This fun and lively venue in Soho is suitable for an intimate date, or for larger groups who want to enjoy the live jazz.
Situated in the centre of Soho, Jazz After Dark sits alongside a row of bars, restaurants and offices and is easy to spot due to its interesting-looking – and very European feeling – sign. The venue itself is pretty small – there's a compact bar area as you enter with a couple of tables and bar seats, plus two rows of tables in the front section, which gives a close view to the stage area. There’s also a couple of small tables in a small curtained area to the side of the stage – ask nicely and you might be able to sit here. The venue is covered in mirrors with musical notes on and paintings by Sam Shaker - the majority of these around the stage area are of Amy Winehouse, who made a few impromptu performances a few years back. There's a TV on stage that plays music channels while bands aren't on and a neon Red Bull sign towards the back of the stage which gives the venue almost an American feel.
You can expect a mixture of tourists, music enthusiasts and hen and stag-type groups who are on a 'big night out.' Staff are friendly, helpful and give decent table service.
Naturally, this depends on who is playing, as the venue supports jazz, blues, funk and soul music, which attracts a wide-ranging crowd. There's everything from regular Saturday night quartets to one-off gigs by jazz legends. A lot of the time, there's a cover charge on the door (and this is cheaper if you’re eating), so this often means that people book rather than just stumble in off the street.
The set menu for parties (£12.95 for three courses) is good value for money. In addition to this, there's Spanish tapas dishes (£4.50 each/£20 for a tray of five), as well as burgers, pasta and grilled meat dishes (from £7.50) and a couple of desserts (£4.50 each).
The tapas portions are generous but, when it comes to quality, the dishes can be a bit hit or miss. Some taste amazing – the calamares a la Romana literally melts in the mouth and the grilled chorizo is spicy yet not overpowering. The goat’s cheese croquettes are another tasty pick. Other dishes aren't so good – the falafel in pitta bread sounds like a fresh healthy option but, in reality, tastes overly dry and could definitely benefit from more tahini and fresher falafel pieces.
If you're after a more substantial main, try the house specialties. But, be warned, the portions are huge. The BBQ mixed grill (£10.95) is a fab option if you love things meaty. Despite only listing a couple of meats on the menu, it can often come with more. The general selection includes lamb kofte, beef burger, chicken breast and spicy pork sausages. Like the tapas, the quality of the meats vary. All the meat comes piled on a large plate with skinny french fries, a portion of salad and barbecue sauce drizzled over everything, which gives it all a very tangy edge. If you're looking for a side order to go with a main course, the mixed salad (£3.95) is really fresh. The plate comes piled high with juicy ripe chopped tomatoes, vibrant olives, refreshing lettuce leaves and chopped cucumber. It's big enough to share between about three people.
The drinks selection is good. If you're after a wine, the house red (£15.95/£3.75 a glass) is light, fruity and goes well with the tapas dishes. However, if you're looking for a more interesting drink, the venue prides itself on its ‘exciting’ cocktails. These include all the classics – mojitos (which you can even get in a jug for £17.95), cosmopolitans and tequilla sunrises, alongside the somewhat tackily named ‘Outrageous Cocktails’. Pink Pussy, Kick In The Balls and shooters of Stiff Dick and Blow Job show they’re not exactly refined in name, but they certainly keep the larger groups amused.
The Last Word
The food might focus more on quantity than quality, but if you're really into jazz and love experiencing it in intimate surroundings, you’ll be right at home at Jazz After Dark.