Central London is awash with places to play darts, from Soho to Holborn to the city. The Old China Hand and One Tun offer more modern experiences, while The Horseshoe provides a wealth of boards in Farringdon.
Count'em: three dartboards! An embarrassment of riches in this sizeable, south-of-the-river boozer. There's one in a cramped corner by the gents, one outside and what I'd call the main board, where you're playing in the middle of the pub, directly in front of a dozen tables of seated diners. Now that's real pressure: you don't want to be trooping back after scoring seven in their full view. It's nice to see a pub putting a dart board so prominent in their pub, rather than hiding it away in some corner though.
The electronic scoreboard puts this a class above most boards. It had chalk, a blackboard and a cloth to wipe it. There's a metal groove to throw from, which felt a little close to the board at first; maybe we were a bit rusty. Given the board's location, just watch out for waitresses/punters coming and going too.
Second edition of Flight Club in Bloomsbury offering trendy darts to the masses. The saviour of darts or the death of the game? What's undeniable is that Flight Club brings something new to the pub sport and, for better or worse, a brand new crowd. There's no barflies silently watching the board before challenging you to play for money here, but tables of young male and female office workers boisterously throwing the arrows.
The games themselves are very slick, with some nice gimmicks that make the sport easy to pick up and play. Before starting the game each player must enter their name into the digital scoreboard and take an accompanying picture like at a bowling aisle. The decision of whether to sabotage opponent's pictures is of course entirely up to you. There are 4 games on offer and if you're looking for a simple match of 501, you've come to the wrong place. The games are variations on killer, 201, golf and round the clock with animations on the screen accompanying the end of each players turn. the weightings on the rounds of each game are such that one high scoring turn can effectively win the game, which keeps things interesting regardless of the different skill levels of each player. As if by magic, after each turn, the player's score is automatically calculated with no arithmetic required, which is genuinely BRILLIANT and should be giving sleepless nights to announcers up and down the country. Russ Bray, a robot just stole your job.
While its not the pure darts experience we all love (murky pub, chalky fingers, permanent threatening vibe) its a whole heap of fun and will do its best to drag darts kicking and screaming into the 21st century
Deceptively massive Sam Smiths pub in the heart of Soho, king of the darts jungle!
Despite so many pubs around in Soho south of Oxford Street, so few offer darts. Shame on you, the John Snow. Shame on you, Coach & Horse. Shame on you, O'Neills, for many reasons. Luckily the Red Lion is here to save the day. Upstairs in this busy old Sam Smith's pub you'll find a dartboard to the right of the bar, in good condition with chalkboard but no electronic scoreboard. The board is close to the bar, and in this busy pub it doesn't take for long drinkers to occupy this space with scant regard for those of us wanting to play darts ("scum, sub-human scum"). There are no flat-screen TVs to distract from the darts, and leather stools and comfortable armchairs abound, once you're tired of the arrows.
3 Sam Smiths pubs in a row in the heart of Soho and Glasshouse Stores delivers the treble 20.
Walk down Brewer Street and before you come to Glasshouse stores you'll come across 2 other Sam Smith's pubs. Knowing that Sam Smiths usually delivers the darts goods, we fancied our chances of getting a game, but the White Horse and Duke of Argyll let us down. Luckily the manager of Glasshouse Stores understands that successful London bars require arrows, and walking to the back of the groundfloor bar presents the dartboard. The board is in a little nook surrounded by tables, so be prepared to act as the entertainment for groups of Japanese tourists, perhaps wondering why the red-faced man keeps nodding and pronouncing "good D, good D". A few distractions from drinkers heading downstairs aside, this is the perfect sort of darts pub for Soho, now Sam Smiths just needs to see sense further up the road.
Confusingly named pub delivers the darts goods. Bullseye!
Helpfully there are at least 5 other pubs named The Blue Posts in central London, one within 5 minutes walk, so make sure you're friends no which one you're headed to before you meet up. The one with dartboard should be sufficient explanation, and if they don't know which one that is, then you don't need that negativity in your life.
Truth be told there are better options for darts nearby like The Champion (http://www.dartslondon.co.uk/pubs/the-champion-oxford-circus) or the Bricklayers arms (http://www.dartslondon.co.uk/pubs/bricklayers-arms-tottenham-court-road), but The Blue Posts is a decent back-up and can be another stop on the Oxford Circus darts pub crawl. The board is located on the far wall in the reasonably small downstairs bar, and given the limited space around it's often blocked by tables and seated drinkers. If it's not blocked it's usually busy, so The Blue Posts is an option in Fitzrovia but prepare for a long wait for a game.
After a long day shopping on Oxford Street kick back with some darts. Forget Harrods it's time for some arrows!
This deceptively large pub is hidden away on a backstreet in Fitzrovia, but is an excellent option if you're looking for a game of darts in central London. From the entrance the front room of the pub looks too small to accommodate many drinkers, but around the back of the bar is a second room with a dartboard and upstairs is further seating. The smaller bar with the dartboard has just two tables so if you're in for the long haul you're unlikely to be interrupted by pissed-up 'friends'. There are plenty of other pubs on Charlotte street more likely to attract the tourists and locals so the bars usually reasonably empty, but just one board means thats you might need to be early to get a game.
