‘I went to London’s most ridiculous bingo and it felt like a fever dream’
When I think of bingo, I think of sitting in my cold primary school assembly hall on a December night, competing against both other kids and the elderly to win a basket of smellies.
But my experiences of bingo have came a long way since then: rave and drag versions of the classic game tend fill up the calendars of millennials in London.
A regular party bingo-er myself, I’ve been keen to try the newer, more electrically-energetic kid on the block of bingo hybrids: Hijingo.
In Shoreditch, Hijingo sells itself as ‘the future of bingo’ with its ‘multi-sensory experience’ creating this ridiculous event that guarantees a wildly weird time.
I decided to opt for combining my beloved pastime of bottomless brunch (at this point it’s practically my hobby) with the thrill of the game and attended their special Blackcat Brunch during the Halloween weekend.
Despite spending endless hours scrolling through Tiktok trying to decode just what exactly this event entails, nothing could have prepared me for the wackiness of this Sunday afternoon.
This is the un-aired extreme Olympics of bingo. This is the Mad Hatter’s version of a bottomless brunch. This is Hijingo.
They refer to its offering as more of a show; a piece of live entertainment. Truly an overload on your senses, it’s an accurate representation to refer to this bingo as dramatic rather than competitive.
Before entering the arena we waited in the vibrant Lucky Cat Bar. Neon lighting and signs glowed around the venue like the funkiest back alley, late night Tokyo hangout, as if I was the undercover spy of an action movie perusing the menu just moments before the bad guys burst in.
They served a range of cocktails with pan-Asian twists but as any true bottomless bruncher knows, there’s just no point in paying for alcohol before you’re about to get it on tap. You’ve already given your dues for that and I wanted to experience the package’s total benefit.
Also, the £45 brunch deal includes a welcome cocktail anyway. As we visited on Halloween weekend, ours came served in a medicine bottle. And I’ll say one thing for sure: they certainly cured any level of sobriety building in my system.
My blood-red drink tasted like a berry smoothie packed with as much alcohol as fruit and I wasn’t complaining. Although it did have my face scrunching up in shock at the first sip. That welcome drink was more of a welcome to the barrage of alcohol that would soon be greeting me.
Walking in to the arena, I was hit by the flashing lights of music videos playing on the mirrored LED screens and swept up in a tornado of sound; I felt like I stumbled into some kind of party space ship.
Either that or some kind of crazy dream, with an eclectic range of tunes ranging from Rihanna and Lil Nas X to Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift blasting from the 3D cinema speakers.
We found ourselves sat at a long bench with an extra shelf above the table that allowed us to keep our drinks and playing cards separate- something I appreciated as a renowned spiller.
It wasn’t long before the prosecco flowed. The tables even featured buttons for calling over servers if they weren’t filling up your drink as soon as you’d like. Of course, as I tried to get the most out of the package, I can admit to pressing that brilliant button on more than one occasion.
After a glass or three Hijingo kicked off with dancers marching across the room and onto the stage under pulsating lights and beats. It felt intense and the appearance of these cheerleaders made me adopt a serious mindset: I just HAD to win.
No matter how much of a party the environment is, my competitive spirit is unaffected. As soon as the games began, I armed myself with a pen in one hand, prosecco in the other and my eyes were on the prize.
Named ‘Hijingo bots’, the dancers performed an energetic routine as a robot voice boomed through the room of nearly 200 players lit by rainbows of LEDs that stripped the ceiling.
The rules were explained to us and the robot quickly began to announce the bingo numbers whilst everyone fumbled about with their felt tips in a bid to keep up. We were to first cross out numbers until making a singular diagonal line, before achieving a second one with the ultimate prize going to the player with a full house.
There was no granddad shouting bad jokes slowly down a hearing-aid friendly microphone here, you had to really focus on the reeling out of numbers displayed on a screen. I assume you can imagine how difficult this became after an hour of bottomless bubbles.
Hijingo also didn’t feature talcum powder and random bottles of supermarket wine as prizes.
Winners at this bingo won slightly stranger items including a pocket-size drone, a light-up umbrella and a fold-able bike- as silly as these may sound you can guarantee everyone there was desperate to get their hands on them.
I couldn’t believe how upset I got when someone else screamed HIJINGOOO to win an umbrella with a few lights on it. I was SO close, just one number away. But I’m nearly over it now. Kind of.
Admittedly, I was slightly disappointed there was no European holiday as the final prize (on my trip it was just £100) like I’ve heard of others winning, but I guess it’s luck of the draw. Plus, I probably would have been even more annoyed to lose if that had been up for grabs.
The winners-to-be stood on stage with the dancing bots to hear their fate from the robot, as the screens zoomed in on their hopeful faces before announcing a win. To be honest, if I won, I think I would of hated the awkwardness of standing in front of a room of strangers whilst two girls danced around me in total seriousness.
There was a collective spirit of booze-induced fun in the room and although it was less raucous than other party bingo experiences I’ve been to, it was enjoyable in its unique way.
With just two games, it seemed short. But for a two hour bottomless brunch, I guess it worked well before people became too bubbled up to understand the non-traditional rules of playing in a diagonal line.
No brunch is complete without food of course and while I find some places to scrape up a sub-par offering for their packages, Hijingo excelled.
I enjoyed a delicious plate of miso salted caramel chicken and waffles, which was perfectly sweet, crispy and with a hint of spice in the generous portion. It had notes of sticky toffee pudding flavour with sharp spring onions and fresh chilli giving a savoury kick.
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My friend had the burger which they described tasting like a ‘fresher Big Mac’- whatever that means to you McDonald’s lovers.
I’d happily look at returning to Hijingo with a load of pals; it’s definitely a good group outing or even a team-bonding trip. While the brunch may seem a bit pricey to some, you do benefit from a fabulous combination of food, entertainment and plenty of drinks.
I got satisfyingly tipsy, had fun and felt like I was in an underworld party of the future.
My biggest complaint is that I’m a huge sore loser and didn’t enjoy defeat – so I guess I will have to return until I get my hands on a holiday, or even the umbrella.
You can find Hijingo at 90 Worship Street, EC2A 2BA.
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