For my first expedition, I decided to stay closer to home and ended up discovering a hidden gem in East London. Nestled away on the edge of a canal by the Olympic Park sits EXP Leisure. From the outside, one could assume that the stylish building is home to a chic business company; instead, a relaxed bar and restaurant greet you upon arrival, complete with al fresco dining and air hockey tables.
But upstairs is where the real magic happens - it's nerd heaven.
EXP Leisure on a sunny day. Trendy East London has a new spot for the gamers.
The second floor opens out into four magnificent spaces designed to cater to any gaming fan. The main seated area houses another bar, a newly-opened shop run by sister company Magic Madhouse, and a killer view of the scenic canal. However, this space is mainly home to the table-top gaming community (i.e. board games, card games, collector's edition merch, etc.) The owner of EXP Leisure, Vince, houses a collection that’s impressive enough to turn anyone’s head.
It’s in this room that I really discovered the community spirit of the venue. I got chatting to an employee of the shop (Darren) about table top gaming. I sheepishly admitted that I’d never dabbled in the hobby myself, but would be open to try. He asked me about my possible interests, and as soon as I uttered the word “Pokémon” he had whipped out two decks and had sat me down at one of the tables to teach me the ropes of the notorious card game. We played for at least an hour, and now I can’t wait for a re-match. (I also won by the way, although he was pretty much telling me what to do the entire time so I’m unsure if it counts).
The board game collection, that (believe it or not) isn’t even anywhere near finished yet!
So what motivated Vince to set up EXP Leisure? Though other gaming establishments do exist in London, they specialise in table-top OR video games, not both. On the other hand, this place is a safe haven for visitors that want to try something new, and introduce each other to fresh interests and activities, just as I was today. Occasionally, West Ham fans even turn up for a pre-match pint downstairs, playing Fifa on the consoles in the video gaming space.
Speaking of which - look at all these bad boys.
More consoles than you can shake a stick at (DISCLAIMER – Do not actually shake sticks at said consoles, you may risk damaging them and they are rather expensive).
From the retro icon of the Nintendo 64 to the swanky, fresh-out-the-box VR headsets (which I may have developed a slight addiction to now), this room caters for all. The big screens are designed for social gaming events, so visitors can turn up and watch games competitions live and in-action from the comfort of a beanbag. And if you’re thinking, “well, I’m more of a PC gamer myself”, they have that covered as well in the next room!
I’m telling you, this place is huge.
As a start-up (just opened in May), EXP Leisure already has a plethora of events available to check out, including fortnightly sessions for East London Fighters on Fridays, as well as weekly sessions of Magic the Gathering, Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! card games. This Saturday will also see the launch party for Magic Madhouse, celebrating their new store in EXP Leisure. You can check out all their events and news on their Facebook page.
In summary: if you are looking for a friendly hub for all your gaming needs that will keep you well fed (and plied with drink should you wish), then this is the place for you. Also, the wall art is exceptionally awesome.
Thanks to Reece for feeding my inner diva by taking this edgy pic.