A definitive guide to the land of lavatories
It’s a fascinating cliché that even within the most vibrant parts of a city of the scale and audacity of London there are area’s that are in effect a ‘no man’s land’. Pockets of a landscape that resemble a faceless suburb, somehow overlooked by the remorseless animal that is urban regeneration, managing to cosy up to London’s iconic areas like a lap dog, whilst remaining utterly miscellaneous.
Leicester square is a more populist example of such characterless sandwich filler, almost mocking Soho and Piccadilly with its complete identity crisis, but no area better exemplifies this than Aldgate. Straddling the City like an uninspiring cotton scarf, Aldgate manages to take you from the financial heartland through to Whitechapel and brick lane without so much as a wave.
If Aldgate were on the Monopoly board it would be ‘free parking’.
What this means is windy backstreets full of shops that are always closed with a splattering of cavernous retail units that sell suits for under £50. Somewhat typifying this, yet still sitting as an anomaly amongst its immediate public house peers, is the majestic ‘Duke of Wellington’
Given that The Duke of Wellington sits but 100 yards from the 24 hour vintage craft fair that is ‘spitafields market’ and 100 yards in the other direction from the gherkin it seem almost miraculous that it retains the character from a shithouse pub from 1970’s Britain. This is a place where people drink alone with pride, fruit machines account for 80% of the turnover and the flux of inebriation throughout the night doesn’t arouse any risqué chance of infidelity but rams home the crushing futility of existence.
On the side of the wall it shares with the local housing estate it’s name is emblazoned. Nevertheless the only letters that remain spell ‘DUK O TON’ a name with which it is commonly referred. Budding gastropubs can’t dream let alone buy such flagrantly vagrant like levels of shabby chic.
Toilets in establishments like this usually resemble the inner workings of an Irvine Welsh novel, but at the DUK OF TON* the bathroom set up takes an al fresco twist which has to be admired simply for its audacity.
Whilst inside there is the rather predictable turn out of toilets with smashed mirrors, lockless doors and the heavy scent of welfare benefit, outside in the beer carpark/garden is an old shed that has now doubled up as an outside loo in which one could easily host their own evening.
There is a fridge were one to decide to bring their own bottle, a shelf were one to provide a buffet of food and a cupboard area if one was to fancy an option for a change of costume as the day evolves into evening.
In the era of pub toilets gluing all surfaces and monitoring the toilet activity of the fidgety youth there is something almost refreshing about a pub offering an outdoor clubhouse, where friends can openly converse and hang out whilst you casually go to the loo and then inspect your face.
It is also fascinating to watch what newcomers make of such a set up, often opening the door then looking back to their group of friends as if they have uncovered east london’s very own version of byker grove.
The Porcelain Gentleman asked the landlord what his intention was when he made this loo and he barked back it was ‘nuffink more than stopping the idiots gahn in and aht the wrong facking door’. Evidence that Feng Shui in its purest form is simply a prevention of idiocy.
The Porcelain Gentleman:
The pointlessness of Aldgate resonates with the famous ‘windmills of your mind’ and indeed the words ‘like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel’ could almost be speaking candidly about this oasis within an oasis that this pub toilet is, located in an outdoor crevis of this public house throwback.
Unorthodoxy must always be given the credit it is due, particularly when it slaps you in the face and jolts you out of the myriad of premonitions and judgments you are throwing on it. 7/10.
* T has since fallen off