London’s restaurants and bars have always been good at helping us to spend a pretty penny. But of late some of them have really gone down the pan. Here are six new and not so new bars and restaurants which reside in public toilets around town. You really could loo-se yourself for a few hours in these foodie and boozy bogs.
The Attendant, Fitzrovia
A grand subterranean Victorian loo in Fitzrovia (right by the Crown & Sceptre pub) is the setting for this coffee shop. It’s open from breakfast serving porridge, muffins, pastries and french toast, while sandwiches, salads and soups are the mainstay of lunchtimes. The coffee is taken very seriously indeed with a few varieties courtesy of King’s Cross-roasted Caravan always on offer. And rather than gurning disapprovingly at those who want milk (as we’ve known a couple of not-so-far-away coffee shops do), they buy in some top-notch Jersey milk from a small farm to keep standards high. We also like the fact that a seating bar has been fashioned out of what were once rather pretty urinals, and that the chequered floor tiles remain. They look like they’ve been given a very thorough clean though…
The Attendant, 27a Foley Street, W1W 6DY
Bermondsey Arts Club, Bermondsey
This hip, deliberately-styled dive bar couldn’t feel much more at home in its lightly done-up former loo on Tower Bridge Road. Creative and classic cocktails sit alongside each other on daily changing lists, while beers from local brewery Kernel and a wide range of wines complete the package. Live jazz acts play every Wednesday night to a backdrop of off-white toilet tiles, and it’s a good spot for a late drink most nights given it’s open until 2am from Tuesday to Saturday.
Bermondsey Arts Club, 102a Tower Bridge Road, SE1 4TP
Cellar Door, Aldwych
You’ll find glamorous, vintage-themed cocktails and snuff available at the bar at this underground bog in the West End. A persistent speak-easy vibe is merged with cabaret, burlesque and open mic nights depending on when you visit, and it is open until 1am nightly with free entry. It also boasts one of London’s coolest addresses and has made sure its own toilets within the toilet are pretty special: they have glass doors that frost over when locked. Not good if you're not a worrisome wee-er.
Cellar Door, Zero Aldwych, WC2E 7DN
The Convenience, Hackney
This bar and café off Hackney’s Chatsworth Road opened in late 2013, taking over public loos that had been unused for over 20 years. It now plays host to regular food residencies of an evening (check the website or Twitter for details), while the marvellous NANA is in charge during the day. One of the most lovely community initiatives we know of, it focuses on employing full-of-life ladies past retirement age to make and serve cake, pour tea and generally run the space. The work is initially voluntary, but after being involved for three months everyone gets a share of the profits. There’s also an evening bar and a roof terrace for fair weather days. Oh, and we love the fact that it still functions as a public toilet for those passing by - just a much more pleasant one.
The Convenience, Brooksby’s Walk, E9 6DA
Restaurant Story, London Bridge
The fanciest of all the toilet-dwellers, chef Tom Sellers took over a public loo near Tower Bridge to open his debut restaurant. Themed around books and stories, the elaborately modern restaurant offers six and eight-course tasting menus (plus a three-course lunch) full of imaginative combinations, wild ingredients and clever techniques. Think Heston Blumenthal in a bog. Uniquely, the restaurant also asks diners not just to book, but to bring a book along with them to leave on the ever-filling bookshelves.
Restaurant Story, 199 Tooley Street, SE1 2JX
The newest of all London’s converted conveniences, the name of this bar now stands for wine and charcuterie rather than anything more functional. The hundred-year-old space next to and beneath Clapham Common station has been converted by local lads Andy Bell and Jayke Mangion who serve a small but changing selection of wines alongside beers from Brixton Brewery, cocktails and boards of cheese and charcuterie.
WC, The Pavement, SW4 7AA
Coming soon: Ladies and Gentlemen, Kentish Town
Permission has been granted for William Borrell, the entrepreneurial founder of Vestal Vodka, to transform disused public loos in Kentish Town into a high-end cocktail bar. It will sit right by the currently-closed Bull & Gate pub which finally looks likely to reopen soon, and can surely only enhance the currently rubbish-strewn space. It doesn’t yet have all the locals on side though - excellent local site The Kentishtowner sum it all up rather well. We’re bursting to try it.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital's top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.