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Restaurants of Brighton & Hove

Seven Dials Restaurant

1-3 Buckingham Place, Seven Dials
Tel: +44 (0)1273 885555
Guide price: £20

Seven Dials Restaurant

"Ooh you are lucky," murmured my friend when I told her I was off for lunch at Sevendials Restaurant. "Iíve heard itís good."

"Iíll let you know," I promised.

I knew exactly where it was. The restaurant stands blunt nosed and functional between two spokes of the Dials. It still looks like a bank to me - and never did feel much like a burger bar - its other incarnations. So, I put aside my usual trepidation on entering bank-like buildings and step through the door to find out how, in the last year, itís been transformed from fast food joint to quality restaurant and winner of numerous awards.

Itís a quiet Wednesday lunchtime - a couple of business men are sitting at one of the tables but other than that the only person visible is the waiter, who greets me politely, takes my coat and leads me to a table. I have time to take in the dťcor and its furniture - wooden tables garnered with sparkling glass and cutlery, walls hung with large canvas in subtle shades (lent by Brighton Artists Gallery and all for sale) and the mood, relaxed and mellow, although there is a glimpsed energy through the large kitchen hatch to the rear, where I can now see two chefs at work.

I choose an orange juice to drink and mull over what to eat from the two course set lunch menu. Thereís spinach soup or duck comfit salad with gherkins as starter with mackerel on potato salad or grilled lamb liver, bubble and squeak with onion gravy to follow. I decide on the spinach soup and mackerel. The waiter offers home made bread and then surprises me with a small, espresso size portion of mushroom soup, laced with truffle oil. This little appetiser, which changes every week like the lunch menu, is a free gift to all customers from the chef.

With appetite whetted, the spinach soup arrives. Iíve never seen such vibrant looking soup - itís almost psychedelic but lest that put off the more conservative, I should tell you that the taste is sublime, creamy but bursting with flavour. A true work of art. Afterwards, I congratulate head chef and co-owner Sam Metcalfe. He tells me the spinach is cooled very quickly over ice which keeps the colour - so thereís a tip if youíd rather make it yourself - my advice is donít though - go and try the real thing!

Sam is the driving force behind the family owned restaurant. He started off as Ďkitchen dogsbodyí at 13 and went on to study at Westminster Catering College. He worked part time at the Chelsea Arts Club, 192 and Grouchos where, as best student in his year, he was offered a full time job. Since then he has worked at LíEscargot and Chez Nico.

At Sevendials Sam set out to create "a taste of London in Brighton". He uses fresh, local produce, which is GM free and as far as possible organic and free range. He also sources wild game and meat from Scotland and France. Bread, pasta and ice cream are made on the premises. Sam is committed to producing good, stylishly cooked food and it shows.

Which reminds me - thereís still the mackerel to come. Not feeling that hungry now and, as mackerel is a rather rich and oily fish, I expect this to be a bit of a struggle but no - the fillets hardly make an indent as they lay across the salad and the taste is just as light, with a mix of contrasting textures and flavours from the green leaves and potatoes.

Sumptuous. Thatís the word for the food at Sevendials. It has a luxury and self-indulgence about it. An ideal place for clinching lunchtime business deals or indulging yourself or someone else. It feels like a treat but at £9.95 per set lunch is very good value. Just donít expect to feel thin when you leave.

A two course dinner from the a la Carte menu costs £19.95 a head and house wine starts at £12.00 a bottle. Vegetarian options are available and special diets can be catered for too. The restaurant gets especially busy on Friday and Saturday so donít forget to book first.

Christine Barlow

Dec 2002

Guide price £20
KEY Licensed
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VB review
Takeaway menu available
Designated No Smoking area
No Smoking
Kids are very welcome
Produced by NTD