Lovely little Sam Smiths pub in the middle of theatre-land. Mamma-mia! He's finished on the bull!
Located in the middle of the Strand, the Lyceum Tavern isn't the sort of place you expect to find a darts pub, but Sam Smiths comes up with the goods once again. Though the place is filled with tourists, there's still room for a dartboard just behind the bar. Not much room, mind. The board is squeezed into a little nook, and it's placement next to the bar makes it tricky to get a game in if drinkers are taking up space on the stools. The end of the oche is reasonably close to the back entrance as well, so games can be interrupted by tourists off to the Lion King. The board is in good condition though, and with the low prices offered by Sam Smiths, it's great entertainment at fantastic value. Five stars!
If there's anywhere which should be reliable for dart boards, it's sports bars - even those tucked away in Covent Garden. The board is tucked away in the right corner up a few steps on a raised level, so you can watch the football on the 3 screens which dominate proceedings while you throw. It wasn't too busy, even on a Tuesday when Arsenal were labouring to a draw in the Champions League. Darts or no darts, I'd consider this for a drink when sport is on.
Arrows-wise, it's a new-ish, fresh board. It even had its own mini sponge for wiping the scoreboard, and tactics scorecards printed on the chalkboard: both nice touches. The mark is gaffer tape on the floor. Felt a touch far away, but who are we to quibble?
This is a prime, unexpected spot for a bit of darts in central London, just round the corner from the Strand, Somerset house and the theatre hubbub.
A good darts option between Victoria and Westminster, as long as you can handle the audience.
Looking for a game of darts around London Victoria means walking a fair distance from the station into the heart of Pimlico where you'll find the White Horse and Bower. A Shepherd Neame pub on Horseferry road with one reasonably new dartboard hidden away on the far side of the bar. We visited on a Friday night and tables were at a premium which meant that the stools next to the dartboard were occupied by 4 lairy lads pre-drinking before heading out on the lash in Shoreditch. As terrifying a group of people as that sounds. Needless to say they had some forthright opinions on our game, technique and "banter". But if you can handle an audience then the Horse and Brewer is a decent place to play darts in Victoria. The darts area is big enough, the board in good nick and the bar is lively without being distracting. No electronic scoreboard on offer but the chalkboard will do.
You know what they say about books and covers? Well, you can and should judge a pub by its sign. I do it all the time, it says a lot about a place. And as soon as I saw The Ship's one, with a noble galleon and many white sails in view, I knew we were in luck - about time too. On this January night, we had visited three of Aldgate's other pubs with boards, only to find them all in use. But we're nothing if not, committed (or just bored on a Wednesday evening).
The Ship is a compact place with a longer bar downstairs and a smaller one upstairs. But it's not size that counts, it's what you do with it and there was plenty of space reserved for the darts board and an oche.
The Irish barman was alternating between serving drinks and throwing arrows himself, which is a ringing endorsement. The board wasn't free right away, there were some punters in suits practising for a league match, but they happily took us on. There's many darts pubs in London, but we've found few with such a convivial atmosphere.
The conclusion: the Ship definitely floats our boat.
A small very busy pub in the heart of the city. Not a viable option for a game.
Located a short walk from Mansion House, and equidistant between Bank and Blackfriars, The Sea Horse seems like the perfect destination in the city for a quick game of darts. Enter the pub from Queen Victoria Street and to the right of the bar is a neat corner with a decent board surrounded by red rubber. There's decent throwing distance and plenty of tables for resting your drink.
There's just one problem.
Neon sign. Empty street.All the hallmarks of a dive bar. Don't judge bars by their covers. Go inside and it's a cavernous, vaulted space with a sports bar and two darts boards, one downstairs and one up. Jackpot.
The board was good, even if the electronic scoreboard took a bit of fathoming. There's several pool tables and Sky TV (no Sky Sports though, oddly)
A modern darts pub in central London, praise be.
It's pretty rare to find a darts pub that isn't, you know, a little old-man-ish. And one in central London. And with a nice selection of beers. And showing Crystal Palace on the box! 85th minute conceded equaliser and all. Ah well, can't win them all. But, we digress. The One Tun is a very nice pub, 3 minutes walk from Goodge Street, with a dartboard in very good condition. Just behind the square bar in the middle of the pub, visible from the street is a new board with accompanying chalk board, which seems to have survived a recent refurb. The board is between the toilets and much of the seating which does interrupt play frequently.
The Hipster's darts pub of choice, in the heart of Farringdon.
It's not often that you come across a craft ale pub with a dartsboard, it's even less frequent to find a craft ale pub with 3 dartsboards, table tennis tables and board games in central London. Thank god for the Old China Hand.
Around 10 minutes walk from Farringdon station the pub is busy enough to remain open but by no means full on a Thursday night. Towards the rear of the bar is the first darts area, with 2 boards and a foam oche that you can construct and lay yourself. This area also doubles as the table tennis space, there's only room for one sport at a time, so get here early to fight off those troublesome ping pongers. There's a small chalkboard and a malfunctioning electronic scoreboard to complete the space.
