From cocktail bars to vintage clothing stores, a range of businesses are breathing new life into London’s disused public toilets. Dan Frost finds the best places to spend a penny.
THE WINE BAR
Both the old Victorian toilets and their initialled moniker have been put to more appetising use at this smart subterranean bar next to Clapham Common tube. The WC here refers to wine and charcuterie, rather than water closet. Visitors sip and nibble at tables that were once cubicle doors, surrounded by the same wall tiles and floor mosaics that Victorian gentlemen once relieved themselves on. How very lav-ish. Clapham Common South Side, SW4 7AJ.
THE COCKTAIL BARS
Bermondsey Arts Club and Ladies and Gentlemen
Another pisser to get pissed in is the gorgeously renovated Bermondsey Arts Club, a cocktail bar where the original toilet wall tiles complement the elegant art deco design, and marble cubicle dividers now serve as (well cleaned) tables. Also keep an eye out for Ladies and Gentlemen (www.twitter.com/ladyandgentsbar), co-run by online drinking guide BarChick, set to open in Kentish Town’s old underground khazi. 102A Tower Bridge Rd, SE1 4TP.
THE CABARET CLUB
The only indicator of this wee club’s previous incarnation is an entrance that disappears into the middle of the Aldwych pavement. Inside, what was once ‘the most infamous gents in Theatreland’ – the reputed haunt of Wilde, Orton and Gielgud – has been wholly transformed into a sexy cavern of cocktails, cabaret and drag. Fittingly, the club’s own toilets are worthy of mention: the doors are completely transparent and only frost over when locked. 0 Aldwych, WC2E 7DN.
Hackney Council was planning to demolish the closed public toilets at the end of Chatsworth Road until the Clapton Improvement Society stepped in with a plan to turn shit into sugar. The former facility is now a bar by night and a charming café by day (run by NANA Café, a group of older ladies serving up homemade treats). There’s also a roof terrace, and they’ve even kept a section of the old toilets open to the public. Brooksby’s Walk, E9 6DA.
THE ARTS HUB
This community arts venue in an old Kennington toilet – amusingly dubbed ‘the Loo-vre’ – is still very recognisable as a toilet. It’s been cleaned up a bit, but with varying displays of art on the tiled walls and the occasional spot of performance poetry amid the cubicles. And what’s the standard like? Very good: these aren’t piss artists, y’know. 180 Kennington Lane, SE11 4UZ. www.artslav. com. Kennington. THE VINTAGE SHOP PGreen Vintage’s The Vintage Necessarium When couture calls, head to this vintage clothing store in Spitalfield’s old Victorian privy. Ravers knew it as the Public Life nightclub, but now it’s all about the retro threads, which are fairly affordable, so you don’t need to be feeling flush. 82A Commercial St, E1 6LY.
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