Baseball provides the latest sporting theme for a bar at Boxpark. Going in to bat for Inside Croydon was SANJANA IDNANI, who weighs up whether the concept is three strikes and out, or a home run
Sluggers is an exhilarating baseball batting experience, laced with cocktails and Latin fusion street food.
This is not an American bar, like something out of Cheers. The bar’s décor is inspired by the other countries where baseball is most popular. It combines the cool minimalism of Japan with the vibrance of Cuba and Mexico. The upbeat Latin music, accompanied by a bongo drum player on the night we visited, will transport you to the hot streets of Havana and get you energised for your turn at the plate.
My friend and I ditched the old-fashioned approach of having any sort of warm-up – after 18 months of no nights out, stretching and jogging didn’t seem right before a rare midweek evening’s socialising – so we opted to prepare ourselves by sampling the cocktail menu.
I ordered a Mojito and my friend, similarly seeking the taste of Cuba, tried the Cuban Sunset Fizz. The minty mojito was nicely refreshing, and the citrus fizz was a wonderful combination of fruity flavours.
Alongside the drinks, we also tried some of the food on offer. To create their menu, Sluggers has teamed up with Latin street food restaurants The Cuban Box, Guasa, Mr Pork and Hermanos, so cover to bring together food from Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico.
My friend tried a classic pulled pork slider, buffalo shredded beef and a chicken quesadilla.
I tasted the vegan Havana and the cassava fries.
While the sauce-filled sandwiches didn’t make us the tidiest of eaters, they were packed with punchy flavours and a variety of textures. The cassava fries combined with guacamole were particularly tasty.
To wash down the meal, we ordered a second round of drinks, this time travelling to Santa Cruz with blue-coloured Margaritas.
It is, by any reasonable measure, not a cheap night out. The Mojito is £11.00, the Cuban Sunset Fizz is £11.50 and the Santa Cruz Margarita is £10.00.
Food prices are what you might expect for pub grub. The main courses range between £8.25 to £9.95, with sides and sharing platters at £2.90 to £5.50.
After being watered and fed, we were ready to enter the batting cages and hit some balls. This is Sluggers’ second venue in London, their first south of the river.
The business is clearly aimed at attracting office parties (remember them?) and groups of friends on a night out. To hire a cage (for just 25 minutes off-peak) costs £18 for up to three guests, or up to £44 for a group of six for 50 minutes at peak times (the bar defines its off-peak periods as noon to 4pm Tuesdays to Fridays).
The venue has three batting cages, each decorated with painted baseball stitches and foam fingers. There are tables outside the cages, to watch your friends’ efforts from a safe distance.
Before you bat, you must wear a helmet and select your level. Then, you get into position and listen out for the blaring claxon which tells you that the ball is coming.
My friend and I tried the beginner level – which has a ball speed of 30mph. That was plenty quick enough. Major leaguers have been known to pitch at more than 100mph.
Once we got into the swing of things, after some tips from the Sluggers staff, we eventually found a technique that worked for us. If your baseball skills are better than ours, there are three more levels to try: intermediate, advanced and club, when the ball whizzes through the air at you at 45mph.
After we finished batting, we cooled off by enjoying one last drink outside on the Boxpark rooftop. If you want a unique night out that is right on your doorstep, Sluggers’ batting cages are definitely worth a visit. Just make sure you don’t have the speed dial turned up to 11…
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