The All Encompassing Cooldown Manual for Gaming and Esports Hangouts in London
East London’s Shoreditch area is well-known as a hipster haven, but Platform possesses none of the pretentiousness — the bar modestly opened its doors in 2019. Just a stone's throw from Moorgate, Liverpool Street, and Shoreditch High Street — is a proper gaming venue. Fit with semi-private gaming booths and a dedicated esports stage area fitting up to ten players, Platform is sure to be a hit no matter the size of your party.
Despite the bar’s gaming theme, Platform’s well-lit and modern aesthetic invites even the most casual, beginner, or I-used-to-play-when-I-was-a-kid guest. This is a venue just as fit for date night as it is for a gaming session as it is for a wild party.
The menu is equipped with a healthy selection of drinks for any adventure: Camden on tap, a variety of wines, fun & funky cocktails, and hot/soft drinks too. When you get hungry, you can tuck into a delicious wood-fired pizza. It is still Shoreditch, after all.
Check out Platform’s Cooldown page for upcoming events — like The MIXUP watch party with KingJae! Follow them on Twitter & Instagram, pop over to the website or stop by in person at 2B Worship Street, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 2AH.
Meltdown London is simply put a no-frills esports bar — in fact, it was the first bar of its kind in London, opened over a decade ago when Meltdown bars first expanded out of Paris. You’re not going to be paying £12 a cocktail here (at Meltdown that’ll actually get you two) nor will you be turned away for donning team colours but that also means you won’t be visiting to add to your Instagram aesthetic — you’ll come to Meltdown for the love of the game. And you’ll keep coming back for its community, rotating game and karaoke nights.
Those affordable cocktails (and mocktails) we mentioned are fittingly gaming-themed with a good selection of drafts and cans to boot. Bar snacks are available, but for a more substantial meal, you’ll have to look elsewhere — though not too far, Caledonian Road plays host to a number of fast food spots, restaurants, and cafés.
If you’re looking for a venue that was built for and maintained by genuine esports enthusiasts, Meltdown is a pub for you. Catch an esports tournament, have a drink, hop on one of the PCs, and chat games with the barman — Meltdown is perfectly fit for purpose.
Stop by their Cooldown page for upcoming events. Follow Meltdown London on Twitter & Instagram, check out their website, or stop by in person at 342 Caledonian Road, Islington, London, N1 1BB.
The NQ64 concept mixes a night out with a dash of those old-school blacklight velvet posters, a squeeze of throw-back MTV bangers and a pocket full of quarters into one fine nostalgic cocktail. The neon-graffitied arcade bar chain concept burst into what-once-was Ballie Ballerson on Berwick Street in Soho in late May of 2022.
Londoners are invited to spend an evening inserting tokens (15 for £9) into a selection of over 30 arcade cabinets. If bedroom gaming is more your speed, jump onto one of the console set-ups at no cost whatsoever — but be sure to contribute to the bottom line by keeping your drink orders coming from their retro-gaming-themed cocktail list.
Take the Bowser Breezer for a spin, ask for a pull of Camden, twirl around some noodles if you’re feeling peckish; but whatever you do, don’t forget how to Hadouken. And take a few fluorescent selfies with the squad while you’re at it.
Follow NQ64 Soho on Twitter & Instagram, pop over to its website or stop by to drain some tokens: 53-54 Berwick Street, Soho, London, W1F 8SP
Four Quarters Peckham
Sprung from the minds of the now-closed Retro Games Base in Streatham — Four Quarters inserted itself on Peckham’s Rye Lane in June 2014 as London’s first arcade bar. The basement area houses 15 original & restored arcade cabinets, while upstairs you’ll find retro console stations at the ready. Pages of vintage gaming mags are plastered floor-to-ceiling in the bar’s back rooms and toilets — lending a small town American college bar vibe.
A fiver gets you 15 quarters at the bar, and while you’re there, take advantage of the all-day-every-day house cocktails deal: 2-for-£13. Take your pick from Yoshi Sours, Rainbow Roads or the signature Great Mouse Detective — a basil-infused Beefeater Gin Tom Collins.
The Four Quarters crew are craft beer fanatics and the selection certainly reflects it. All locations currently tap a Four Quarters Pale Ale brewed by Sharp’s Brewery and a Four Quarters x Mondo Brewing Outrun Hazy Pale Ale collab while supplies last. There’s a fridge full of rotating cans and no kitchen in sight, though it is promised that they serve food from a nearby spot.
Follow all Four Quarters locations on Twitter and Instagram, revel in their retro-website design, and come drain some quarters at: 187 Rye Lane, Peckham, London, SE15 4TP
Four Quarters East
Finding success in Peckham, Four Quarters brought its concept to East London’s Hackney Wick in 2017. Guests can enjoy a similar collection of retro arcade cabinets, cocktails and consoles with the added bonus of a spacious canal-side beer garden. Old-school game mags cover the walls enhancing the East London aesthetic with exposed air ducts overhead and ever-so-slightly scuffed wooden floors below.
Four Quarters East follows the Peckham lead with a 2-for-£17 house cocktails deal — this time offering “charming” options like the Citrus Bitch and Captain Pugwash, a souped-up Dark & Stormy. Get in between 5-7 PM on Monday-Friday to enjoy happy hour with £3.50 pints and £6.50 cocktails. At those prices, you may even forget you’re in London…
We’re told there’s a projector screen hidden away to be used for viewing parties and even pub quizzes — something we at Cooldown know a thing or two about. Beer and gaming have proven to be a match made in London’s socialising heaven and Four Quarters has laid claim to a little slice of it. Speaking of slices, get yourself a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-themed pizza while you’re button-mashing, but wipe those greasy fingers, please and thanks.
