Attendant Fitzrovia (COVID-19 Update)

The entrance to Attendant on Foley Street in Fitzrovia, not long after reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.On Tuesday, for the first time in four months, I boarded a train. With the recent easing of restrictions on coffee shops in England, I was on my way to London, where I knew some coffee shops had started serving sit-in customers. And, if I’m honest, after four months of not going further than I could walk, I needed a change of scene. I didn’t have a firm plan: I was just going to take the train to Waterloo, cross the river, then wander around. I knew that some shops had reopened from their social media posts, but I wanted to check for myself. Mostly, though, I was just getting the lie of the land.

Of all the speciality shops that I found, the one that I least expected to be open was Attendant’s original location in Fitzrovia, the speciality coffee shop in a (disused) Victorian (men’s) public lavatory. And when I think of enticing places to have coffee during COVID-19, a small, underground coffee shop with no windows was not top of my list. But there it was, open and inviting me to come in and take a seat. Intrigued, I knew I had to try it out.

You can see what I found after the gallery.

  • Wandering around central London, I saw a familiar sight on the corner of Foley Street.
  • And, much to my surprise, I discovered that Attendant had reopened!
  • The new opening times are on the sign above the door.
  • The A-board intrigued me: sit in or take away. Well, I'd better go in then!
  • The next change is at the bottom of the stairs where, along with the menu...
  • ... is a new poster with some COVID-19 safety information.
  • The corridor to the right leads into the main part of Attendant.
  • At first glance it all looks very familar, with the counter on the right...
  • ... and the urinal seating on the left.
  • Beyond that is additional table seating at the far end.
  • When I visited in 2013, this was a single, large table. Now there are three smaller tables.
  • A view of the urinal seating from the tables at the back.
  • The main change, due to COVID-19, is that the counter is now lined with Perspex screens.
  • The coffee menu, much expanded since my last visit, is above the counter...
  • ... while there's a new takeaway breakfast, lunch and brunch menu for COVID-19 times.
  • The soup of the day is next to the sign explaining that Attendant has gone cashless.
  • There's also a retail section, selling Attendant beans, plus Frank Green reusable cups.
  • If you are (like me) sitting in, then a sign stops you just before you reach the seats.
  • There are some new procedures to be followed...
  • ... and you get a wipe-down laminated menu, with the same food options on one side...
  • ... and with the drinks on the other.
  • I had a cortado and a slice of the banana toast.
  • I promptly transfered my coffee to my HuskeeCup...
  • ... while my banana toast, which was excellent, came in a disposable cardboard tray.
  • Sadly, it was soon time to go, back down the corridor...
  • ... and back up the steps...
  • ... with one last look back at Attendant, which was closing up for the day.
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If you’re not familiar with Attendant, you can see what I wrote about it when I first visited, not long after it first opened in 2013. Back then, it was a single coffee shop in a converted Victorian public lavatory: these days, Attendant has expanded to a chain of three London coffee shops, which also roasts its own beans.

It all looked very familiar as I descended the broad steps on the corner of Foley Street, now with handy arrows showing which side to walk so that you don’t run into anyone coming out. At the bottom, there was the familiar corridor running off at 45  to the right which leads to the equally familiar main space at the end.

Attendant had a major refurbishment about a year ago, so the décor is different from what I remember, but other than a few (important) changes, everything else is the same, with the kitchen to the right, behind the old attendant’s window, followed by the counter. Meanwhile, on the left, you’ll find the urinals (converted to seating), while at the back, there is more seating in the form of tables.

Back in the day, the space was occupied by a single, large communal table, with padded benches around all three sides. These days, the padded benches are still there, but with three smaller tables, one on the left, two on the right. I suspect the change was made during the refurbishment, but the result is much more COVID-safe to use the new jargon.

Talking of which, another obvious change is at the counter, where Perspex screens run from counter-top to the ceiling. If you’ve come for takeaway, which you’ve been able to do since the start of June, when Attendant first reopened, then you need go no further than the start of the counter. Here you’ll find the menus, food on the Perspex screen, drinks above, plus a long, narrow opening at waist level for the card reader.

If you’re sitting-in, carry on and you’ll come to a sign asking you to wait to be seated. A member of staff will take your temperature with an infrared thermometer, while you’ll also be asked to provide contact details (name and telephone number). You’re then shown to a seat and given a menu, with the staff member returning to take your order. The menus are plastic coated, so easily wiped down, while the staff are happy to provide hand sanitiser.

I sat in the table section, where the three tables were well separated. Although I was the only person there, I’d have been happy if the other two tables were occupied. You can also sit at the urinals on the left, although the first three (there are six in all) are out of use (too close to the counter/takeaway customers).

Attendant has an impressive all-day breakfast/brunch/lunch menu with the usual classics, from which I ordered the banana toast, a single, thick slice of toasted banana bread, smothered in maple and vanilla bean mascarpone and mixed berry and elderflower compote. Served on a disposable cardboard tray with plastic cutlery, it was excellent.

I paired this with a cortado, served in a takeaway cup (I promptly transferred it to my HuskeeCup). Made with a naturally-processed Brazilian single-origin, it had a classic nut profile, rich and full-bodied. Attendant also serves filter coffee, currently a Colombian, which is fruity and more acidic than the espresso, offered as a V60 (Attendant stopped making batch-brew since everyone is ordering espresso-based drinks).

Although I’d been a little nervous coming in, I felt very safe and relaxed, the staff’s hospitality banishing my doubts.

27A FOLEY STREET • LONDON • W1W 6DY +44 (0) 207 6373794
Monday 08:00 – 15:00 Roaster Attendant (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 15:00 Seating Tables, Urinals
Wednesday 08:00 – 15:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 15:00 Service Table
Friday 08:00 – 15:00 Payment Card Only
Saturday 09:00 – 15:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 15:00 Power Limited
Chain Local Visits Update: 14th July 2020
Original: 12th June 2013

If you liked this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of London’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to London.

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