Upstairs in the function room is the final dartsboard, which again is competing for space with a table tennis table. As long as tabletennislondon.co.uk doesn't catch wind of this pub, we'll be fine.
Another great Sam Smiths option in the heart of Fitzrovia
Set a little off the manic hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, The Champion offers a night of arrows to anyone looking for a game in the centre of town. Soho is over run with great boozers for darts, North of Oxford Street though is a little sparse. Which makes The Champion all the more welcome. The pub isn't the largest indoors but has plenty of standing space outside, perfect for those long sumner evenings.
The darts board is peculiarly set in a little cubby hole to the right of the bar. This unusual position doesn't negatively affect the throw, although the adjacent ladies toilet do provide frequent interruptions. The board is in decent condition, the chalkboard well kept and plenty of back up darts were provided behind the bar. All in all a pleasant darts experience.
Book ahead to secure the private room at this conveniently positioned boozer between Liverpool Street, Moorgate & Old Street.
Don't expect to just turn up at the Flying Horse on a work night and start throwing darts. This is a great venue for a long session at the Oche, but it's popularity means that a little forward-planning is required. The pub is comprised of a large bar downstairs filled with TVs and tables and a small room upstairs, separated from the main room of the bar, reachable via a staircase by the door. The two dartsboards are located in the upstairs room, with no board downstairs which seems a waste, given the ample room and clear popularity of the boards. The darts area contains additional tables and parallel boards making it perfect for a little 4-way tournament. The lack of an upstairs bar requires heading back into the main room to pick up drinks, but prevents interruption from other punters.
The boards are in good nick, and there's more than enough room for a comfortable throw.
A fantastic darts pub for those who come prepared, more difficult for impromptu evening sessions.
Located a couple of minutes away from Farringdon on the edge of the city, this bar is a lovely little find. Downstairs there's a single board, quite close to the buzzy open area of the pub. If that sort of spectatorship gives you the yips then maybe its best to hed upstairs to the function room. For this, is where the true play occurs.
With five available boards, it is to darts what Hackney Marshes is to football. That is, a chaotic home to some dreadfully low quality matches. Each board has its own oche, electronic scoreboard and decent lighting. The boards are all in decent condition and there's even a dock to plug in your tunes, should you agree with your fellow players on an appropriate soundtrack. Just no 'Chase The Sun'. Please.
A decent board in the tourist heavy reaches of Piccadilly Circus, beware the alarmed bar
Piccadilly circus isn't an area known for its abundance of darts boards, the presence of one sets the Comedy Pub aside from the other tourist traps nearby. Visitors to London flock to destinations offering the authentic London experience, but for someone reason pubs latching on to this seem to ignore the true tradition of getting fleeced by a local who was throwing 26's in the practice round. All this makes the Comedy club a welcome addition to Darts London. Placed upstairs in a corner beside the bar, the board isn't the newest but is in reasonable condition and perfectly adequate for a quick lunchtime throw. Speaking of which, there's an added element to keep lunchtime matches interesting. The 1st floor bar isn't in use during lunchhours, drinks must be purchased from the groundfloor bar. A mild inconvenience. The 1st floor bar is thus alarmed, should some sneaky wrong'un try and pinch themselves a drink, meaning that if you rest your drink on the bar during play, the alarm rings loud and true. A mildly shocking inconvenience
Sam Smiths once again delivers a central darts pub, frequently busy but board is nicely tucked away
Tucked away in a corner behind the bar it can be easy to not realise that this pub even has a board at all. The slightly inconvenient location means that this area is free of drinkers (if not players) in a frequently busy watering hole mid-way between Charing Cross and Leicester Square. The board itself is in reasonable condition, and is by all accounts regularly replaced. The long thin space that the darts area is confined to can slow down games when players can’t simply move away to the side post-throw but must walk back down past the Oche.
A small bizarrely laid-out Sam Smiths pub just off Soho with one battered board but friendly bar staff and lively post-work crowd
Just the one darts board in the pub, located in one half of the downstairs bar, which, helpfully, is inaccessible from the other half of the bar without navigating the garden or returning to the street to find the other unmarked entrance to the pub. If there’s one thing to be said for Sam Smith’s pubs it’s that hiring Salvador Dali to design the pub layouts was foolish.
A further oversight in The Angel is the placement of the board right next to the toilets, so that games are frequently interrupted by small-bladdered men and staff doing lines off the sink (editor: unfounded and libellous). If you can get past this, there’s a fair amount of space around the board and plenty of tables for resting drinks during play, making for enjoyable darts experience. The board itself was fairly battered with plenty of bounce-outs when we first played but has since been replaced.
An atmospheric, historic Sam Smiths boozer with hidden away board
The board's about as easy to find as a chatty stranger on the Tube. It’s located at the very back of the pub, hung on the fire exit - great for darts fans, at least until an inferno starts raging. The board has seen better days, with one or two bounce outs, but it does the job. This is probably better for a casual throw with mates on a whim than a serious match. Bring your own arrows too, as there’s no darts behind the bar.