The former Thomas Neals warehouse off Seven Dials Food Market in Covent Garden is a great location for KERB’s “mini Time Out Market” concept. We went on a Friday lunchtime and then again in the evening to see it in operation. At both times it was already commanding a lively crowd and atmosphere.
The layout is split into three main areas. Cucumber Alley is the main entrance way into the space and contains 12 small, independent grocery and retail offers, ranging from a florist to organic wine and beer shop.
Next is the main food hall space, which is split over two levels. The ground and basement.
The communal dining tables were sharp-edged to the point of feeling as though the designers have purposefully tried to makes the seating uncomfortable, encouraging diners to get up swiftly. 15 minutes and you’ll be aching to get up, stretch and have a walk around. You get the feeling that they want to turn over the covers quickly—perfect for lunchtimes but undesirable at dinner where you would expect something more hospitable.
Casual street food offers are planned around a series of open kitchens throughout the space. Upstairs provides restaurant dining while downstairs focusses heavily on counter service. The counters overlook the communal dining space at the bottom of the atrium space on the basement floor. This layout is simply organised and feels honest for it.
The brick building lends the space its warmth while a bright, cheeky design adds colour and a sharpness and overly strong design identity for the space.
We tried a variety of orders from operators including Truffle (burger), Strozzapreti (pasta) from the team at Franco Manca, El Pollote (Venezuelan fried chicken) and Yin (delicious Chinese rice dishes), which all tasted great and were all reasonably priced (for London…) for the freshness and high quality.
We also thought it was brave for KERB to include a burger offer into the mix, a point of difference to Market Halls, who won’t include a burger for fear of monopolisation. This wasn’t the case at Seven Dials, however, with all offers busy with customers, demonstrating the quality of the curation by KERB.
We would recommend opting for a dish from multiple operators and sharing, that way you get a better sense of the full range. Menus were short to suit the limited kitchen space. This succinctness helped make the selection process quicker. We like that.
Operationally, we were impressed by the quick turn-around of the food. We waited a max of five minutes for all dishes, more than can be said for a late Friday night excursion to McDonalds.
We didn’t try it, but the Cheese Bar on the ground floor commanded a full house, serving cheese and chutney plates on a Yo Sushi-style conveyer belt. They’ve maximised their covers by snaking the bar over 40M in their corner of the food hall. The wine offer could have been better integrated, and the prep area lacked some real theatre for the customer. But the bones are there to build on. We think they are onto something and are sure that it will be a success with tourists and the post-theatre crowd.
Overall, we are really excited about seeing this type of food experience hitting London.
We can’t wait to go back to try some of the other great offers and watch the market evolve, but we hope they make the dining space a little more friendly!
Words by Michael Sebti, Senior Lead Creative 3D Designer