Check out Four Quarters East’s Cooldown page for upcoming events - like LEVEL UP. Follow ‘em on Twitter and Instagram, stop by their website, or come visit in meat-space at Unit 8, Canalside, East Bay Lane, Hackney Wick, London, E20 3B.
Four Quarters Elephant Park
The final entry in the Four Quarters trilogy can best be described as the arcade bar mini-chain’s final evolution. Launched in 2021 at the new Elephant Park development — the culmination of years of learning and development from the Four Quarters team bears its fruit. Drink in the fully realised patented gaming-mag-covered walls with the exposed industrial interior and dozens of gaming cabinets and consoles.
In a first for Four Quarters, Elephant Park serves a selection of burgers and hot dogs along with its typical game-ified drinks menu. Still the noise between your ears with a Gi-onic Boom or suit up with a Knightrider, which hits like a Black Russian after a fight with a Boilermaker.
Heads up — stop by on Tuesday or Wednesday to swap a tenner for a burger and a beer or pop down after class on Wednesdays for student nights with £4.50 house drinks and £8 cocktails with a student ID.
Follow Four Quarters Elephant Park on Twitter and Instagram, revel in their retro-throwback website design, and come drain some quarters at 20 Ash Avenue, Elephant Park, London, SE17 1GQ.
ESC Bar Stratford
ESC Bars are the result of a 2019 fork in concepts from previous Loading Bar locations in Stratford and Shepherd’s Bush. Two locations have also branched their concepts away from each other in the time since. ESC Stratford tweaked the original formula, but has kept key elements: arcade cabinets, pinball machines, console booths, and board games. While ESC Shepherd’s Bush is geared towards live entertainment and open mic nights and away from gaming.
A visit to the Stratford location gives the feeling of being in a traditional pub with gaming elements, rather than a full-blown gaming bar experience. A browse of the cocktail menu reveals a few gaming-inspired drinks, but by and large, the gaming concept has been more subtly baked into the quaint ambience of the pub itself.
It’s an atmosphere that lends itself to a variety of options. A great location for a Monday night pub quiz, for a Mario Kart session with a few friends, regular Smash Bros meetups, or simply a nice pint after work.
Follow ESC Bars on Instagram, visit them online, or stop by in Stratford: 25 W Ham Ln, Stratford, London, E15 4PH.
Loading Bar Stoke Newington
Loading Bar is arguably the blueprint for the London gaming bar. Founder Jimmy Dance brought Loading Bar from Cornwall to Soho, London in 2013. Bringing the iconic game-themed cocktail menu with him. That venue has since changed hands (see ESC Bar above), but Loading Bar has found a new home in Stoke Newington.
An exciting development recently saw the bar open a brand new basement lounge in partnership with indie game publisher Devolver Digital, almost doubling the size of the venue. The bar features a collection of board games, along with a tucked-away games room packed with arcade cabinets and console booths. It’s all free to play, but you can help keep the lights on by getting food or drink from the bar.
The menu, by the way, includes some fabulous concoctions such as the G&T-Virus — an official collaboration with Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise, and Assassin’s Mead — yep, in partnership with Ubisoft. On top of all of its claims to fame, Loading also hosts regular video game-themed karaoke nights, cleverly deemed Maraoke.
Follow Loading Bars on Twitter and Instagram, stop by the website for its wondrous blog, and of course stop by for a drink and laugh at: 129 Stoke Newington High St, Stoke Newington, London, N16 0PH
Loading Bar Peckham
Loading Bar’s newest location in Peckham opened within Mountview University in 2021. The location offers more of a cafe vibe when compared to Stoke Newington, though there’s no lack of wall-mounted screens for watching live entertainment or playing your favourite games. Naturally, there’s plenty of seating for board game nights and a host of consoles in the back.
You’ll still find internet-famous game-themed drinks on the menu to pair with a variety of food options for bonus points. Burgers, hot dogs and loaded fries make for a solid selection of elevated pub fare for any palette. For the youngsters, they’ve got smoothies and milkshakes, and for the older patrons, plenty of shots!
Follow Loading Bars on Twitter and Instagram, stop by the website, and plug in IRL at 120 Peckham Hill St, Peckham, London SE15 5JT
Describing Four Thieves as merely a “gaming bar” would be something of an understatement, an entire entertainment centre would be more fitting. The core of the venue is a Victorian Music Hall converted to an arcade (recently reopened), complete with VR setups, RC racers, skeeball, air hockey tables, and an escape room!
When you’re done with all that, cool off with a drink from the Tap Room — stocked with a hefty lineup of craft beers and complemented with stand-up comedy nights, pub quizzes, and a weekend brunch. If you get hungry, grab a bite of the Italian-inspired street fare. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Four Thieves is an actual microcosm of London nightlife in and of itself.
Check out the Level Up Brunch Club combines the arcade experience with bottomless brunch — all you can eat & drink pizza and mimosas, bloodies, and house pale ales.
Follow Four Thieves on Instagram, click over to the website or hop on the tube and head over to 51 Lavender Gardens, Clapham Junction, London, SW11 1DJ