Seven Dials is a relatively small patch of London, nestled between the theatre centre of SoHo and the shopping mecca of Covent Garden. Somewhere between the huge Jersey Boys marquee and the biggest Apple store I’ve ever seen lies a series of streets that are home to small shops, cafes, the odd business (usually a funky advertising agency or PR company) and plenty of restaurants.The seven streets that make up the ‘Seven Dials’ all meet at this statue, one of the more confusing traffic areas in town. It’s the most complex roundabout you’ve ever seen, sporting seven exits instead of the normal three.
While the streets spool out like spokes on a wheel, it’s quite easy to walk the full dial, up one street, over slightly, down the next. It is also easy to get distracted in this pursuit, as a marquee from nearby SoHo twinkles, beckoning you to come take a look. The Christmas decoration studded Covent Garden (even two weeks after Christmas!) lurks down another street, crowds bulging out of the name brand shops.With all that hustle and bustle, it’s easy to leave Seven Dials as quickly as you’ve walked in. But here are a few reasons why it’s worth it to meander, savouring this tiny adorable place before wandering on.
Neal’s Yard – Despite its name, Neal’s Yard is actually a street. It links two of the Seven Dials streets through an alleyway, and is home to an always packed Homeslice Pizza and several other shops. This street was also where Neal’s Yard Dairy and Neal’s Yard Remedies were started, and while there are now many outlets of those brands, they retained the original name. This is one of my top 5 streets in London, I think, and based on the numbers of tourists snapping pictures there, it’s a destination in itself.
Timberyard Coffee/Monmouth Coffee – Two of London’s best coffee shops have outposts in Seven Dials, which are usually less busy than their counterparts in more populous areas. Of course ‘busy’ and ‘less busy’ are relative terms – non-city people would say they’re totally nuts. The coffee is excellent, the spread of baked goods vast and Timberyard even sets little timers when you order tea so you ensure you have steeped your tea to perfection every time.
Seven Dials Privilege Card – Unlike other larger neighbourhoods, Seven Dials has embraced its size and made significant efforts to establish itself among the behemoths nearby. There is a free book exchange down one street. A well-kept website notifies residents and visitors of news and deals. The privilege card, which I have as my office is near, offers 10% discounts for many of the businesses in the area.Covent Garden Hotel – My favourite local hotel group has yet another stunner in Seven Dials. The Covent Garden Hotel is smack in the middle of it all, and would be a fantastic hub for visitors. I’ve stayed in another Firmdale property and rank it among my top hotel stays ever.
Hawksmoor Seven Dials – Hawksmoor is arguably London’s best steakhouse, with several locations in town. The Seven Dials location, tucked away and down a long flight of stairs, is the perfect place to while away a winter afternoon. We recently came here for a Sunday roast (a great value at £19.50) with friends new to town that have never experienced a Sunday pub lunch. Now I’m afraid we’ve spoiled it for them, as they’ve had one of the best and now the average Sunday roast just won’t cut it anymore. Take it from me – just drown everything in bone marrow gravy and thank me later.