Down one of Seven Dials’ quieter streets is a quirky piece of building decoration. Situated above the Shorts Gardens’ branch of Holland & Barrett is the Neal’s Yard Water Clock.
In the early 1970s, the streets around Neal Street were far from the shopping destination they are today. Much of the Seven Dials and Neal Street area had been used for warehouse storage for fruit and vegetables for the market sellers in Covent Garden. When the market relocated to its current site in Nine Elms in 1974, the warehouses were left empty. It was around this time, Neal’s Yard started becoming a destination for alternative living as commercial shops and restaurants moved in. Activist Nicholas Saunders (1938-1988) opened a wholefood shop in a warehouse in 1976, eventually expanding to a dairy and apothecary. The business was later taken over by Saunders’ former employee Michael Loftus (1948-2012).
In 1982, Loftus commissioned the water clock as an attraction to draw people to the shop. It was designed and made in six weeks by aquatic horologists Tim Hunkin and Andy Plant. As the clock struck on the hour, water in a tank (which contained an immersion heater to prevent the water from freezing in the winter) on the roof would flow down the façade of the building, ringing bells as it headed down the ladder towards the clock face. Meanwhile, six green characters would tip their watering cans to fill a tank behind the shop signage. As the water level rose, floating plastic flowers rose into view as if they had suddenly ‘grown’. The figure on the far left could swivel out to the street and spray water on to pedestrians below, which would have been quite a shock to those not paying attention.
Loftus sold up in 1989 and health food chain Holland & Barratt later took over the lease. The clock hasn’t worked for some time, but still remains in situ for Londoners and visitors to admire.
- The Neal’s Yard Water Clock is located above Holland & Barrett, 21-23 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden, WC2H 9AS. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square.
For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.
Shopaholics rejoice! There’s a new festival where you can get your summer wardrobe sorted while indulging your appetite and your passion for Prosecco.
This Saturday 10 June, over 100 shops, bars and restaurants will be taking part in a free shopping and food event. Fashion Feast in Seven Dials will feature a host of events, freebies, entertainment, workshops and exclusive offers.
The streets of Seven Dials will be closed to road traffic with an urban garden popping up around the central dial monument. London steak specialists Hawksmoor and Fords Gin will be serving free gin and tonics on the lush summer lawn dotted with deckchairs. There will also be free taco tasting from Monmouth Kitchen. Meanwhile, there will be free ice cream from the Benefit van on Shorts Gardens, where Japanese tea specialists My Cup of Tea will also be offering free iced teas.
Foodies will be able to pick up some cooking tips from the ‘In The Kitchen With…’ stage hosted by Jamie Oliver’s social protégé vlogger Katie Pix. Chefs from the area’s restaurants, including Native, Hawksmoor, Chick ‘n’ Sours, Monmouth Kitchen and Talli Joe, will be showing visitors how to make their signature dishes.
Diners at some of Seven Dials independent eateries, Cure & Cut, Canela and 26 Grains, will be able to enjoy their dishes outside for an afternoon of alfresco dining. While chowing down, visitors will be entertained with live music from Entrée and London 5-piece band Version.
For those in the mood for a pamper, there will be a Sassoon styling station for quick up dos and haircare advice; skincare experts Fresh and Neal’s Yard Remedies giving beauty tips and demos; Murdock London providing outdoor barbering and Another Space fitness experts putting on spin performances. Fashion fans can head to the pop-up style hub on Neal Street to check out the brands from Seven Dials and enter a competition to win a £1,000 shopping spree. There will also be a photobooth to capture your fashion moment.
If you’re in the mood to shop, brands across Seven Dials will be offering up to 25% discount. Register for a free ticket to obtain discounts at over 30 fabulous names, including Caudalie, Ron Dorff, Larsson & Jennings, Coco de Mer, Frame Set and Match, The Cambridge Satchel Company, Ollie Quin, Office and Offspring.
- Seven Dials Fashion Feast takes place on 10 June 2017. From 12-5pm. Free entry. Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Covent Garden. For more information and to register for your discount, visit the Seven Dials website.
For a guide to what else is on in June, click here.
Many festivals can be rather tough on the wallet. However, this weekend, you can get your festival fever fix for free as Spotlight returns to Seven Dials. The iconic West End shopping and dining destination will be closed to traffic for one day for a festival of music, comedy and arts.
An open-air stage will feature a host of performances, including the cast of Motown The Musical and Treasure Island, comedy from Nathan Caton and magic from Britain’s youngest illusionist Ben Hart. The stage, hosted by George Lamb, will also feature music from Sample Answer, Old Dirty Brasstards and King Charles.
Among the activities on offer include pop-up tea garden, crazy golf, giant chess, giant Connect 4, Airstream photo booth, design your own flower crown and watch Margaux Carpentier’s live art mural unfold. The surrounding shops and restaurants will be taking part with discounts and special events, such as complimentary drinks, goodie bags, competitions and more.
- The Spotlight Festival is on 13 August 2016. 12-7pm. Free entry. Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H 9HD. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. Register for free on the website for your free glass of Prosecco from the Prosecco truck on Earlham Street. For more information, visit the Seven Dials website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in August, click here.
Returning to the West End this spring is an opportunity to shop with a conscience. Opening in Seven Dials on 1 March, #OneGoodThing pop-up shop will raise money for London’s homeless.
