At this state of the art branch of Karaoke Box, you can butcher the classics just as well as they butcher the meat in nearby Smithfield market.
It’s all about underground escapism at the Karaoke Box and even on sunny summer evenings, you’ll venture into a darkened basement where your eyes will take a moment to adjust. The venue opens out into a cocktail bar that feels a little bit dated and seedy – just what you’d hope for from a karaoke bar. A curved bar that’s backed by a lively fish tank backdrop slopes up to black leather booth seating, and it’s all terribly dark and shiny, with occasional interjections from posters depicting the greats – Queen, Robbie Williams, The Spice Girls and the like. The main draw for this branch of Karaoke Box though is its 16 private rooms available for hire by the hour, that sit hidden behind the bar. They come in varying sizes perfect for almost any party or singing eventuality (starting at £25 per hour for a group of five) and come kitted out with light dimmer switches, should embarrassment get the better of you. There’s also a bar call button, which should come in very handy for helping to loosen up those inhibitions.
The karaoke system in each room is state of the art stuff, with large, plasma screens for the words, and a touch screen panel for song selection. There are over 9000 tunes to peruse, and since they are divided up into artist, genre and popular choices, it’s an easy enough system to navigate should you have something in mind or fancy a roll of the dice. And there’s everything from the classic sing-a-long tracks, through to 90s hip hop and modern chart anthems, including versions of songs in Japanese and Arabic should you wish to flex your modern language muscle on the mic.
It may sound like you’re entering in on some strange torture chamber when you arrive at Karaoke Box, depending on your stance on karaoke. You’ll hear what can seem like sporadic, pained wails coming from each corner or the darkened venue whenever a door swings open on each private room. But this actually goes towards explaining the popularity of this night spot, where you’re afforded enough privacy in each soundproofed room to really let loose with friends on the karaoke. Come with the right attitude and you’re sure to have a good time, thanks to the whopping selection of tunes and your very own space for you and your group. You may come over all shy when a waitress bursts in mid-song, but it’ll be in response to that nifty ‘bar’ switch, so be prepared. And usually they’ll enter in on the fun, offering to join in if it’s one of their favourites you’re crooning along to, or tactfully choosing not to bat an eyelid when you fail to hit that high C. Other members of staff may have been in the karaoke game too long, though, as you may catch them rolling their eyes at your best Tom Jones impression. They’re probably just jealous, of course.
Pizzas are the ideal party food here, should you be needing to cater for your party. Starting at £9.50 for a margherita, toppings include a fairly standard but tasty ham and mushroom or a spicy pepperoni ‘devil’ (£10.50). But bases are thin and crispy and ingredients taste good and fresh. Smaller snacks to go down with the cocktails include a seven-piece tempura option (£10.50), making good reference to Japanese culture, should the karaoke not be enough for you.
Cocktails and shooters help soften up the vocal chords nicely at Karaoke Box and a fairly contemporary list of sugary options should get you up dancing, too. An Espresso Martini (£8.50) is sweet and zingy, with a nice frothy topping, while a Royal Mojito (£9.50) made with Appleton Estate rum and topped with Champagne is a crowd-pleasing twist on the classic. Again making reference to the Japanese origins of the ‘art’ of karaoke, Nigori sake is available for £8.50 a measure, while a Sake Bomb (£5.50) mixes east and west to interesting effect. If you really want the pop star treatment though, Champagne is available by the bottle – De Beaulieu Brut (£47.50) for Dizzee Rascals or vintage Cristal (£320) for wannabe Jay-Zs.
The Last Word
Whether it’s hip hop or delirious pop, Karaoke Box is sure to have you singing along with gay abandon once you realise just how private those private rooms are. And just as soon as you’ve discovered that bar button, naturally.