I don’t know how many sports I want my date to see me being bad at, but apparently we’re not at the limit yet. So: Flight Club.
This is Worship Street’s social darts bar, and it is to some darts down your local pub roughly what the Monte Carlo Casino is to a community bingo hall.
One difference here’s the real-time scoring – a blow to the age-old tradition of wandering up to the board to collect your darts, frantically trying to calculate the scores in your head without looking like it’s hard work. The Flight Club system, several small cameras triangulating on your dart and crunching the numbers for you, does away with all that.
The scoring and the screens and the sweeping arcs of Instagram-friendly lighting come at a cost, though. £25 an hour per oche, which nobody’s charging for some quality time with the dartboard at your Shepherd’s Bush local. But an oche takes up to twelve people, and £2 plus change seems like a small price to pay for not having to do all that maths.
A wave of noise hits as you head downstairs, part music, part people yelling over it. We’re taken to our oche by a waiter, who booms instructions for working the touchscreen dashboard and taking off-centre, up-nose photos of yourself to come up on the main screen when it’s your turn. If it’s not obvious, don’t bring your grandfather who loves a bit of darts after a pub lunch. This is not the place for that. Let him keep this one thing sacred.
More waiters come by to take drink and food orders, these games are way too high-octane to be wandering off to deal with a six-deep queue at the bar. And the food’s decent: pizzas, fried chicken and burgers, all messier than you’d expect them to serve this close to this many touchscreens, and more substantial than the menu – with its headings like Mini Plates and Sharing Paddles – makes it sound.
Jethro and Paul are darts… darts fanciers? What’s the term, you know, the one where you act nonchalant and ‘can’t even remember the last time I played darts’, but in some sort of White Men Can’t Jump hustle you can also hit things that you aim for, and have an actual strategy rather than just a hope your darts are going to hit the board and stick there. That one.
Thank god for Megan, who’s American and hasn’t grown up steeped in darts culture. We can be novices together.
We switch between the four different games you can load, often enough to work out that Demolition’s the one where the occasional unintentional fluke shot will take you furthest. Killer’s the opposite, a knockout game where you have to repeatedly hit the things you intend to hit and so I resent it greatly.
Paul and Jethro are, yeah, pretty good. Cruelly, Megan turns out to be some sort of unschooled darts god, stacking up trebles – I don’t want to get too technical but those are places on the ‘board’ where you can score ‘points’ – with sunny surprise. I get just enough fluke, beautiful shots by accident to be totally infuriated that I can’t do that at will.
There are masterstrokes and pitfalls, elegant triumphs and cruel defeats. There are acts of great chivalry, even if I wish that Jethro didn’t have to, you know, ‘avenge your honour, woman’ as often as he does, whenever a round of Killer sees Megan knock me out in five darts flat.
And when the two hours are up we turn in the darts and move to the Singer Tavern over the road for post-gaming.
The general consensus is: great. Thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, says Paul. Would get a dartboard for their home, says Megan. Remember that time I avenged you, says Jethro, that was good, wasn’t it?
I mean, of course they were into Flight Club, because they covered themselves in glory. For a non-partisan hot take on this whole social darts thing, you need the person nobody could accuse of just being dazzled into loving Flight Club by an endless parade of their own victories. Me.
So in summary: Flight Club must be doing something right because I loved almost all of it despite not being really, entirely, 100% that great at any of it.
It’s not trad. It’s not the place for purists. And glory is not guaranteed.
It is good though.
Tickets for a Flight Club NYE are £10, including free social darts all night, fireworks at midnight and sausage rolls in the small hours. Flight Club, 2 Worship Street, EC2A 2AH. 0203 3193093. For more information, visit www.flightclubdarts.com.