Not the most salubrious place for a gourmet sandwich


Victorian public toilets are having a bit of a moment. Found all over London; their wrought iron gates and impressive entranceways occupy some of the best locations the city has to offer. But it isn’t the toilets themselves, but the transformation of their subterranean depths which is drawing the interest, most notably at the recently opened cafe Attendant on Foley Street.

Owners Pete Tomlinson and Ben Russell spied this unique little space - empty since the attendant locked up his office for the last time more than 50 years ago - as they enjoyed a post- work pint across the street. Where others may have just seen a dilapidated old public loo, they saw potential.


Despite neither Pete nor Ben having previous catering experience, they set to work renovating the toilets and the attendant’s old office that would become the café’s kitchen. With the belief that a can-do attitude and partnership with great suppliers would ensure the end product worked, after a £100,000 investment and a very good clean up later, Attendant was born.

The cafe is all things you would never expect from a public WC: homely, warm, welcoming and eclectic, it is a lovely place to go and pick up one of their delicious coffees or sit down in one of the booths – built around the original Doulton & Co 1890's porcelain urinals no less – and enjoy lunch.


Happily, it is not just the look of Attendant that pleases; the food is particularly good too. With a nightly picker at new Covent Garden market providing the daily goods, and an experienced chef doing wonders with them in the kitchen, what comes out really is delicious. We choose Swiss cheese and ham with goat’s cheese mayonnaise (this addition elevating a simple sandwich into something not far from spectacular), roast beef and rocket baguette, then shared a chocolate and salted caramel brownie made by foodie favourites, the Bittersweet Bakers, to finish. When your only complaint is that your pudding would have been bolder (and better) with a bit more salt in the caramel, you know you’ve eaten well.

To complement your lovely lunch, you can order Eager juices, a selection of unusual teas, and of course their coffee, but Attendant doesn’t serve alcohol. It doesn’t need to – the smell of the coffee is enough to turn you teetotal. We ordered ours to go, and what a splendid kick-start to the afternoon it was. Attendant uses fairly- traded Caravan coffee, brewed in nearby Kings Cross – the gourmet choice, and, coupled with Ivy House Farm milk, they served us one of the most enjoyable cups of coffee we’ve had in a long time. Strong and full of flavour, but tempered with the creamy milk of Jersey cows, I’d be tempted to do the 20- minute walk from the office to get a cup every day of the week.

The ELLEuk Score

Food: 7 Ambience: 8 Service: 7 Value: 7 Style of food: Gourmet cafe Good for: Work lunch, great coffee, eating in unique surroundings Other details for Attendant

Address: 27A Foley Street, London, W1W 6DY

Opening times: 08.00 – 18.00 Monday – Friday, 10.00 – 17.00 Saturday Average price per person for lunch: £8 for a coffee, sandwich and cake Set menu: No Private dining: No Garden/al fresco dining? No Best table? The large table at the back, but for the full Attendant experience eating between the porcelain urinals is a must Who goes? Anyone lucky enough to work within walking distance, coffee aficionados Nearest tube: Oxford Street or Goodge Street
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