A Summer Staycation
in Seven Dials

The West End has inevitably been slower to return to its former bustle after months in lockdown. The office workers are trickling back, but tourists are still a long way off. It’s a much quieter place, which presents locals with a unique opportunity for discovery this summer.

The enclave of Seven Dials is a reliable urban oasis at the best of times, but over the months ahead, these cobbled streets, with their alluring boutiques, restaurants and entertainment spots are ready to be enjoyed anew – without the usual crowds.

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A lab for creating your own scent at the Experimental Perfume Club on Monmouth Street

Shopping

A roundup of the latest openings to check out this summer

The seven converging streets of this pretty conservation area hold 90 boutiques and brand flagship stores, making for a day with unexpected retail delight around every corner. Some great newcomers have just joined the line-up, including cult menswear brand L’Estrange, who have graduated from a pop-up to their first full store on Earlham St, offering a modular, versatile approach to men’s style.

Make sure you inhale the fragrance emanating from the Experimental Perfume Club, who are currently running a lab-boutique on Monmouth St, where they will help you build your very own signature scent.

Nearby, Olive Jennings is a new eco-friendly homeware and lifestyle store, and the first of four winners of the hotly contested Start-up With Seven Dials scheme awarded a pop-up in the neighbourhood.

Also on Monmouth St are ethically-sourced gifts at the So Just Shop, and just launched only last week, the exciting London debut of We Are Cow, bringing the effortlessly sustainable vintage fashion to Short’s Gardens, with a show-stopping interior made from recycled materials.

Eating & Drinking

Seven Dials Market is home to 11 micro-restaurants and 2 bars, and they can’t wait to welcome you back

In late 2019, Camden-born streetfood champions KERB had just opened their first indoor food hall in the former banana warehouse at the heart of Seven Dials, when Covid closed everything down. They’ve reopened whenever it’s been safe, and were first to open their doors fully again as soon as it was possible back in May.

“The biggest thing for us was supporting our vendors,” CEO Simon Mitchell tells us. “Whatever shape or form it needs to take to allow them to trade, that’s what we wanted to do.” With so many of these small food operators self-employed, for many this policy has been a lifeline, and there’s a huge sense of optimism now for the summer ahead. “We’re have lots of outdoor seating, alongside socially distanced tables inside,” says Simon. “We change the air in the Market every seven seconds, so you are safer here than entertaining at home. It feels like this summer is going to be a real time for Londoners to rediscover London. If you come to the Seven Dials Market, you’ll see we’re all about celebrating London too; our beer is from Gipsy Hill Brewing Company, Leyton’s Square Root Soda do all our soft drinks and our spirits are from East London Liquor. We’ve got four new traders to try too (see some suggestions below). It’s great to all be back doing what we love.”

KERB and Seven Dials Market CEO Simon Mitchell
Bright and airy dining at Seven Dials Market. Photo: Jake Davis
Sea bream ceviche with jalapeño, coriander, green apple and yoghurt at BAIT
Pata pancakes with slow-cooked, then roasted crisp pork hock at Bong Bong's

Two new dishes you simply must try…

BAIT
Husband and wife duo Kayleigh and Billy had just quit their jobs and bought a streetfood van in early 2020, so the pandemic totally upended their plans. “Lockdown has ultimately given us opportunities,” says Kayleigh, of being invited to join KERB as one of four brand new traders at the Market. “We want to bridge the gap in seafood dining between between fish and chips at one end and starched tablecloths at the other,” says Billy. They’ve had time to work on their menu, and are now brimming with optimism. “It’s so good seeing everybody coming together again over food,” says Kayleigh. “I think this is going to be a great place to be all summer.”
Try: sea bream ceviche with jalapeño, coriander, green apple and yoghurt

Bong Bong’s Manila Kitchen
Winners of BBC2’s My Million Pound Menu, these guys had just opened their first restaurant in Hackney when: Covid. Licking their lockdown wounds and biding their time with a catering contract and putting together a tasty home delivery service, now their punchy Filipino flavours are back out in the real world. “It’s a new beginning for us here,” says co-owner Lee. “We’re really enjoying being part of the team of traders and have every intention of bedding in now and becoming part of the furniture at Seven Dials Market.”
Try: crispy pata pancakes, filled with slow-cooked, then roasted crisp pork hock and a papaya pickle

The alternating cast of The Donmar's production of Constellations

Theatre & Art

Constellations is a life-affirming play about choices, as a quantum physicist meets a beekeeper at a barbeque. It’s been revived by The Donmar with a twist via the rotation of some very different, but equally talented actors in the starring roles through the summer. Take your pick from Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah (18 Jun – 1 Aug), Peter Capaldi and Zoë Wanamaker (23 Jun – 24 Jul), Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey (30 Jul – 11 Sep), or Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd (6 Aug – 12 Sep). “Reviving Constellations with four brilliant casts in rep – varying the age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and nationality of the lovers – feels like a thrilling way to help reanimate the West End,” says Artistic Director Michael Longhurst, of the production. As The Donmar used the enforced closure of lockdown to refurbish it’s Seven Dials home, the show will take place a short walk away, at the Vaudeville Theatre on The Strand.

Earlham Street hosts The Art of Banksy, an unofficial exhibition of 80 of the artist’s works, from iconic pieces such as ‘Girl and Balloon’ to private collector’s items rarely seen in public. It runs until October and timed or queue-jump tickets are available in advance. There’s even a show and hotel package available at the nearby Radisson Blu. Banksy has a long association with Camden, his most famous local pieces include the maid sweeping rubbish under the wall at the Roundhouse,
back when the venue first opened, and his long creative battle with Team Robbo along the Regent’s Canal towpath. In the West End, ‘If Graffiti Changed the World it Would be Illegal’ was on Cleveland St and ‘One Nation Under CCTV’ by some prying cameras on Newman St.

Stay the Night

Now is a brilliant time to indulge yourself and forget having to travel home after a day of shopping, dining and a show. Instead, flop down for the night at the apex of Seven Dials’ famous angled streets in the Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer St Hotel, which comes with the on-site Monmouth Kitchen specialising in Peruvian and Italian small plates. It’s a great spot for terrace-based people-watching out front over an afternoon tea.

The Covent Garden Hotel (pictured) reopens at the end of July, and is a quintessential London experience, with high wood-panelled rooms, grand suites, beauty treatments and seasonal dining at Brasserie Max. Take a step back and linger in this historic part of Camden for a little while. Both these ultra-convenient pads really offer you the chance to get to know the West End like never before.

Now is a brilliant time to indulge yourself and forget having to travel home after a day of shopping, dining and a show. Instead, flop down for the night at the apex of Seven Dials’ famous angled streets in the Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer St Hotel, which comes with the on-site Monmouth Kitchen specialising in Peruvian and Italian small plates. It’s a great spot for terrace-based people-watching out front over an afternoon tea.

The Covent Garden Hotel (pictured) reopens at the end of July, and is a quintessential London experience, with high wood-panelled rooms, grand suites, beauty treatments and seasonal dining at Brasserie Max. Take a step back and linger in this historic part of Camden for a little while. Both these ultra-convenient pads really offer you the chance to get to know the West End like never before.

This article first appeared in the print edition, Camdenist presents Unlockdown, a guide to supporting and celebrating Camden’s brilliant local businesses, venues and destinations as we emerge from the Covid lockdowns. Produced in association with partners including HS1/St Pancras International, it was delivered free to all 270,000 residents in the borough.

Read it here

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