The word karaoke literally means ’empty orchestra’…
…which in any other situation would be a pretty discouraging sign if you’d just started singing.
Thankfully what it means here is a guaranteed excellent night out, where you can unleash your vocals on a room filled with people who – bound either by friendship or just professional awkwardness – are obliged to at least pretend they’re enjoying it. And not only has London got excellent karaoke bars, from private party rooms at restaurants to glossy basement booths, it’s also home to a roster of regular, raucously fun singalong nights.
Many of which actually do have orchestras.
Karaoke Bars in London
Lucky Voice | Soho, Islington, Holborn
To say that Lucky Voice does karaoke is an understatement. Because the latest branch in Holborn is the most insane yet, with over 9,000 songs to pick from; private booths for up to 30 people; controllable, themed lighting; ‘Thirsty’ buttons for cocktail delivery direct to your room; dancefloors; cocktail masterclasses; bar snacks; dress-up boxes… and a 4am license.
Address: 84 Chancery Lane, WC2A 1DL | Price: £8-14pp | Capacity: Up to 30 | Make a booking
The Old Queen’s Head | Islington
Depending on how big you want to go, Islington’s maximalist pub has two options for you. 1) Hire out the private karaoke room, accommodating a mere 15 persons within its tiki-inspired walls; or 2) hire out the playroom for up to 70 people, where – aside from stunning your captive audience with one of 10,000 songs on the system – you can also play table football, battle on vintage arcade games, and enjoy your own personal booze-stocked fridge.
Address: 44 Essex Road, N1 8LN | Price: On enquiry | Capacity: 1-70 | Make a booking
All Star Lanes | Brick Lane, Westfield White City, Bloomsbury
All Star Lanes have brought that loving feeling back to bowling, with cocktails, non-sweaty shoes, and stylish 50s vibes. And just in case an hour of hitting the pins in an atomic-era bowling alley with a killer soundtrack, authentic American diner food and 2-4-1 tankards of piña coladas somehow wasn’t fun, they’ve also thrown in private karaoke booths, too. And photobooths, so you can at least remember a bit of your evening the next day.
Address: 95 Brick Lane, E1 6QL | Price: £10 | Capacity: 4-12 | Make a booking
Karaoke Box | Soho, Mayfair, Smithfield
KB is a London karaoke institution, thanks to their no-frills but endlessly dependable combination of private booths, great songs and extremely well-stocked bars. Smithfield is their biggest, with 15 rooms to hire and a dancefloor to hit afterwards, while Soho is better for smaller party sizes – and retains superior status thanks to its pole position between Ceviche (for a classy dinner beforehand) and Little Italy for the afterparty (and if that’s classy, you’re doing it wrong).
Address: 18 Frith Street, W1D 4RQ | Price: From £30ph for 5 people | Capacity: From 5 (Soho) – 30 (Smithfield) | Make a booking
The Blues Kitchen | Shoreditch
Sure, The Blues Kitchen is renowned for its constantly changing line-up of esteemed blues, soul and funk musicians every night of the week. What it’s (tragically) less renowned for are the musicians taking to the private stage upstairs, a.k.a. you. Hire their gorgeously kitted out Playroom, and you’ll get a karaoke machine, table football, and your own dedicated server bringing you dirty Southern BBQ (or alligator tail, whatever floats your boat), the world’s strongest beer, and superlative cocktails all night.
Address: 134-136 Curtain Road, EC2A 3AR | Price: Minimum spend varies | Capacity: 10-25 | Make an enquiry
The Star of Bethnal Green | Bethnal Green
Decked out with plush furnishings, vintage-styled wallpaper and a karaoke system powered by Lucky Voice and loaded up with over 15,000 songs, The Star of Bethnal Green’s spacious karaoke room is pitch-perfect, even if you aren’t.
Address: 359 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6LG | Price: Sun-Thurs £49ph, Fri & Sat £69ph | Capacity: 15 | Make a booking
Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes | Bloomsbury
Just like any authentic 50s American bowling alley, BBL have a fridge full of beers, hot dogs, and five private karaoke rooms featuring 30,000 hand-picked songs and touchscreen tech. Which sure beats all those other steam-powered karaoke booths into the dust.
