Having been asked to review the recently re-launched Karoake Box in Smithfield, I duly rounded up a posse and proceeded to check it out on Friday night. After a couple of last-minute cancellations, our group consisted of three musical theatre professionals, two old hands at karaoke, and one “virgin” who had no intention of singing.
The first thing that struck me on arrival was the staff who were friendly, welcoming and helpful, particularly bar manager Paolo Espinosa, who set everything up in the room and showed me how it all works, and Lois Roberts on reception. The second was the venue itself: the bar area was airy and very tastefully decorated, as were the booths which also had interesting lighting systems. On a more prosaic note, the toilets were lovely and clean.
All of our troupe enjoyed the privacy of the booth setting, feeling “quite relaxed as opposed to standing up and singing in a bar,” and our non-singer had lost her virginity within 20 minutes (to Suzi Quatro’s “Can the Can”), saying “as a virgin singer I felt very safe to sing (there).” Another guest loved that the booths allowed separate parties to enjoy themselves without risk of intrusion and the ability to talk and be heard.
The playlist also came in for praise: with over 9,000 songs, everybody found something they knew. The background videos caused some hilarity in our party, with the suicidal goat being the highlight of one person’s night!
The only complaints were about the system itself: several of the songs were quite badly out of sync; and there seemed to be quite a long wait between songs, even when they were queued up. A key change facility would also be nice, as I believe people who take their karaoke seriously often look for this facility. However, the mikes worked very well; it was very easy to adjust the mix between backing and vocals; and the screen was a very good size.
We were in Room 3, which according to the website is a 14 person room, although I think that would be rather crowded and I wouldn’t personally recommend more than 10 people for comfort. This room costs £70 per hour before 9pm and £98 per hour afterwards. While this seems quite expensive, it doesn’t actually work out to much more per head than people pay for children’s birthday parties or a visit to the cinema.
The bar at Karaoke Box is well stocked, and cocktails and pizzas are both on sale (although we didn’t sample either).
I would recommend Karaoke Box to anyone who seriously enjoys karaoke, as it is much more pleasant that waiting for hours in a crowded bar just to get to sing once or twice. It’s also ideal for birthdays, hen parties, office parties or for anyone who enjoys an activity-based night out. Rooms vary in capacity from 2 to 30 people, and in price from £20 to £210 (for the VIP room) per hour. For more information, visit http://karaokebox.co.uk/smithfield/ or telephone their friendly staff on 020 7329 9991.