Utter the name Jazz Cafe in Camden and you get the turning of heads and the trust of soul patrons (even the likes of Bobby Womack have woo'ed here), but with The Columbo Group taking status of the property this year, has the iconic name retained its air of notoriety? Three cocktails and one Hypnotic Brass Ensemble later, I can say that yes, I think it more than has.
Acid classical isn't a sexy type of music genre, Jazz is; and with that needs to be a venue that can evoke the play by play of musicians and instruments alike. A split level space that has seen a good ol' sprucing over the year, Jazz Cafe is the perfect place for both types of Friday fiend. While downstairs is intimate enough for shoulders to rub while big enough to shake it just right, the mezzanine restaurant is perfectly matched to couples looking to jazz croon and mutter over dishes. Matched with low lighting, stains of gold, candlelit tables, industrial flecks and geometric nodes that utter with subtle colour. We actually snagged a table by the bar, and while the highest footing in the venue, we were by no means stuck for a view of the band on the base level.
The Meal, Music and Atmosphere
Three course dining with jazz; many may think that a venture reserved for smoky clubs in the Capital, but not in a casual joint like Jazz Cafe. An easily approachable menu of drinks and food that both hone in on classics and favourites, it's a list that's easy to trawl through and easy to decide over.
Classic dishes with a veritable and contemporary twist, we started the night with the chilli squid and sriracha mayo (£7) alongside smoked beets with toasted pumpkin seeds (£7.50). I've never not ordered chilli squid on a menu, and Jazz Cafe reminded me why; a light intro with a lip-smacking mayo that complimented the seafood, this was an honest and well made dish that paired with the smoked beets provided a perfectly proportioned starter. It's the main where portion sizes dominated. A beaming bowl that curated flushed crab with garlic to a savoury and smart end, the crab linguine (£18.50) is a hearty dish here. Our vegetarian option wasn't lacking either, as two large hasselback carrots came complimented with a pungent harissa romesco (£13.50) and fries with a bourbon mayo (£4) that gave the side a slick southern edge. When it came to drinks, not only did a snapshot of Prosecco lead us on into the evening, it was cocktails in the shape of their Penicillin (£9.50) with honey, lemon juice, fresh ginger and whisky that provided a tight, well crafted and sharp twist to the night.
Getting onto the bnad, and the real clincher of the night. Hailed as 'The Bad Boys of Jazz' but known on the bill as the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, this Chicago troupe was unlike anything i'd heard before. Amped, ardent and blurring the lines between hip-hop, calypso and gypsie music, their teasing vocals and rampant trombones generated a sound that refused you the chance to not move. A band to dance to, and a band I left my bag to my boyfriend for (but don't forget your table booking secures you the space for the night, i'm just a scatty cat), this was the perfect team to tear into our Friday night in North London.
If a band like The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are anything to go by when it comes to the calibre of music that Jazz Cafe represents, not only can guests expect entertainment that knocks most live music venues in London out of the park, they can expect a dining experience that brings your night out to its knees. We certainly found that above to be true.