Address: Tavistock Hotel, Bedford Way, Bloomsbury, WC1H 9EU | Price: From £27.50ph | Capacity: 25 | Make a booking
The Bat and Ball | Stratford
If ping pong isn’t ballsy enough for you, Stratford’s table tennis bar also has a UV-lit private karaoke room, with tropical decor and a sweet 25,000 songs on the slate.
Address: Westfield Stratford, Montfichet Road, E20 1EJ | Price: £8-10pp | Capacity: 16 | Make a booking
Piano Bar | Kensington, Smithfield
You know those New York bars in films where people load up on negronis and find themselves crowding round the piano singing along to old classics, arms around a group of people who – negronis notwithstanding – are definitely their new best, best friends? Well, this is like that, but in London.
Address: 2-24 Kensington High Street, W8 4PT | 14 Long Lane, London EC1A 9PN | Make a booking
Bunga Bunga | Covent Garden
Not one for the faint-hearted: Bunga Bunga is a subterranean, uber-kitschy Italian temple to excess where, on Friday and Saturday nights, you can take to the stage in the restaurant itself and let loose with a five-strong band of live musicians.
Address: 167 Drury Lane, WC2B 5PG | Price: Free | Make a booking
The Exhibit | Balham
Exhibit your talents at Balham’s cinema-cum-bar-cum-restaurant The Exhibit, whose private screening room also has a Lucky Voice karaoke system installed. They run a couple of handy drinks packages here too, and – oh, would you look at that, all the seating has all been arranged to give you the perfect audience…
Address: 12 Balham Station Road, SW12 9SG | Price: From £25pp | Capacity: 25 | Make a booking
BAO Borough | Borough
Fun with buns. It’s a faultless combo. Which, presumably, is why BAO’s third branch – aside from serving their excellent bao buns, and a new grill and noodle menu – has its own basement karaoke den, where you can retreat with your friends, pitchers of Hi-ball cocktails and a platter of BAO party food. There’s a thousand Western & Asian songs loaded up onto the KTV system, and you can even upload your own…
Address: 13 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD | Price: £69-199 for 2 hours | Capacity: 2-14 | Make a booking
BAO Noodle Shop | Shoreditch
And now for the reprise: Bao’s sixth location, on a corner of Shoreditch, features cool, retro decor (including a wallpaper patterned with 8-bit Bao dishes) a noodle-focussed menu, shaved ice cocktails and an intimate basement karaoke room.
Address: 1 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, E2 7DJ | Price: £69-199 for 2 hours | Capacity: 2-14 | Make a booking
Mama Shelter | Bethnal Green
East London karaoke rooms don’t come slicker than this. There are two private rooms for hire at Bethnal Green hotel Mama Shelter, where you can make your way through over 10,000 songs on the Lucky Voice system, and then take a load off on banquette seating that – for once – doesn’t feel like it’s seen more wine than your glass.
Address: 437 Hackney Rd, London E2 8PP | Price: £20pp for 2 hours | Capacity: 15 | Make a booking
Karaoke Nights in London
What is massaoke, you ask? Or, at least, we think you did, because we can’t hear you over the joyous crowds simultaneously singing along to some of the best songs ever written, played live on stage alongside projections of the lyrics and full-on pyrotechnics, creating one of the most euphoric mass-bonding experiences of your life. Maybe you just said ‘stop knocking my beer’.
Details: From £13 | Book here
Piano Works West End is a good spot for late-night dancing with great cocktails and a live band playing all your favourite songs. But even better is its hidden gem Singeasy – a good spot for late-night dancing with great cocktails and a live band playing all your favourite songs… with you as the singer.
Details: From £5 | Book here
Power ballads. Confetti. The silent clash of hundreds of air guitars. Ultimate Power is a communal karaoke night dedicated to the power ballad in all its forms, creating nothing short of a religious experience.
Details: From £9.90 | Book here
Stopping just short of an actual religious experience is Gospeloke – karaoke, on stage, backed by a live, 15-strong gospel choir. Like any good congregation, there’s confessionals from the crowd (with prizes), as well as contests for best soloist and best duet.
Details: From £15 | Book here
Hip Hop Karaoke
Sometimes, you like to mix things up. And as – unbeknownst to your friends, and yourself – the dopest of rappers… this is one of those times. DJs, karaoke, and an adoring crowd ready to catch your mic.
Details: Every Thursday night | Queen of Hoxton, 1 Curtain Road, EC2A 3JX | From £5-7 | Book here
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