Mike and I are currently in the process of buying a house in East London that was last decorated in the late 1970s. The bathroom fittings are pale peach, the floors are lined with the carpet equivalent of a terrible migraine, and the wallpaper is so bad, it’s almost good. Almost. The previous owner, an elderly lady with an impressive collection of arm-wrestling trophies, had once seen fit to install a very small bar in the living room. With a Carlsberg tap.
Given that the 1970s is going to represent a very large redecorating bill if all goes well, I can’t say I’m madly in love with the decade that gave the world the lava lamp, the Sodastream and Space Invaders. (Side note: what were they playing at, spending their time on all that shit when there was stuff like the internet waiting to be invented?) But I do enjoy a good chicken kiev, so off we went to Coin Laundry, a newish ’70s/’80s-themed hang-out on the corner of Exmouth Market.
Well, it’s just what you’d expect, though fortunately they’ve sacked off the hideous brown tiling beloved by ’70s interior designers in favour of the standard issue East London exposed brickwork. Icons of the era adorn the walls, including an awesome print of Grace Jones from A View To Kill.
The cocktails are a big draw (along with a pinball machine, which was sadly out of action because someone had spilt a pint over it the night before). I started with a bellini, because I always think of American Psycho when anyone mentions the eighties, and it was Patrick Bateman’s least favourite tipple. This one was spiked with raspberry and white chocolate – a little on the sweet side for old Sour-Gob McGee here, but wildly popular with the groups of girls in for cocktails and catch-ups at the big wooden tables. The Pisco Inferno (£8.50), a twist on a Pisco Sour but with subtle pineapple shrub and pretty pink pepper, was a must-order.
I loved the idea of Tomato Soup and a Cheese Toasty (£7.50), though I wish they’d gourmet-ed it up a bit. The soup looked, smelled and tasted suspiciously of Heinz, which is not okay, even if it is served up with a solidly constructed, gooey slab of grilled cheese sandwich. The Coronation Chicken was much better – flavoursome, comforting and clearly homemade.
Mike’s Chicken Balti (£12) did the job but wasn’t memorable, but my Chicken Kiev (£10.50), the headline dish, was a tender, garlicky triumph. It came with a side of cauliflower cheese and a little stick of branded gum, which I thought was a cute touch. I ordered a side of chips and curry sauce, hoping for chip shop-style chunky deep-fried chips, salted and vinegar’d with the vigour of a generation that didn’t realise that too much sodium could kill you, and the smooth, thick curry sauce that makes a trip to the chippie such a naughty delight. Instead, I got a bowl of limp fries and an unpalatable lumpy, dark brown sauce.
In short, the food was a little hit and miss, but that doesn’t really matter, because if you were in the mood for five-star gastronomy you’d have wandered a few steps down Exmouth Market and gone to Moro. But Coin Laundry offers something more: an eighties-themed basement disco and a stack of retro board games for those who didn’t bring their dancing shoes. We split a bottle of wine over two games of Battleships (I won), three games of Guess Who? (I lost) and countless rounds of sports-themed Top Trumps, rounding it all off with a shared portion of ‘Yorkshire Profiteroles’ (£6.00), a clever spin I’d like to see reflected a bit more in the rest of the menu. Meanwhile, (slightly) more drunk people danced around like lunatics to Bon Jovi beneath the floorboards.
Coin Laundry claims to serve up a ‘big fat slice of nostalgia’, though none of the people there on a Thursday night were old enough to really remember even the ’80s beyond the poodle perms of their parents’ wedding photos. But who cares? It’s an all-night destination, pub on the top, party on the bottom, with a fun vibe and friendly staff. (Our waiter, who was adorable, looked like an extra from Saved By The Bell.) As evidenced by our new home’s imminent renovation, the eighties may not somewhere you want to live, but it’s bloody good fun to visit once in a while.
70 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QP
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.