Cafe Koko: New Camden Pizza restaurant review
Arriving in the evening, you can see the warm orange glow of Koko before you see the building itself. Taking up an entire block, the recently renovated, 122-year-old music hall once again sits at the heart of Camden, having closed in 2020 following a fire.
The £70m refurbishment includes an extensive private members’ area with its own entrance to the concert hall, a shop and several eating and drinking venues including Cafe Koko.
While open to the public from breakfast through lunch and well into the night (8am-11.30pm), Cafe Koko is especially convenient for grabbing a brasserie-style meal before dropping into the venue proper for a gig.
What’s the vibe?
It feels somewhere between a Parisian brasserie and the kind of industrial-inspired space that became ubiquitous some time around 2010. There are nods to the location’s musical heritage in the band photography and gig posters framed on the walls, and the space can be reconfigured to include a stage to host informal gigs to entertain you as you eat.
Accessed by its own entrance around the side of the main venue, it’s separate enough to feel like an oasis away from queues and crowds of the main auditorium but on a Friday night there’s a buzzy – and loud – soundtrack to get you in the mood.
When I was there it seemed to be a fairly even split of people eating before a gig and locals in for a casual Friday night meal, with a smattering of music-biz people completing the look.
And the food?
The menu is Italian with an occasional Mexican or Middle Eastern accent. The pick of the starters was a plate of smoky baby artichokes topped with an intimidating pile of pecorino, while “Nonna’s polpette” was also a solid choice. There’s a “mains” section including baked chicken and tiger prawn arrabiata, but this is really a pizza restaurant, and a good one at that.
The Neapolitan-style pizza menu ranges from the traditional to the outre, with the most outlandish being “The Lambrechts”, which is topped with goat’s cheese, lamb shawarma, coriander and garlic yoghurt. This will have Italians and pizza purists incandescent with rage but it’s actually surprisingly delicious, an upper-echelon pizza that captures the spirit of a post-gig kebab.
There are desserts too if you’re not worried about falling asleep afterwards, with the apple crumble coming highly recommended.
And the booze?
This isn’t fine dining – it’s a place to eat pizza and get mildly buzzed before a night out in Camden. There’s a decent cocktail list and a commendably concise wine list that the staff know their way around. All in all, a perfectly serviceable option for a casual dinner should you find yourself in the spiritual home of Razorlight.
• To book go to cafe-koko.co.uk or call 020 7388 3222