A Brighton Girl Guide To Seven Dials
I've lived in Seven Dials, Brighton now for 10 years. This seems so strange to me as I remember vividly visiting before I moved. Me and my friends went to what is now The Cow of all places. Back then it was quiet, serving draft pints and humble British food. It seems, like everything, to have totally changed now to expensive food and fancy craft drinks that I can neither pronounce nor afford.
Coming down into the dials from the top of Dyke Road you'll pass the bathroom, kitchen and all around houseware mini empire that is Parker. I must say that I've never been in a position to buy something from there but I do do a lot of window licking and have decided I will definitely have a wee stove when my ship comes in.
There are two Thai restaurants, Red Snapper and Thai Pad Thai - I insist trying both, but over time I have come to favour Red Snapper. What should you have at the Red Snapper? The cashew chicken is my go to. Beware of bones if you're anything like me and had a traumatic experience as a child *I gag*, the staff are lovely and the mixed starter gives you a flavour of what's to come. Oh and the water cups are nice.
Murasaki, across the road, is the Japanese that everyone tries to keep quiet because it is wonderful. Their chilled plum wine and mixed sashimi boat is a treat and a half. My only issue is the stools don't allow you to relax and un-button your jeans. Just me? Oh ok.
Now we come to the comedy Co-op. Honestly, people. Can we just not?? Often referred to as the PAC man co-op it really is ludicrous, because literally - move, bish, get out the way! You often swipe sweaty bodies with your fellow shopper reaching for the eggs. Yuck.
I wonder what has actually happened here to warrant a guard? Surely it's impossible to get away quickly here. If you're from the dials, you'll know all about the crossing situation. Do you dare run across the dials and literally risk your life or do you spend a year trekking to the crossings? I have seen so many near misses, I am convinced that one of these days I will be giving my name as a witness of something awful.
Now I go to the crossings I finally consider myself an adult but there was a day I'd risk life and limb and do a runner. In the middle of the crossing there has before been a couch, a big teddy bear and for one very strange day, a bed.
On the side of the dials is a massive tree next to streamline taxis building, I often smile remembering when people slept in the tree to save it from being cut down. This really happened, and I really loved it. You know why? Cause they flippin' won. People came to feed them and cheer them on and for once, nature won.
On the other side of Dyke Road, I like to think the village begins, we will ignore the letting agents and move onto the Seven Dials Florist. Ian has been there for (wait for it) 35 years.
I often stop to chat with him and have a giggle at whatever the latest gossip is at the dials. Ian sells some truly gorgeous flowers and has even branched out to some indoor plants as they are all the rage at the moment.
He tells me how it used to be at the dials and I smile imagining it. I highly recommend reading his shop sign when and if you pass it.
Small Batch (the old bank) sits on the corner looking out at the dials themselves. I'm often found in here drinking a latte with one sugar, people watching. Alex and Dan run the cafe and are lovely people. Did I mention my gorgeous partner works here? Biased? Me? Moving on.
The furniture shop is run by Chris and his son. You'll get some absolute bargains here that are unique, interesting and very well made. Chris knows me fondly as the lady with the plants and I really do love that. Sometimes he clears houses with houseplants and I always buy them. I can't bear the thought of them dying and I guess you can see he sees me coming a mile away.
This lovely man and Ian from the florist are thick as thieves and have been friends as long as they've been here (combined 70 years!) I asked him once if he'd like to buy back some furniture I bought from him, Ian was there sharing the paper with him..
"I dunno, Ian, do you want your flowers back after you've sold them?"
The Flour Pot on the other side of the road offers the best bread in town. They have a deal with Small Batch to supply them with their food, however they've stopped doing donut Friday and I simply ask: WHY??? I sometimes get a coffee in here and my partner calls me a traitor, but it is good. The white sourdough with a bit of salted butter is divine although expensive. Think of it as a real treat.
There's a card shop just up the road called Fullerton's and they have an excellent selection, as well as stationary essentials. Going to the post office around the corner? Get your envelopes and brown paper there. It’s much cheaper and Graham and Howard are guaranteed to make you laugh.
The deli on the corner is home to some sexy sandwiches, wraps or even baguettes if you're feeling fancy. Get the arancini heated up (I suggest the simple tomato and mozzarella) and it will make your day and you're bound to make inappropriate noises while eating. They do great value sandwiches and my favourite so far is the goats cheese, walnut and caramelised onion. The chap here will often let me have some roast chicken for my little cat for about 50p and that's why I love shopping local.
Big co-op is next. It's useful but expensive. Sometimes I wonder what on earth has happened in there?! You go in and there is no bread and no vegetables … they always always however have strange crisps you seem to see no where else always for £1.
If you have no time for self check outs for gods sake do not use them here, I've so often nearly shouted at them as they are more sensitive than my ex-boyfriends (zing!) I do want to briefly mention Good Companions as it has a decent outdoor space that can be quite nice and offers excellent classes at night time in their space upstairs. Lindy hop anyone?
Though I'd rather point you in the direction of the Shakespeare's Head just down the road on Chatham Place. The Sunday roast, in my humble opinion, is the best in Brighton. Rich, the chef, is such a lovely man you can tell he gives a heck about his food. They cater very well to vegetarians and vegans and on a week day and night you'll have heard about their famous sausage and mash. Choose your mash, choose your sausage and very importantly choose your gravy. Take my money already.
The dish is huge and you'll never leave disappointed. The bar staff are ace and the drinks are great value - also try the rum and ting. You'll love it. The dials has been home to me for so long and there is nothing nicer than saying hi to people as you walk this little strip of Brighton. Come for the afternoon and have a look around and I hope you come to love it as much as I do. Just for god sake, don't run across the dials!
Written by Amy Smith