Strolling through Seven Dials in the evening over the summer you may have noticed some extra bustle and twinkling of lights in the area’s nightlife. In place of the old Small Batch Coffee on the corner of the northern Dyke Road arm of the dials, a new pop-up wine bar has arrived. Night Shift – a collaboration between Ollie Hyde from Flour Pot Bakery, Will Murgatroyd from Curing Rebels and Paul Gibson from Curio Wines – was due to stay open until the end of October. Now, after a successful trial run, the team intend to make it something more permanent.
Let’s hope this happens, because it’s a little foodie-pleasing haven. With its wide windows and doors at either end, the bar is welcoming, its warm glow emanating out onto the encroaching evenings. For a wine bar, there’s a refreshing lack of snobbery to the service and atmosphere. The world of fine wines, with its connotations of upper class riches and refined palettes, can feel very exclusionary, particularly so in this country, where to have an opinion on wines is often equated with pretentiousness. But, whilst good wine is never going to be cheap in the UK, there’s no barrier to appreciating and learning about it.
Curio’s Paul Gibson says it’s a part of their business plan to create something akin to the casual vibe of European bars and cafés which open early and stay open late, serving everything from coffee and breakfast in the mornings to good wine and plenty of locally produced small plates in the evening. An important part of achieving this will be putting people at ease when it comes to choosing a wine from what could be an intimidating list. When we went in to sample the menu, our server was happy to talk us through our options. We had a carafe of the Beaujolais (£25.50 for 500ml – note this is a mid-range wine, with the Syrah the lowest priced at £17.55 for 500ml). It was light-bodied, low in tannins but with an earthy complexity, and was, most importantly, very drinkable.
The food portion of the menu consists of variations on traditional pub snacks – olives, nuts, pickles, as well as the intriguing Goan salami bombay mix – and small plates, built mostly around Curing Rebels’ charcuterie range, which are beautifully displayed in the glass case where Small Batch’s cakes used to be. We ordered a table-filling selection from the list. The caponata (£7), a Sicilian dish of unctuous aubergine, pine nuts and herbs, served with immaculate focaccia from Flour Pot, was slightly too chunky to feel like a dip, more like leftovers of a ratatouille-type stew – in a good way. To scoop it up with chunks of focaccia has a certain decadence to it, the depth of flavour resounding with the flavours of a hearty Mediterranean meal.
The salami plate (£14), arranged pleasingly to form what looks like one big plate-sized slice of salami, is a showcase of Curing Rebels’ range. There’s the smoky, spicy, cheekily named Choriz’ove; a peppery, coarse saucisson; a fiery Hunter Salami flavoured with red wine, chilli and garlic; and perhaps the most distinctive, the “OG” Brighton Salami, which is aromatic with pepper and fennel. Yes, it’s quite a lot of salami, but this is no problem if you’ve got wine to wash it down with.
Perhaps the most surprisingly delicious morsels of the night, however, were the pickled Nutbourne tomatoes (£4). These soft, little yellow tomatoes explode in the mouth with a rush of sweet pickle liquor. The sensations of sweetness and acidity are both turned up to the max, creating a rather intense but perfectly balanced experience for your tastebuds.
Since opening in June, Night Shift have been experimenting with format. On top of their core menu of snacks and small plates, one-off sandwiches have appeared, as well as tacos for their one-night-only Tacos and Mezcal Night. They also have Ben from The Record Album just down the road playing vinyl some Saturday nights. It’s exciting to go somewhere that is still in the process of becoming, somewhere full of possibility and creativity, with quality of produce as a driving force. With The Flour Pot Bakery’s masterful dinner table breads, Curing Rebels’ ethos of locally sourced, high-welfare, sustainable produce, and Curio’s wine expertise, it feels like you’re in very safe culinary hands.
Nothing is set in stone yet, but it’s likely Night Shift will close for a refit at the end of October. All going to plan, it will re-emerge soon after to become a permanent feature of the Seven Dials dining landscape.