Thursday, 11 April 2013

Going to the toilet...for coffee

Anyone who works in an office knows the feeling.  That mid-afternoon slump, where lunchtime seems like forever ago and the end of the working day feels far beyond your tiring brain's grasp.  Try as you might you just can't focus on your work, and the urge to fritter away the rest of the day watching amusing cat videos rises to uncontrollable levels.  So you go and make a cup of tea in the office kitchen or bother a co-worker or two, before returning to your desk to try and engage again.  But still I often find my mind drifting once more at this time of day.  And when that happens, there's only one thing for it - decent coffee.  Ok, two things; decent coffee and a breath of fresh air.  Oh fine, three things; decent coffee, fresh air, and someone to break out of the office with you.
My coffee missions are usually accompanied by a friend from work, someone who has on a previous occasion come over all shy when he was almost featured on this blog so let's just say he knows his americano from his espresso, is always up for ditching the office for a wee while and he is infinitely patient when I waste our fifteen minutes of freedom whingeing about the terrible day I'm having.  Some weeks he even puts up with this several days in a row; he's the perfect partner in caffeine-hunting crime.  One thing which neither he nor I is particularly good at however is making a decision about where to go to grab a skinny cappucino or two.  And as our office is in Fitzrovia, we're somewhat spoilt for choice in regards to decent bean-grinders and milk-frothers.

Two of the three branches of the wood-lined Tapped & Packed are within a ten minute 'Gah! why isn't it Friday yet?' stroll.  Slightly further away (with added 'Eurgh, I just can't seem to concentrate today.' moans) is the Antipodean Kaffeine, which makes a gloriously smooth flat white, and where I once had an embarassing moment involving a freshly brewed coffee, a slippery plastic lid and a messy spill that my Accidental Escapee pal has never let me forget.  (I still get twitchy around plastic lids when he's watching...something he exploits ruthlessly for his own seemingly never-ending amusement.)   Obviously there is also the usual smattering of Neros, Costas and sundry Pret a Mangers nearby as well, but we tend to shun those in favour of the independents who make far better coffee and don't aggressively demand 'You wanna cwa-sante, wiv that?', when if we did we'd have asked for one.

Currently however, we're not finding our afternoon coffee venue of choice such a dilemma.  A new player on the London coffee scene has popped up (or rather down) and we are a bit obsessed with it.  And only partly because our inner children love the novelty of being able to suggest 'Let's go get a coffee from the toilet!'.  Attendant has taken over a disused 19th century public lavatory beneath Foley Street, and transformed it (hopefully with the aid of a hell of a lot of disinfectant) into a surprisingly light and lovely new coffee shop.
Heading down Attendant's steps you vanish beneath the street, your way lined by those white bevelled tiles which scream 'public convenience' in a way that has become suprisingly popular in home decor of late.  (Honestly, you should see the Accidental Father's garage loo, which appears to have been decorated in homage to a Victorian railway lavatory.  And knowing him I think that's probably the exact look he was going for.)  But step off the bottom step and enter the main cafe and you are in a cosy, bright space that entirely belies the feeling of cold porcelain and drafts under cubicle walls that one might expect from a former public toilet.

Illuminated bulbs and preserved citrus fruit in large mason jars make a jolly backdrop for some seriously tempting looking cakes and biscuits.  The friendly staff happily fire up their enormous coffee machine and produce your caffeinated beverage of choice, using super-tasty Caravan coffee from the equally cool Caravan roastery across town.  You can take it away (in a paper cup stamped with an 'A' for Attendant), or enjoy a more relaxed coffee and a sandwich where once cisterns hung and Victorian gentlemen, er, yeah...maybe it's better if you don't think too much about what used to go on down here.  Just enjoy your thoroughly modern coffee from this secretive little cafe, and make the most of your precious minutes out of the office...    

The Attendant on Urbanspoon


  1. Just like you, I often need a coffee during the day. It is a good time to unwind, watch other people and just enjoy the present. I have a thing for the AMT coffees, but there are less and less of them in London. The Attendant certainly looks different...I will have to give it a try.

    1. The joy of people-watching is definitely part of the afternoon coffee routine, isn't it Muriel? (Think there may be an AMT Coffee at Euston Station still, but that's not such a fun place to hang out!)

  2. I have read about this place but I still have not had the stomach *ahem* to pay this place a visit. I am intrigued!

  3. I just found your blog and I am really enjoying the vicarious visits to my favorite city in the world, next to New York.

    I love the concept of Attendant. I have so much admiration for those who come up with such creative spins on the same old thing. And this is truly unique. The sign is too funny.

    I will admit, I too am mystified by the current attraction of subway tile for decorating kitchens and bathrooms. It is awkward when a friend is proudly showing off their new renovation and all I can think is "what time is the next train?". lol

    I look forward to enjoying more of your past and future posts. I just ask, please be patient with us tourists, even though we slow you down. :)

  4. Ooh will go there. I have always liked that lav. You are so right about the Public |Convenience tiles. I have just quite unselfconsciously chosen white shiny tiles for a bath and shower I am having put in.


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