It’s hardly a surprise that in this part of town there are a few dirty little secrets, and for most people it seems karaoke is just that. You may find yourself bashfully walking in after a day in the office and then, suddenly (well, after several large vodkas), your inner exhibitionist is out. You’ll be into your groove in next to no time: ‘This is great’, ‘I can rap’, ‘I’m definitely better than Eminem!’
Wandering through Soho, there’s a brilliant sense of liberalism in the air. It’s bustling with people from walks of all life and you’re spoilt for choice for places to get inebriated, which is convenient given that most of those who end up at Karaoke Box seem to have already frequented a few of the neighbouring bars in preparation.
The entrance to Karaoke Box is discreet and you could easily walk by without ever knowing it was there, perfect if you’re looking to sneak in without being spotted by the prying eyes of colleagues or friends. Once you do identify the entrance, you’re strategically welcomed by a large bar stacked high with spirits and a cocktail list. The friendly staff will take your drinks order and escort you to your room to show you around, and drinks are then rather civilly delivered. Inside each room there’s all you need to rock the night away; a multi-coloured screen, microphones, volume controls, echo sound effects (especially great for disguising those flat notes), a huge song selection and best of all, a bar bell – like a door bell, but for the bar. It’s great. Otherwise, the interiors of the rooms are plain - with leather-covered seating and minimal table surfaces, it’s more functional than funky, but it’s pleasant enough. The rooms vary in size to accommodate your party and start from £25 per hour.
Being all set up in the privacy of a booth - with the bar bell, of course - does wonders for your confidence and even the quietest mouse is certain to feel happy doing the backing vocals in next to no time. Couples spend a whole hour in a booth having a wonderful time (although it’s far from everyone’s idea of a dream date) and upstairs in the largest booth you can expect to hear office parties bellowing out cheesy classics and spy glimpses of fancy dress through the glass door panel as you walk by in search of the toilet.
Karaoke Box has an amazing array of songs – whatever your taste, they will have it. There are thousands of songs to choose from, and if you struggle making your mind up, the random selector can prove to be very amusing: Chas and Dave, anyone? For those who prefer to observe rather than be the main event, it is a little limited, since the booths aren’t huge and there’s nowhere to hide. The bar is very small and much more of a pit stop on the way to your room rather than a place to spend your evening. However, kudos to you if you can resist the temptation of joining in!
Food is available and, like the drink, it will be swiftly delivered to your booth. Pizzas are the main event and work well logistically: slice in one hand, mic in the other. Although they aren’t the cheapest, they’re probably worth the investment if you’ve over-abused the bar bell and require something to soak up the booze. Finger food and snacks are also available to nibble on in between songs, which is probably more realistic than pizza if you’re only here for an hour.
A few cocktails will help you get tanked up to take on those tunes, but perhaps groups are best off investing in a pitcher of Long Island Ice Tea (£29). Shots of Jagermeister (£4.50) are also available for the brave, but the more refined karaoke kings and queens can opt for premium shochu (£7) or sake (£14.50) instead.
The Last Word
Here, discreetly nestled on Frith Street, Karaoke Box is ready to welcome your inner exhibitionist – leave your shy side at the bar. It goes without saying that the bar staff see greater transformations than Gok Wan; in comes the office worker who’d rather go ten rounds with Mike Tyson than sing publicly, yet an hour later and two cocktail jugs down, out bursts the vocal goddess hot on the heels of Beyoncé and hungry for her crown.