Run by homeless charity The Connection at St Martin, the boutique will sell quality fashion, accessories and homewares donated by local shops and the public. Last year’s pop-up raised thousands of pounds to help those sleeping rough on London’s streets.
Located on Earlham Street, #OneGoodThing will stock designer and vintage clothing and shoes, silk scarves, jewellery, leather handbags, pictures, ornaments, antiques and china. All profits will go towards helping London’s homeless move off the streets, while the store will provide homeless people from The Connection with volunteering placements so they can gain retail experience and the skills to help them in future employment.
Lance Kuhn, Enterprise Manager, from The Connection says: ‘We are so delighted to be opening a new shop off the back of last year’s success and aim to do even better this year. Sadly, rough sleeping in the capital is increasing so this is a chance to collectively make a difference to homeless people’s futures. Nearly everyone has #OneGoodThing which is gathering dust at the back of a wardrobe and could be recycled for this good cause. Now’s the time to dig it out and donate it!’
- #OneGoodThing, 38 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, WC2H 9LH. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. The store will open from 1-31 March 2016. Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am‐7pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12-6pm (Closed: Easter Sunday). To donate, bring items to The Connection St Martin’s, 12 Adelaide Street, WC2N 4HW, between Mon-Fri 9am-5pm.
For a guide to what’s on in London in March, click here.
Upon first entering Flesh & Buns, I remembered this used to be a basement bar I spent a birthday in about 10 years ago. It had definitely changed a lot since. Flesh & Buns is a Japanese Izakaya bar and restaurant from the same team behind Bone Daddies Ramen. The interior is quite basic, with long high tails and stools dominating the central dining area. My party of two turned up on a Saturday night without a reservation – admittedly rather naïve given this restaurant in a big hit with young London foodies right now. There was quite a party atmosphere with the clientele predominantly in their 20s and 30s. Loud music and the risqué bathrooms which have been decorated in Japanese anime porn so perhaps not a place to bring the in-laws.
With no table available, my date and I found a spot at the very busy bar with a server estimating it would be a 45 minute wait. However it appeared the existing groups dining weren’t in a rush to move on so after two rounds of drinks, we were given the option to eat at the bar so we took it.
The restaurant’s title flesh and buns refers to the choice of meat – steaks, duck and chicken – and the small soft buns. However, on this visit, I ended up ordering neither – opting for a tapas-style meal from the Small Bites menu for us to share. We ordered the Mixed Sashimi set, which included two pieces each of tuna, salmon & yellowtail (£12) served on a bed of ice. Despite the casual feel of the venue, the presentation of food was very good, adding to F&B’s reputation as a foodie destination. We also ordered the Salmon Avocado Roll, which was well complemented One of my favourite dishes was the Softshell Crab, with fried squid, grilled broccoli with miso and sesame (£9.50), with jalapeno mayo adding a kick. We added some greens with Grillied Broccoli with miso and sesame (£5.50).
Overall, I enjoyed the food and drink. The high-energy venue wouldn’t always be a suitable choice for a meal out depending on the company (eg. your mother), however I would definitely suggest it as a good place to eat on a big night out with friends. The service was friendly and I applaud our attentive waitress for keeping track of us amidst all the hustle and bustle. The toilets were definitely a good taking point!
- Flesh & Buns, 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, WC2H 9LX. Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Flesh & Buns website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
It’s World Book Day on 5 March and to celebrate the event, Seven Dials’ Book Exchange are hosting readings from three authors throughout the week. Writers Hannah Rochelle, Liz Hoggard with Sarah-Jane Lovett and Samantha Shannon will be reading excerpts from their new books with an intimate audience. The evening events, taking place on 3rd, 4th and 5th March, will see guests treated to complimentary popcorn and prosecco while listening to the authors in action. There will also be the chance for Q&As and book signings.
Kicking off the festivities on Tuesday 3rd is Hannah Rochelle, Fashion Features Editor at InStyle magazine and founder of EnBrogue.com, a blog devoted to stylish flat shoes. After huge success of her blog, which has been featured in The Times, The Guardian, Red Online and BBC Radio 4, among others, Hannah is now releasing the En Brogue book, featuring hand-drawn illustrations, photographs and facts about her favourite flats.
On Wednesday 4th, writing duo Liz Hoggard and Sarah-Jane Lovett will be sharing some insights from their Dangerous Women: The Guide to Modern Life. The life-enhancing tome offers practical, but humorous advice from a group of very knowledge women, with entries such as ‘Accepting A Compliment’,’Affairs’ to ‘Family Therapy’ and ‘Teenagers’.
Finally, on World Book Day itself on Thursday 5th, Samantha Shannon will be treating fans to an excerpt of her second novel The Mime Order, following on from her hit debut novel The Bone Season, which was set in Seven Dials. Her latest tale tells the story of Paige Mahoney’s alternate future London.
- To confirm your place at the events, please register at www.sevendials.co.uk, with the date you wish to attend. There will also be the opportunity for a few walk in on the evening on a first come first served basis. Doors open at 6pm, and the readings will commence at 6.30pm. Seven Dials’ Book Exchange, 9 Shorts Gardens, WC2H. Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Leicester Square.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.