Friday, 31 August 2012

Bubbledogs

Confession:

Even as a complete and utter gullible food nerd, I was worried that the little place down the street, slowly creeping closer towards opening night, would be all gimmick.


It's easy to bristle at any place with a 'concept', and this concept in question (hot dogs + champagne) struck as more-than-slightly unsubtle (hello, high-low) and clearly derivative of the current obsession with street food, American in particular.

But foodies love a concept, and between the Twitter storm brewing among the bloggers and the adoring anticipation frothing from the press, I was worried that quality would be overlooked in the kerfuffle.


Spoiler alert: I needn't have worried.

Being that complete and utter gullible food nerd, and luckily working down the street, I stalked the place for seats upon opening and snagged a table to celebrate both my return from holiday and my impending move. More on that later.

So a few of us trundled down and bundled into the already-packed place, tiny but warmly- and well-designed, with thoughtful touches like glass bubble lamps and charming cartoons of the 'doggy mascot scampering across the walls.

photo: Jessie G

With a bottle of the "classic" Benoit Lahaye Essentiel Grand Cru and some sweet potato fries and tater tots on their way, we got down to the dirty business of choosing a dog. We ordered a range - for scientific comparative tasting, of course - spanning a dog with Spanish influence (a perro?) to one smothered in chilli, and demolished the perfectly fried goods while waiting, drowning the 'tots in Cheez Wiz, the neon yellow molten plastic a revelation to the uninitiated Brits around me. Welcome to the good (American) life.


photo: Daz

My pork Small Eye - pickled vegetables, Sriracha mayo, and fresh coriander - had a good snap to the sausage and the tanginess of the pickles was nicely offset by the creamy mayo. Because no one can say no to the guest of honor, I also (forcibly) tried the BLT - bacon-wrapped, with "caramelized" lettuce and truffle mayo - which had a nice truffle funk and, hi, there was bacon, even if the lettuce would be better described as "wilted". All the dogs were nestled in freshly-baked and faintly sweet buns, although the overall ratio of bun-to-dog was bread-heavy, considering their dense texture.
 
(The dog pictured below is the K-Dawg - kimchi, fermented red bean paste, and lettuce)




photos: Daz

I shouldn't have questioned the concept - although seemingly overwrought, the hot dog-champagne combination works in the way of champagne and Chinese, with the bubbles bouncing off the fatty stuff, complementing its sugar and somehow diffusing the greasiness.

I guess they know what they're doing - James Knappett, the ex-chef of The Ledbury (and also made a cameo appearance at The Ten Bells earlier this year), is at the helm in the kitchen, while his wife Sandia Chang runs the room and also happens to be the loveliest woman in the world.

Turns out there is no gimmick - though there is something to be said for just doing one thing and doing it well (see Hix's Tramshed or Pizza East's Chicken Shop) or mixing the humble and the high, at the end of the day the dogs are delicious, the service as snappy as sausage casing, and the ambiance as bubbly as fizz.

As noted in the guestbook - with a pretty horrific extended entendre (we can't all be copywriters) - we'll be back!

photo: Jessie G

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