Ever thought it might be nice to have lunch in a public urinal? No? Really? You surprise me. But that was exactly my (first) experience yesterday when I popped along to a newly opened coffee shop situated in Fitzrovia (Foley Street) called Attendant.
Well, ok, it's obviously not actually a public urinal anymore. It was built around 1890 and closed in the 1960s. But Pete Tomlinson and Ben Russell, with a hefty dose of business acumen, decided to buy it, spend around £100,000 on renovation, and re-opened it as a smart little underground cafe which, when I went along, was evidently proving very popular.
The original Doulton & Co. urinals (I counted around 8) have been given a makeover and a raised bar installed, so that customers can sit in their very own urinal space(!) on a high stool, sipping the fine coffee or munching the tasty looking sandwiches that this establishment has to offer. At the back of the small space was a table which would probably seat around 8 or thereabouts.
When I arrived all available seating was taken and there were many other people queuing for food and drink. There were also lots of customers taking photographs. The publicity for this place seems to have aroused much interest and everyone seemed to be enjoying the very quirky and atmospheric space. It's always pleasing to find something new like this, something unique with a bit of character. A welcome change from all the chain outlets.
The original attendants room has now become the kitchen area where a chef prepares a small selection of hot food daily, which is passed through a small serving hatch. Yesterday's options were on a chalkboard above the hatch.
The place was so full that I initially had to eat standing near where all the utensils were kept (knives, forks, sugar, salt, pepper etc). One of the proprietors came up to chat, asking me what my first impressions were, and told me they'd been open for five weeks. Judging by the amount of trade I saw today I'm guessing they're doing alright. Eventually I was led over to a vacant urinal seat and sat down to enjoy the rest of my lunch.