Attendant Clerkenwell

My espresso, served in a classic black cup, at Attendant Clerkenwell, made with the Brazilian Esmeralda house espresso.I have a soft spot for Attendant, which started in 2013 in a converted, underground gentlemen’s toilet in Fitzrovia. It could easily have been a gimmick, but from the outset, Attendant was committed to top-notch speciality coffee, first from Caravan then, more recently, roasting its own. It also expanded, opening shops in Shoreditch and Clerkenwell. The original Attendant featured in the early days of the Coffee Spot, soon after it had opened, plus it was one of the first coffee shops I visited when COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed in England in July.

All of this makes it rather bizarre that, until last week, I’d never been to Attendant Clerkenwell. What can I say? A lovely, quirky, irregularly-shaped spot with gloriously high ceilings, the loss is all mine. There’s outside seating, plus more seating inside, including a neat back room if you want something a little quieter. The offering is substantially the same as at the other Attendants, with its Brazilian single-origin on espresso, plus a single-origin filter option (currently only available as batch brew). This is all backed up by a wide selection of cake and impressive breakfast, brunch and lunch menus, all prepared in the open kitchen behind the counter.

November 2020: with the new Government COVID-19 restrictions in England, Attendant is returning to takeaway service from Thursday, 5th November.

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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.

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Attendant Fitzrovia

The entrance to Attendant, in an old men's public lavatory on London's Foley Street.I’ve been to all sorts of coffee spots, in all sorts of places, but I don’t think that I’ve ever been anywhere quite as innovative when it comes the setting as Attendant. As the name hints, Attendant is in a (disused) Victorian (men’s) public lavatory on London’s Foley Street. If that sounds weird, it is, and yet it’s also genius.

The great thing about Attendant is that it’s kept most of the original fittings, incorporating them into the design. The result is a quirky, unique place. For some, that would have been enough, relying on the gimmick alone to draw in the punters. Not, however, Attendant, which has aimed firmly for the top of the speciality coffee market, going with local roasters Caravan, from up the road at Kings Cross. It also offers a wide range of sandwiches and cakes, again with an emphasis on quality and local produce.

Attendant is pretty small and, when I was there, it was very busy. However, a high staff-to-customer ratio, with a minimum three staff on duty during my visit, meant that everything was handled very smoothly. Ironically, for a café in an ex-public lavatory, there’s no toilet!

July 2020: Attendant has reopened, offering sit-in and takeaway services. You can see what I made of it when I visited.

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