and bowl any Monday to enjoy TWO games for £10(pp).
As we were changing into our bowling shoes we were informed that they had something rather special planned for us – our very own exclusive bowling lodge complete with two private bowling lanes and bar. This wood lined hunting lodge complete with cow hide detail and wall mounted moose head is available for private hire (for 30+ guests). I’m so going to try to convince my editor to have our Christmas party here, it would be amaze(bowling)balls.
Everything about All Star exceeded our expectations, the cocktail list, the service and most importantly the food. Even the retro styling, graphic design of all their printed material and authentic 60s decor were fantastic. Would we change anything? Apart from our appalling bowling scores, not much, not much at all.
6 Porchester Gardens, London W2 4DB
Telephone: 020 7313 8363
Make an online enquiry here
Opening hours: Monday to Wednesday: 4pm – 11:30pm
Thursday: 12 – 11:30pm, Friday: 12 – 12am
Saturday: 10am – 12am, Sunday: 10am – 10.30pm
Nearest station: Bayswater (3 mins walk) Queensway (5 mins walk)
We ate as guests of All Star Lanes, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.