Opening of the month: Seven Dials Market

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Opening of the month: KERB Seven Dials Market

Related tags: Food Hall, London, Street food

London is home to yet another restaurant food hall, this time courtesy of the team behind street food collective KERB, which has rung the changes with its first bricks and mortar venue.

Does London need another food hall, to join the likes of Market Halls, Giant Robot and Arcade Food Theatre? Petra Barran and Simon Mitchell, founder and CEO respectively of street food collective KERB think so, which is why they’ve converted a former cucumber and banana warehouse in the heart of Covent Garden into Seven Dials Market.

In fact, Mitchell believes there’s space in the capital for plenty more, which is a good job considering that a whopper of a Market Halls is about to open on Oxford Street and Time Out Market and Eataly are also incoming – providing that each new entrant offers something different.

This is certainly the case with their Seven Dials Market. While taking a similar approach to some of the more smarter food halls out there, not least the recently opened Arcade Food Theatre but also Liverpool’s Duke Street Food and Drink Market, there are some key differences that give the 22,000sq ft 19th-century Thomas Neal’s Warehouse venue in Covent Garden its own USP.

For one, there’s Cucumber Alley, a micro market that includes Lithuanian bakery Karaway; Camden-based butcher Roadkill; cured meat champions Crown & Queue; and florist The English Flowerhouse. Here, Barran and Mitchell have created a space they say caters for a need by locals and workers for fresh produce given the lack of supermarkets close by (the nearby M&S was recently converted into a Boots).

Through large double doors off Cucumber Alley is Banana Warehouse, the restaurant side of things. Split over two large floors, the pair have been clever with the options the building’s licences allow. On the ground floor the site only has an A1 licence, meaning primary cooking isn’t permitted in the various locations, but that hasn’t stopped it featuring a 30-cover Monty’s Deli; crustacea specialist Claw; Mexican vegan street food player Club Mexicana, which has its own entrance on Short’s Gardens; temperance bar Square Root; and Big Shot Coffee & Donuts.

The most notable vendor, however, is Pick & Cheese, dubbed the world’s first cheese conveyor belt restaurant, that occupies what was originally designed to be two spaces (it was extended once they saw its potential). Operating as a standalone restaurant, rather than the more traditional communal eating model of the downstairs operations, here diners sit at stools and pluck a selection of cheeses from the 40-metre long electronic belt YO! Sushi-style, or order off-belt items such as a grilled four-cheese sandwich and pan-fried angloumi with honey.

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Diners can also reserve its two booths, something which Barran and Mitchell believe is crucial in attracting the theatregoing crowd, which requires some certainty when it comes to the food hall experience.

Downstairs is business as usual, with the large space home to vendors located on opposite sides of the dining area. Here sit Nanban, the second incarnation of Tim Anderson’s ramen restaurant, which has created a London ramen to mark the new venue; Rice Guys; street food stalwarts Yum Bun; burger brand Truffle, which is serving a 7 Dials Burger made with seven different cuts of meat; Venezuelan fried chicken brand El Pollote; and Strozzapretti, the new pasta venture from the team behind Neapolitan pizza brand Franco Manca. There is also a large bar at one end of the floor and a bright pink lift that shuttles diners between floors.

sevendialsmarket-burgers

Barran and Mitchell have other tricks up their sleeve. The market has a stage that will host live music, and a bookshop on the lower level (somewhat strangely located given it doesn’t benefit from any passing trade) that can double neatly as a large PDR allowing diners to sample food from all the traders.

Where food halls work is when they have a sense of purpose and of coherence, rather than being a mishmash of the latest trends under one roof. At Seven Dials Market this coherence is palpable. Monty’s Deli, for example, has been a long-time KERBite and, following the recent closure of its Shoreditch site, the opening here is a return to the fold for the pastrami specialist. 

The same can be said of Claw, another long-time KERB trader that also recently closed a bricks and mortar restaurant, in Soho, but has found solace back with KERB. Club Mexicana, a further long-term KERB member, is believed to have turned down a large investment to continue to grow in places such as Seven Dials Market.

With rents and business rates in the centre of London on the rise, food halls such as this offer smaller operators the chance for a prime location at significantly lower cost while giving consumers greater choice when eating out. But to be successful they need to feel like they belong. In Covent Garden, Seven Dials Market already feels at home.

Earlham Street, London
sevendialsmarket.com​ 

Related topics: Openings, Street Food

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