This is Wilcox Road SW8. It's where you end up if you climb the escalators at Nine Elms station, exit the ticket hall and keep going. It's a corner of Lambeth often known as Little Portugal, in that if the Portuguese national team ever triumphs in a major sporting competition local residents are kept awake by celebrations into the early hours, assuming they're not taking part themselves. It's a street of small independent businesses, pavement cafes and loud conversations. It's also the site of a famous 1985 film about a laundrette.
My Beautiful Laundrette was written by Hanif Kureishi, starred Daniel Day Lewis and Gordon Warnecke and bubbled up in the early days of Channel 4. It told the story of a young Asian entrepreneur taking on a small business with the aid of a punk former classmate, back when Pakistani home life and mixed race gay couples weren't normally the stuff of mainstream television. The laundrette Omar and Johnny transformed into a neon-lit palace was called Powders and I'd often wondered where it was, and the answer is here.
Don't be fooled, it wasn't in the laundrette called Laundrette because that would be too simple. Instead it was in the separate row of shops to the left, one unit beyond William Hill, in what's now the Taste of The Mediterranean cafe. A few years ago this was Taste of Portugal, as befits the local culinary remit, but it seems the menu diversified somewhat. I suspect it's closed because when I walked past on Monday lunchtime the shutters were down, indeed I suspect the laundrette's also ceased trading, but in current economic conditions it's hard to judge these things on sight.
You can tell 11 Wilcox Road is the correct address because it appears in a blogpost on the BFI website showing what the MBL locations look like today. But I only noticed the connection because a rainbow plaque has appeared in the pavement immediately outside, installed last September by the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum. They managed to raise £2500 through crowdfunding, including a charity screening of the obvious film, and Hanif and Gordon duly turned up for the unveiling. It's only the third rainbow plaque in Britain (following one in York and one at Clapham Junction) and the first to adopt the multiplicity of colours in the Progress Pride flag. My damp, smudgy photo is because it's been embedded underfoot beneath a double layer of toughened glass rather than in the wall... and this is because the entire row of shops is destined to be knocked down.
This is what the northern side of Wilcox Road should look like after it's been replaced by 22 affordable flats. The parade of shops with the bookies and My Beautiful Laundrette becomes one seven storey block and the parade of shops with the off licence and the genuine laundrette becomes another seven storey block. It's generic brick-fronted stuff, but the existing single-storey units are utterly generic too which no doubt is why they were chosen for filming. Hopefully the new ground level retail spaces won't transform the charm of Wilcox Road too thoroughly, but all I can picture is Omar's uncle Nasser rubbing his hands at the size of the potential windfall. To see his fictional laundrette, come soon.