Funny how quickly those birthdays come around every year and, before you know it, the challenge is on: how can you give your child a party he’ll remember? How about lunch at a retro-chic diner, followed by a bowling party? That’s the offering at the trendy All Star Lanes, with four branches across London – put to the test by a gaggle of eight excitable seven-year-old boys. In fact, containing their exuberance during the pre-match dining was a big challenge, with their frequent cries of “When can we bowl?” Of course, no one can perform to their full potential on an empty stomach, so after hotdog and fries for all (despite the choice of burgers, chicken, spaghetti, macaroni cheese or fish fingers) washed down with vanilla shakes and sundaes, it was time to move over from the diner for our bowling.
With the boys all neatly kitted out in their bowling shoes (the smallest size offered is 13), it was down to the lanes as our competition got underway. All Star Lanes is well equipped to cater for the youngest bowlers, with extra-light bowling balls, ramps that will keep your ball in line if you haven’t perfected that swing yet, and handy bumpers that keep your ball on the lanes and prevent that heart-sinking disappointment when your ball veers off into the gulley and not a single skittle scuttles and falls down.
The boys loved to see each of their names in lights and were surprisingly good at waiting their turn – and even cheering on each other (maybe that testosterone-fuelled competitive streak hasn’t kicked in yet!). After a few goes, they even decided to ditch the ramps and go freestyle. As the more professional types in the adjoining lanes made it look easy, we didn’t actually manage a single strike, but, hey, they each got a medal in their goody bag, so they were all happy.
The birthday boy was the clear winner – with no manipulation of scores! And, call me clairvoyant, but I just happened to have a winner's trophy with Joe’s name on it.
All Star Lanes, Second Floor, Westfield Stratford City, London E20 1ET. Tel: 020 3167 2434.
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