GRACE AND FLAVOUR
Grace Dent finds a feelgood hangover cure at Coin Laundry The board games will be a positive boon if your January Tinder date transpires to be, in the flesh, more Fungus the Bogeyman than Jason Statham
We are muddling towards London’s least appealing period: late January, early February. Darkness, dampness and next to no joy fill the dull days. Aside, that is, from reading colleagues’ tedious Fitbit-synced Tweets or sorting out one’s pants drawer. Thankfully, I bring light relief. I’ve found you a cheapish and definitely cheerful place with pinball tables, chicken Kiev, board games, booze and complimentary chewing gum.
The gum will be necessary after Coin Laundry’s jolly decent garlicstuffed Kievs, in case you’re hoping for a snog with tongues in an EC1 alley on the way home. The board games will be a positive boon if your January Tinder date transpires to be, in the flesh, more Fungus the Bogeyman than Jason Statham. ‘I know, let’s play Hungry Hippos!’ one could yell, alerting the waitress to keep on bringing the Pisco Infernos. Coin Laundry — supposedly a Seventies-themed restaurant, although I’m not convinced — has taken over the corner spot at the end of Exmouth Market where the rather cavernous two-floor Cottons Rhum Shack once lived. This was a fact clearly perturbing several of the local residents when I took a group of friends on its opening week. They stared through the window, making dramatic ‘WTF’ faces as we took advantage of the Frizzante Bianco on draught and picked at a plate of cheese and pineapple on sticks. Don’t worry, this isn’t the hard Cheddar and tinned pineapple affair you might get at your Auntie Sheenah’s birthday. The cheese is breaded and deep-fried and the pineapple is in a subtle jelly form. They’re really rather moreish.
In fact, the menu at Coin Laundry is completely great. Crucially, someone here can really cook and has strived to make novelty snacks delicious. Thus there are pickled eggs, Spam fritters, taramasalata with breadsticks and baps stuffed with potato waffle and egg. And most excitingly: chips with curry sauce. Coin Laundry’s theme should really be ‘Helping Your Hangover’ because here is a bar-snack list of delicious comforting non-diet items best suited to being served to one’s sofa.
Still, although food at Coin Laundry certainly has a retro novelty vibe, that’s about as far as the schtick stretches. We went expecting KC and the Sunshine Band on the stereo, serving staff in flares, terrible lava lamps and other, well, groovy paraphernalia. In actual fact, Coin Laundry’s décor is a much more muted affair and they were playing Noughties R&B. Nevertheless, this is the sort of place to take a mixed crowd who have a tendency to be silly and perhaps slightly noisy.
We took one well-behaved child and a wriggly toddler with us for an early evening dinner and not only were the small people welcomed cheerfully, they found tons on the menu to love. That, in London, is as good as group family dining gets. We shared a pretty decent plate of lamb faggots in mint jelly and a messy but delicious old-school prawn cocktail. The chicken Kiev comes in two variations: with a good butter leaf salad or with a healthy portion of romanesco covered in melted cheese. Coin Laundry’s baked beans are homemade. The pudding menu is brief but certainly memorable. The banana boat for two is one of the most hysterical puddings I have seen in my entire life. It is a stupendous truckload of ice cream, various sprinkles, assorted sauces, chipped bits and flaky things with, somewhere in its gooey midst, a banana hiding coyly. I can’t say I enjoyed any of the spoonfuls I ate, but it will live on in my memory. The Black Forest trifle, on the other hand, was excellent. I distracted my friends with my captivating chat, pulled it to my end of the table and finished it on my own. Coin Laundry, you aren’t perfect, but you make the long dark nights jolly. For me, that’s good enough.