Growing up in North London, there were gig venues so iconic that it would be criminal not to have had a night out at least once. For indie kids, there was Holloway Road’s Nambucca; while Proud’s Camden Market outpost was the location for many a birthday party. One destination that has withstood the test of time? Meet KOKO.
With its grand red interior that combines theatre-stylings, ornate décor and boxes providing an elevated view of the stage, this is well beyond the sticky floors of the competition. Nights out here have always had a beautiful backdrop. And after a huge revamp when the venue was damaged by a fire back in 2020, the place is looking more boujee than ever.
Not only the place for live music, the Camden venue is now also home to House of KOKO (a private members club spanning private dining rooms, a rooftop, and a hidden cocktail bar in the dome), while Café KOKO is the ideal spot for pre-gig dinners and drinks. So, that’s exactly where we headed before a night of music at the legendary venue.
Bypassing the raised bar area and a very well-dressed crowd, we nabbed a corner table in the moody café. Amber candlestick holders, music-inspired gallery walls and hanging material pendant lights were paired with wooden benches softened by blood-red cushions and spatterings of white marble tabletops. In a word, the interior shouts sexy.
Starting with a couple of cocktails, it was a bloody mary for the other half, and a honeycomb (both £12) for me. Both on the watery side, they were soon ditched for a beer (£6.50) and bubbles (£8) as we made our way through the food. Finished off with chunky heirloom tomatoes and marjoram, the burrata (£12) was a fresh, creamy match for gorgeous giant meatballs (£10) – smothered in sauce and still semi-pink in the middle.
Our mac n cheese (£12) sadly arrived minus the extra ‘nduja we’d ordered, and without the cheesy pull or gooey consistency, it fell flat. The pizza, however was a tasty win. A classic layered with double pepperoni, guindilla chillis and a load of mozzarella, our Downtown Jimmy Brown (£16) hit the spot. I love the idea of crust dippers (£1), and while the ranch was nothing like the punchy American sauce we’re used to, the truffle aioli was a beaut.
While Alicia Keys blended into old-school tunes from Heavy D and Wreck-X-N-Effect, we finished up with dessert. It had to be the amaretto tiramisu served in a huge mug. Sufficiently stuffed and ready to party, we had a 10-second jaunt around the corner to watch Children of Zeus for the main event. This sure beats the usual pre-gig pub stop.
The DesignMyNight Digest
As if KOKO couldn't get any cooler, the historic venue has revamped its offering with this gorgeous space. While the menu could do with a little refinement, Café KOKO is a great casual pick whether you're in the area for a gig or looking for a cool new spot.
💰 The damage: around £90 for a meal and drinks for two.
📍 The location: opposite Morning Crescent station.
👌 Perfect for: proper pre-gig fuel.
⭐ Need to know: visit on the weekend for Sunday Soul Sessions brunches.