World Restaurant Toilets: Best of, Unisex and the Dilemma of Signore e Signori

I may pride myself on the ability to pick up the Italian language with ease while travelling but I am also known to suffer embarrassing lapses of memory.

Signore e Signori… Ladies and Gentlemen. Not too difficult to remember, no?

Naturalmente. But after two glasses of aperitivo in Milan, anything is possible.

Signore Signori
I totter down the staircase to the amenities, or servizi as they are called and stand motionless comparing the doors. There is no picture on either one to indicate the gender. Not even the words Donne / Uomi or initials to give me a clue.

Just Signore e Signori.

My mind tries to recall grammar classes from my university days but two Spritz con Aperol on an empty stomach have taken their toll. Too embarrassed to be caught loitering, I remember a Simpsons episode where Bart gets trapped behind a door at the zoo with man-eating tigers on the other side. He had to remember Roman numerals. There I was, in Italy, scratching my head with grammar rules. I take a gamble and open a door.


And I bolt straight out.

In retrospect, I should have realised that Signore preceding Signori would indicate it was female but alcohol and the blonde gene don’t mix well together.

So in the interests of helping fellow travellers to Italy and France, and those who cannot tell a skirt from a supposedly male figure with its legs apart (both are in the shape of a V, right?), here are simple words to remember.

Signore e Signori – Ladies and Gentlemen
Donne / Uomi – Women / Men
Femmes / Hommes – Women / Men
Madame / Monsieur – Ladies / Gentlemen

But it doesn’t stop here. Many restaurants in Europe even in Australia have the dreaded unisex toilet. Such amenities should be banned from existence. As any woman knows, there is a type of disease that affects the male population, a strand of domestic blindness when it comes to using a toilet. No woman wants to be afflicted with the opposite sex’s incompetence in the loo, particularly a stranger’s or someone she is trying to impress. And I’m not convinced that slapping the word ‘Ladies’ on two cubicles in a unisex toilet is the answer. If it’s that time of the month, it’s nobody’s business but mine. Besides, I need no audience from the men folk washing their hands while I put on my lipstick and pout seductively at the mirror.

I have written in depth about Japanese toilets and while I may have finer tastes when it comes to food and drink, I also have an obsession with photographing restaurant toilets. Hotel room toilets as well, but that’s another story. Many times I have sent a reluctant Mr G to the male amenities with a discreet camera so he can shoot what I’m missing out on.

So in honour of the restaurants of the world where I have dined, I give you the ‘best of’ restaurant toilet photographs – blurred, grainy, flashed and always taken in a hurry.

Le Grand Vefour
Le Grand Véfour, Paris – With such opulence, I didn’t want to leave. Mr G almost sent a search party after me.

Jamies Italian London Canary Wharf
Jamies Italian London Canary Wharf
Jamie’s Italian, London, Canary Wharf – In honour of the Crapper

Greenhouse by Joost Sydney
Greenhouse by Joost, Sydney – Another unisex toilet where I rocked up for this photograph.

Angelina, Paris – Gold mirrors, taps and soap dispensers

Burj al Arab - Men's
Burj Al Arab Skyview Bar, Dubai – Opulence and luxury in the Men’s – Taken by Mr G

Burj al Arab - Ladies
Burj Al Arab Skyview Bar, Dubai – Note the Jumeirah toilet paper and the hose in the Ladies

Pane e Aqua Milan
Pane e Aqua Milan
Pane e Acqua, Milan – Only a man would leave the toilet seat up in such an arty place. (Top R) A strategically blurred photo of me in action.

Amelie's Cafe Paris
Café de 2 Moulins (Amelie’s Café), Paris – There were gnomes in this unisex ‘VéCé’

Ristorante Al Calice
Ristorante al Calice, Venice – Mmm, retro green tiles. Where’s the flush?

I leave you with this photograph of the Unisex toilets at Emmilou Tapas Bar in Sydney’s Surry Hills. The photo on the right says it all. It’s direct. It’s in your face. It’s very Aussie. Yep, this is what you can expect when you have an all male staff. Tequila and Laphroaig where ‘this dunny dont work’.

Emmilou Tapas Bar
Emmilou Tapas Bar, Surry Hills in Sydney –  (we still heart you, Emmilou)

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Are you fascinated with restaurant toilets? Do you take photos of the Ladies and Gents in your travels? What’s your opinion on Unisex toilets? Share your opinion in the comments below.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.


  • I love love love this post. I’m so obsessed with toilets as well and I love seeing all these toilets from around the world. I had the same issues when I was in Europe, confusing the mens and womens toilets quite a few times. Even the drawings were sometimes a tad confusing as the men were shown in tails, which can look like a dress.

    I’ve started photographing some more unique toilets at Melbourne restaurants. I was saying to a fellow blogger how I would love to see what the women’s toilets look like.

