Inside London's Attendant, A Bathroom Reborn As A Cafe
One man's Victorian-era washroom is another's cafe
After half a century of sitting dormant, an abandoned public restroom in London's Fitzrovia neighborhood has been redesigned and transformed to take care of some other of life's necessities: procuring coffee and food.
Situated outside a pub on Foley Street, the newly opened Attendant breathes new life into the tiny 390-square-foot subterranean space that was originally built in the 1890s as a toilet for gents. In the process of converting the restroom into a modern-day rest stop, complete with breakfast and sandwich menus, owners Pete Tomlinson and Ben Russel retained many of the original ceramic fixtures (thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, of course). The urinals themselves stand out as a major component in the overall décor, but a functional one as well; Tomlinson and Russel capped them with a long wooden tabletop and added bright green stools for countertop eating.
Coffee by local, up-and-coming small-batch roasters Caravan, and pastries and cakes from London's Bittersweet Bakers, comprise the small breakfast and lunch menus, along with a rotating selection of sandwiches — all of which are ordered through an opening to the kitchen, formerly the lavatory attendant's office. Besides carving out an incredibly niche gem of a destination, Tomlinson and Russel earn major style points for the Attendant's innovative design and their ability to create a space that informs visitors of its past while taking on an entirely new identity and function — no easy task when you're talking about a lavatory.