Since opening its first branch outside of big old London in Manchester three weeks ago, All Star Lanes has been creating a bit of a buzz in the city centre.
To see what the fuss was all about MM visited the ‘boutique’ bowling alley and restaurant housed in the iconic Great Northern building on Deansgate to see if it really would bowl us over or if the premise would roll feebly into the gutter.
On arrival, it’s clear the concept behind All Star Lanes steers far away from the quintessentially British idea of ten-pin bowling where winning a soft toy on the 20p crane machines and grabbing a Wimpy burger constitutes a Saturday well spent.
Even on a Wednesday evening you’re met at the door by a burly set of doormen who guide you to the reception area to sort out your reservation.
The staff are young and well-dressed, the surroundings are a cross between American diner and New York art-deco, and before you get a glimpse of the lanes you’re bamboozled by a vast array of whiskeys and bourbons stacked high on shelves around a large circular bar.
It’s at this point you realise just why the London venues – situated in Holborn, Bayswater, Brick Lane and Westfield Stratford City – have become a favourite hangout for musicians, actors and young professionals in the capital.
The team behind All Star Lanes have found a gap in the market and meticulously moulded their venues to appeal to a specific audience.
They recognise that most of us associate bowling with ‘warm pints of flat lager in plastic glasses and food that would make a ready-meal taste gourmet’, and they have ensured that this bowling experience is unlike anything you would have experienced in your local Megabowl.
Admittedly, once you’re past the impressive bar and are over the fact that you can get Puma-sponsored bowling shoes, the six lanes do look pretty, well, pretty normal.
I’m not sure precisely what I was expecting as ten-pin bowling is ten-pin bowling and it’s still addictively fun.
Off-peak prices are available all day Sunday to Wednesday and will set you back just £6.95 per person, per game, whereas peak times are £8.95. There are also discounts available for students and kids.
The authenticity makes you feel like you would leave into a Californian sunset rather than the snow of Manchester, with posters of American pin-up girls and teams of 20-somethings high five’ing each other at every strike making for a warm and enjoyable atmosphere.
The music, played at what I would call ‘party’ volume, veers between Hall and Oates – I Can’t Go For That, and Run DMC – It’s Tricky, which gives some indication of the vibes created on what I thought would be a quiet mid-week excursion.
A few bowls down the lane (I’m not sure of the terminology…) and the obligatory few strikes (this may or may not be true) later, our drinks arrived, served by a waitress in American diner apparel at the lane.
This is where All Star Lanes sets itself apart from competition.
The cocktail selection is vast, split into easy to browse selections of stiff, fruity and so on.
TIPPLE OF CHOICE: Are you a fruity cocktail or a Jack Daniels kind of person?
After walking past the whiskey selection and being told that the bar actually has the widest selection of whiskey available in the UK, I plumped for an All Star Manhattan, which had a full page set aside for its advertisement in the menu and cost a full-page worth £13.
Strong would be an understatement – which I suppose is what you’re after for the price and if you’re a whiskey fan you would be in heaven here.
The tropical cocktails are obviously a little lighter and again you have an eclectic mix – if you’re feeling particularly adventurous there is a peanut butter concoction and a selection of sharing bowls.
For a closer look to see what would be up your street, you can check out the wondrous cocktail list for yourself here.
All in all, All Star Lanes does exactly what it’s set out to do.
It’s taken a past-time that’s become old and tired, given it a revamp, an injection of American style and sense and catapulted it amongst the high-end bars of the city centre, where families and corporate clients are just as welcome and will have just as much fun.
There is also an 80-cover restaurant… but that story can wait for another day.
Keep checking back for its review on MM, as I will be using the words: ‘this is without doubt one of the best things I have ever tasted…’
To find out more about All Star Lanes, Deansgate, visit http://www.allstarlanes.co.uk/venues/manchester-deansgate/