Cafe Koko, 1a Camden High Street, NW1 7JE (map)
Tel: 0870 4325527
Nearest Tube : Mornington Crescent
Best pub for a pre-gig drink: The Hope and Anchor
Cafe Koko is: A Rolls Royce
Interesting fact: Madonna played her first ever UK gig here in 1983 when it was known as the Camden Palace.
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How far from Mornington Crescent Tube is it? Very close. Come out of the station and it is right in front of you. From Camden Town, come out, turn left and walk straight on for about 7 minutes and it is on your left.
Is there a cloakroom? Yes, there are two opposite each other, so remember which one you used to avoid queueing for half an hour at the wrong one, which is easily done.
Should I get there early? Headliners are usually on at 9:30. Koko's can get quite crowded though. If you are watching from on one of the upstairs floors you may want to take a position leaning on one of the railings early. Similarly downstairs, you should get onto the dancefloor before the main act comes on. It is worth getting here a little eary to explore the many floors and areas of the venue, it is really quite a place.
Is there anywhere to eat nearby? There is a McDonalds and a Burger King down the road towards Camden Town tube, but this area is not spoilt for choice beyond that. Best bet might be to eat in Camden itself. There is a Sainsbury's next door if you just need a sandwich.
Guide to Cafe Koko
One of London's most characterful venues - superb art deco fittings and a deep-red interior give it an air of glorious decadence. The ground floor consists of a dancefloor in front of the square stage, which holds about 400 people standing. At the back of the dancefloor are a few steps up to a bar area where you can stand to either side of the stairs to the upper levels and get a decent view. The real beauty of this place though are the three upper floors. Each floor has its own bar and balcony, which is a great place to lean when watching a band, as you get an excellent perspective yet are still relatively close to the stage. There are plenty of seats and cozy booths on these upper levels, good places to relax and natter during club nights. Moving upwards from the first floor, each level decreases in size until you get to the top floor which has one tiny bar and a dizzying view of the venue.
Arriving early for a Babyshambles gig (knowing how prompt Pete Doherty is these days) we enjoyed a drink in one of the booths upstairs before deciding the best vantage point was leaning on the railings on the second floor. If you want to go downstairs you will need to grab a spot on the dancefloor fairly promptly, but this venue does not trap you at the back of the standing areas like say, Scala or the Shepherd's Bush Empire sometimes can, and if you can't get a good spot on the dancefloor then there are plenty of other spots around.
So this is one venue you can relax and enjoy a few beers before the band come on, although the prices (£4.40 for a can of red stripe) are steep.
Moving up and down the staircases can be a little disorientating, you never know which level you are going to reappear at, but this is all part of the fun. The many viewing areas and fantastic interior make this a superb venue and it is obvious why this is such a much-loved favourite in north London. A couple of final tips - avoid any coat queue confusion by remembering which of the identical cloakrooms you deposited your gear. And don’t forget to look out for the huge glitterball, said to be the largest in the world.
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View from one of Cafe Koko's many floors
The Velvet Bar