In Victorian times, public toilets were available on most London streets at the convenience of the public. However, throughout time, these public toilets were either shut down or, in this case, converted into a café. The Attendant Coffee Roasters are behind this idea and decided to make it a reality. I decided to head there for breakfast to see if this was a unique idea worth considering.
The café is located on Foley Road in Fitzrovia, just a stone's throw away from Oxford Circus. At first glance, it wouldn't be believed that it is in use as anything. However, after another look, you will notice a sign above the entrance that makes the Attendant Coffee Roasters stand out. The blackboard placed right next to the entrance also assists with this.
Entrance to the Attendant Coffee Roasters
A set of steps takes me down to the café, which at first glance looks very cosy and welcoming at the same time. An immediate left turn here reveals the Attendant Café in full, including the renovated urinals where customers can sit up and enjoy their coffees and pastries. There is another seating area that will suit the visitors who wish to sit at a table for extra comfort and catch up with friends and family.
Urinal seating in the Attendant Coffee Roasters
I decide to sit at one of the tables in this café, as I know I would get a limited but interesting view of the converted urinals. Menus are available on request and include the full range of breakfast items, coffees, and teas. After a few minutes, a barista approaches my table and enquires if I am ready to order my breakfast.
I order the Smoked Salmon Bagel, to be accompanied by a silky smooth Vanilla Latte. After I place my order, I observe the atmosphere in the café. The café is well-lit for something underground, and the music played silently in the background gives the café a modern feel.
It is easy to visualise how well-functioning the discontinued urinals were back in the day. I could also envision Victorian gentlemen using them (as unflattering as it sounds). While observing this atmosphere, my Smoked Salmon Bagel and Vanilla Latte arrive at my table.
The Vanilla Latte and Smoked Salmon Bagel
The latte is served in a glass, and the bagel is displayed on a grey-silver plate. After tasting the Vanilla Latte, it certainly isn't a drink I want to pour down the toilet. Instead, it immediately gives me the warm feeling I need to begin the day properly.
The Smoked Salmon Bagel has a limited but neat presentation on the grey-silver plate. It is revealed how soft the multi-seed bagels are as they are consumed. The filling of salmon and cream cheese is balanced quite delightfully, and it is easy to detect an extra hint of dill and chives. A scattering of parsley is also present on this plate to add colour and make it look more attractive.
Enjoying the vanilla latte which I ordered
After I finish my bagel and coffee, I have my empty coffee glass and plate removed from the table. I then receive my bill from the barista, with who I engage in a short conversation regarding the more modern history of the café and how it came about. This engagement from the barista shows how considerate and eager they are when putting the customers first.
The bill is satisfying as it puts me at ease, knowing I am not going overboard with an expensive breakfast. I then attend to paying the bill before departing from my table. I thank the baristas graciously for 'attending' to my every need, and for the very brief history lesson.
On my way out, I read the article clippings collected and framed on the walls next to the entrance. Pictures are also visible within the frames indicating the condition of the toilets in Victorian times.
Clippings of the gentlemen's Victorian toilet
I think it's safe to say here that I emerged from this underground café contemplating how unique it is. Whoever invented the idea of transforming a Victorian toilet into a café may have had a loose screw back then. However, in this present day, it is clear that the impossibility here has become a possibility. It will be interesting to see how other unique restaurant/café concepts compete with this concept going forward.
Click Here to read more about the Fitzrovia Attendant Coffee Roasters, as well as its other locations in London.