A good restaurant loo is, more often than not, a solid indicator of how successful the operation is as a whole. The best restaurateurs leave nothing to chance, understanding that the complete experience of dining out, including one’s mandatory trip to the washroom, should be of a consistently high quality. Four-ply toilet paper, luxury hand wash and creative design are all good signs — below is a list of our favourites for you to look into.
Aqua Restaurant Group is known for its restaurants up high, with flagship Aqua Hong Kong on floors 29 and 30 overlooking the city’s iconic skyline and famed harbour. Its London outpost — Aqua Shard — is set on level 31 of the highest building in western Europe and follows this formula to the tee, offering a dining room with a view and contemporary British fare. The views from the loos are just as spectacular — ladies can wash their hands while soaking in London from above, while gents can relieve themselves with the same stunning vista.
Aqua Shard, Level 31, 31 St Thomas Street, SE1 9RY
Bringing yet another classic French brasserie into London was a risky move by famed New York City restaurateur Keith McNally, but one cannot resist Balthazar London’s retro-style spectacle juxtaposed with its continental comfort fare. Located up some elegant black marble stairs, the toilets provide a quiet haven from the cacophonous crowds below. Enjoy a few moments of calm in a roomy cubicle before freshening up with some French hand wash and lotion by L’Occitane.
Balthazar, 4-6 Russell Street, WC2B 5HZ
Turn of the century Paris is the inspiration behind the bar and dining area at this brasserie in Lower Clapton, which serves French and Belgian classics in a darkly atmospheric setting that features wall-mounted taxidermy animals and restored stained glass features. Head downstairs to the toilets though, and you step straight into Jack the Ripper’s London — the distressed-look male and female loos come complete with Victorian plumbing, marine lamps salvaged from the HMS Prestige, and a ghostly soundtrack of chants and whispers. Undoubtedly some of London’s most theatrical lavatories, they are not for the faint hearted.
The Bonneville, 43 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0PQ
China Tang at The Dorchester
Stepping into China Tang is akin to waking up in an Art Deco parlour, complete with opulent chinoiserie furniture and Chinese art. Take a right turn at the bottom of the stairs and wander into equally decadent washroom facilities where you can relieve yourself in a number of spacious private cubicles while listening to a genteel recital of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Finish off with Floris hand wash and dry your hands with embroidered napkins before returning to some moreish Cantonese cooking.
China Tang at The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, W1K 1QA
Across the Thames from the Shard, a different, but equally impressive, set of washrooms with a view can be found at Jason Atherton’s tallest restaurant in town. Deep in the heart of London’s financial district, City Social sits 24 floors up inside Tower 42, offering Atherton’s modern take on British comfort food to diners while they enjoy the bustling City from above. Like the rest of the customer-facing space, the toilets are on the outer edges of the floor, so you can take in the spectacular views no matter where you are in the restaurant.
City Social, Level 24, 25 Old Broad Street, EC2N 1HQ
The Hunter S
This Hackney haunt takes many of its 1930s-inspired design cues from its namesake Hunter S Thompson, with his penchant for alcohol, taxidermy and salacious artwork reflected throughout the venue. If you’re a man who’s ever fantasised about urinating in a woman’s mouth (we know you’re out there) but have yet to find a willing participant, the ruby red lip-shaped urinals at The Hunter S are just the place for you. Oh — and if that wasn’t enough, distract yourself with the vintage pornography that adorns the toilet walls.
The Hunter S, 194 Southgate Road, N1 3HT
“Over the top” and “homely” aren’t often used beside one another to describe a restaurant, but they perfectly encapsulate the dining experience at Mari Vanna – a boutique chain that hails from St Petersburg. From chandeliers to mirrors, family photographs, dolls, tapestries and other bric-a-brac, everything from the proverbial kitchen sink is used to create a sense of cosy familiarity throughout, matching the carb-heavy Russian fare to perfection. The loos are no exception; the ladies’ are decorated with mismatched blue and white wallpaper and hanging lace doilies, while the men’s are adorned with Soviet medals and vintage newspapers.
Mari Vanna, 116 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7PJ
What do you do with a typically small underground space reserved for the restaurant’s toilets? If you’re Yotam Ottolenghi, you transform them into a dazzling hall of mirrors, finished with touches of gold and white marble. One momentarily forgets that you are underground in Soho, as the mirrors, set at different angles, reflect you to infinity (and beyond). Push a gilded doorknob to open a mirror-free white bathroom with a plentiful supply of quilted loo roll, before washing your hands into a thousand reflections and returning to your colourful, vegetable-laden meal with the help of an “out” arrow.
Nopi, 21-22 Warwick Street, W1B 5NE
Housed within a Victorian toilet block on Tooley Street, Restaurant Story is not only set within a loo, but also offers an interesting loo itself. The overarching theme of the restaurant is that of stories and books, and Tom Sellers evokes nostalgic memories with signature dishes such as bread and dripping as part of his six and ten-course offerings. Sellers not only encourages people to book, but to bring a book with them to leave behind, adding your chosen story to the restaurant’s ever evolving narrative. Pop downstairs to the toilet after your meal to see what everyone else has bought along – it’s like post-dinner PostSecret with books.
Restaurant Story, 199 Tooley Street, SE1 2JX
A regular on best restaurant toilet lists, the sleek, futuristic pods at Sketch are worth a visit if only to see how a loo can resemble an oversized white egg. Walk in past the impossibly beautiful (and possibly aloof) hostesses, turn through the David Shrigley gallery-come-restaurant before walking up to what looks like a multi-coloured spaceship that holds the key to your bathroom needs. Relieve yourself in one of a generous number of mood-lit booths to the ambient sounds of birdsong before washing up with citrusy Miller Harris hand soap.
Sketch, 9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG
Written by Valerie Teh.