A couple of weeks ago I ate my lunch in a loo. No, I don’t work at Vogue magazine and have to hide the fact that I, heaven forbid, consume carbs. I had arranged to meet a friend at the quirkiest coffee shop in Fitrovia, Attendant. There are apparently lots of disused public toilets around the city (and I can understand why, I normally use a certain coffee shop chain if I am caught short; if they don’t want to pay their taxes, the least they can do is pay for my loo roll), and owner Peter Tomlinson came up with the canny idea of turning one into a place to spend a little more than a penny. You enter via steps covered by a Victorian wrought iron archway with beautiful filigree detailing and the addition of a modern sign saying ‘Grind In Dine Out’. This policy of keeping, but playing with, original features extends downstairs where the urinals have been turned into a counter to eat at, the ceramic bowls acting as individual cubicles in which to place your food. The white tiling on the walls has also been kept, but bright green stools and pumpkin orange cushions stop the place looking too clinical. I love that they had taken a no longer relevant part of this city’s history and spun it into something that is very indicative of London at the moment.
Yet while the interior is undoubtedly cool, a gimmick only lasts one visit. If they want to attract regular customers then the coffee and food need to entice once the amusement of eating at a urinal has worn off. And I was very pleased that they do. My flat white arrived with a perfect tree design on top, possibly the best I’ve been served. Their coffee beans are sourced from the Caravan Roastery, just up the road in Kings Cross, where they favour single origin blends. But while the coffee itself was indeed excellent, it was the rich creamy milk on top, whipped into a thick dense foam, that I really loved. It is from Ivy House Farm in Somerset, and a bit of internet research tells me that it is used in the English version of the World Barista championships. It must be good then. My friend and I both ordered the day’s special hot sandwich, the croque monsieur. I was worried it would be a tad heavy, but it was surprisingly light. The brioche style bread was filled with three different cheeses, a lovely piece of salty ham, and a tarragon sprinkled cold slaw. It was delicious. Who knew food from a toilet could taste this good?