To the great lament of the weak bladdered the capital over, London’s public conveniences have been disappearing at a rate of knots over the last decade. The combination of them being a magnet for crime and councils looking for ways to save cash has meant that WCs that served Londoners for often over a century are sealed shut. Unless… they become a snazzy wine bar!
IBS sufferers’ loss is our gain, as it were, as more and more public toilets are given over to businesses willing to operate out of these often subterranean spaces, making them a quirky and fun night out, and the only question you’ll be left with is ‘how did they get rid of the smell?’
With a touch of the estate agent patter, WC Bloomsbury describes itself as ‘A thoughtfully-restored, beguiling and bewitching subterranean space’. A great description of a former public toilet where you can now order bar snacks, wine and cocktails.
The site is, surpassingly, Grade II listed and on Historic England’s ‘at risk register’, featuring the original 120 year old wooden stalls, now booths, some of the original porcelain now upholstered and the original tiles and granite and marble floors have also been preserved.
The underground Victorian WC (clue's in the bar's name) has been cleverly converted...
The underground Victorian WC (clue’s in the bar’s name) has been cleverly converted, keeping some of the original features while making itself a pleasant place to eat and drink. Bar snacks include rabbit sliders and mini crumpets with caviar, which is probably a little more upmarket than the four walls are used to.
Where: Guilford Place, Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 1EH
Rather than heading underground, Chiringuito sits in a converted loo very much above ground in Museum Gardens on Cambridge Heath Road. In fact, it’s so above ground that it even sports a rooftop space, ideal for summer dining.
The food is Hispanic and Latin American with sharing plates and tapas free-flowing along with their cocktails.
The beachfront vibes make it almost impossible to believe this was once a public bathroom.
Where: Museum Gardens, Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9PA
Just five minutes from Oxford Street, the Attendant was built around 1890 before being mothballed by the council back in the 1960s. And then sitting as a time warp for over 50 years.
Now an ideal coffee and brunching spot...
Now lovingly taken in hand, with the original Doulton & Co porcelain urinals converted into counter seating and the original features preserved over a two year restoration process, the Attendant is now an ideal coffee and brunching spot.
Where: 27a Foley Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 6DY
Bermondsey Arts Club
This converted WC sits on a South East London traffic island and is all the sorts of dark and alluring you don’t associate with public loos.
Cocktail heavy and accompanied by live jazz into the small hours, the club makes the small space special.
Close to Borough Station, the bar is open to members and non-members (members must work in the creative arts industry and the free membership confers certain discounts).
Where: 102a Tower Bridge Road, Borough, SE1 4TP
Ladies & Gents Bar
Ladies & Gents is a subterranean cocktail lounge set in a former underground Kentish Town loo that had long lain dilapidated. Taken in hand by William Borrell, of the Vestal Vodka family, the space is now buzzing.
Where:2 Highgate Road, Kentish Town, NW5 1LJ
The only real hint that this might’ve been anything approaching lavatorial is the overhead concrete and glass ceiling, the mark of subterranean bathrooms the capital over.
Cellar Door is sexy and intimate, hosting regular burlesque nights, jazz and all things cool and underground.
Back in its loo days it was a favourite haunt of Oscar Wilde and later Gielgud and Crisp as one of London’s most salubrious ‘cottages’. The smell of public urinal may have passed, but the feint whiff of the nefarious is never too far away.
Where: Wellington Street, Aldwych, WC2R 0HS