    I don’t like unisex toilets. It freaks me out when I think I’ve gone into the wrong toilets. It seems to be becoming the rage in Melbourne restaurants to have unisex toilets, but I think it’s not half as useful as having mens and womens. Women, like you said, like to go and chat and do their make up. Men, like me, just want to go to the toilet quickly.

    • Hi Thanh and welcome 🙂 I’m glad I’m not the only one with this obsession. In my travels, I’ve seen some places that are a work of art, others where the restaurant decor and their amenities don’t match in style and standard. The ones I particularly don’t like is where they have an attendant sitting there handing out towels or whatever else they do as an excuse for a tip.

      Unisex is becoming more popular but the only advantage I can see is when you go to a concert venue and the queue to the Ladies is 4x as long as the Men’s. Otherwise, I hope they die a painful death!

  • Wow, you’ve seen (and photographed) some nice toilets in your time. 🙂 I’m no fan of the unisex version either. Men smells (as well as the inability to aim). Where we lived in the UK some of the ladies toilets had 2 toilets in one cubicle so you could pee and chat at the same time. Just NO! 🙂

    • This is an abridged version as some photos didn’t make the cut 🙂

      That’s insane to have 2 toilets in one cubicle! I have seen it once in a Sydney train station when I was very young – my memory is either hazy or I have blocked it out. Just wrong!

  • Hilarious post! I like my privacy so no to Unisex toilets in restaurants and bars. What are they thinking?!

  • A fine restaurant listing here, Ms G!

    I don’t have a photo obsession. I’m usually in and out as quick as I can so Unisex don’t bother me. Just don’t spend too long in there Ladies! 😉

    • Ha! Who would want to linger in there with men around? 😛 Get me out fast… or I may start putting lipstick on while inside the cubicle!

  • Australians have an odd sense of humor. I keep my Tequila everywhere but the Gents! 🙂

  • Excellent article. Not something I’ve given a lot of thought to, although it’s lovely when you come across a luxurious one!! You have got some amazing WCs here. Who know you might have started an interest for other loos!! i.e The worst of loos!! That’s be interesting!

    • Thanks John 🙂 That’s why they’re my pick of the ‘Best of’ – each left a lasting impression (if I can even say that about toilets!) I shudder at the idea of the worst…

  • I’ve photographed a few toilets, or facilities(sometimes they weren’t real toilets), these are great fun to see! That fancy green chair right next to the open toilet: ew. Made me laugh! 🙂

    • ‘Facilities’ sounds like they’re make shift – Unisex is staring to look good! The green chair isn’t a real chair. That restaurant in Milan is set up like an art gallery and the theme continues in the bathroom (not the open toilet!).

  • ‘BLONDE GENE AND DRINK DON’T MIX’, well that seems rather unfortunate for you me dear! Love the Aussie translation on the last one!

    • It does unfortunately… somehow I’m immune when it comes to the 1st or 2nd Martini. After that, the blonde gene kicks in!

      Cool, isn’t it… and well said by the guys at Emmilou!

  • I don’t even like the separate toilets but shared sinks thing that eastern Europe seems to be fond of. I think someone was just trying to be too creative in bathroom design with those.

  • I love Jamie’s Italian’s loo. Who would’ve thought to do a post on Restaurant toilets! It’s mighty app and hilarious. Now I know what the ladies do behind those doors, apparently powdering their noses – more like snapping away pictures of these gorgeous toilets. It’ll just be too weird to loiter in the men’s room. LOL.

    • It’s weird regardless… I’m always on the lookout for getting caught. I had a few close ones too! Jamie’s was one, but it was too good to resist!

  • I can’t start to tell you how much I enjoyed this post. Apart from the brilliant sense of humor it also deal with a very inportnat subject, especially for us women. I too got the wrong doors sometimes and I hate unisex loos. And I decidedly ‘loiter’ in luxury hotel rest rooms, in fact I had interesting conversations there, among them with an opera singer (female).

    • Thanks for the compliment, Inka 🙂 I have yet to meet a woman who likes Unisex toilets! I’ve yet to loiter for the purposes of conversations but yours sound like a story worth telling!

  • My restaurant Sevilla in Santa Barbara had some very unique unisex restrooms. I sold it 3 years ago (and sadly it was sold again to new owners with decidedly different tastes who decided to do away with the theme). The restrooms weren’t entirely unisex, meaning that instead of building-out shared restrooms, we created instead a unisex lobby which featured a massive four-user treated-concrete sink basin and mirrors and connected two large male and two larger female loo’s (each marked each with a “W”, or “M”). All loo’s were fully equipped with mirrors of their own, as well as a Philippe Starck style chair and high quality speakers 😉 . Have a look and let me know your thoughts:

    Christian Hunter
    Austin, Texas

    • Very classy! It may sound odd to say the restrooms are a reflection of a restaurant but in some establishment, it’s all about the design and attention to detail that complements the dining experience. Restrooms like these make me want to linger and take photographs! Thanks for sharing 🙂