The laundrette along Elgin Street has been through a few incarnations. When new owners took it over just over a year or so ago, it didn't look like much was changing. Looks were deceiving.
Soap Bar is a laundrette-cum-cafe which offers the kind of bohemian environment that has been missing in the area. Where do you go for a casual coffee and some free wi-fi, that you can wear your old jeans to and not worry about broadcasting some sense of style?
There used to be a few places like this around Brunswick and Lygon Streets, but no more. The general gentrification of the area has got rid of the grunge and put emphasis on the hip. Soap Bar is bringing grungy back.
The most important thing, as always, is the coffee. If my laundrette coffee isn't good, it had better be cheap. Luckily at Soap Bar the coffee can compete with any fancy café. A variety of cakes are on offer to tempt you into snacking, and they looked sufficiently good that it was only with an effort I stayed away.
The best thing about Soap Bar though is its atmosphere. There's something terribly relaxing about a washing machine working away, and the gentle aroma of cleanly laundered washing rumbling away in the dryers is strangely comforting. The customers were a mix of share house inhabitants trying to sneak a load in and backpackers trying to steal wi-fi. It made drinking coffee and tapping away on a computer a lot less pretentious.