Thursday, 30 August 2012
I was unsure whether to write anything about Bubbledogs&. Firstly, I completely forgot to take photos so all I have to remind me of the wonderful few hours I spent on Charlotte Street last night is one grainy shot of a table groaning with hot dogs and cocktails. True, nobody ever came here for world-class food photography, but an interior as impressive as this deserves as much exposure as possible. Secondly though, and more importantly, lavishing yet more gushing praise on a place that has already, despite having only just opened, received more gushing praise than almost anywhere else in the capital, seems rather pointless. There's probably nothing that hasn't already been said - Bubbledogs& is great, and you'll love it, and you should go. End of story.
But here we are anyway, and although I'll still keep it brief, the scale of husband-and-wife team Sandia Chang and James Knappett's achievement in making a roaring success out of this most unusual of concepts deserves just a bit more praise. The truth is, I was far more looking forward to the opening of Knappett's Kitchen Table (the & of the Bubbledogs&), a 16-seater fine-dining project hidden behind curtains at the back of the main bar, than the bit involving sausages and fizz. I assumed the rest of it was just a gimmick, a headline-grabbing advertisement for the fine-dining real deal to follow, and though I was reasonably sure I'd enjoy eating hot dogs and drinking champagne (being both human and not dead), I wasn't expecting fireworks.
I also wasn't expecting the Bubbledogs& bar area to be quite so beautiful. Exposed brick walls and hanging light bulbs are hardly new in 2012 restaurant design, but wooden panels and dinky little mirror "windows" give the place a sort of log cabin feel, and a gleaming copper-plated bar at one end of the room wouldn't be out of place in any top London hotel. Downstairs, the walls of the bathroom area are plastered quite brilliantly in menus from restaurants all over London and the world - collected personally by James and Sandia I was told. I hardly ever mention décor as it takes quite a bit from anything to distract me from what's on my plate, but this place really does look good.
And we've all had hot dogs before but the range of toppings Bubbledogs has put together are mini masterpieces in fast food for £6 a pop. The Buffalo Dog was a clever rearrangement of Buffalo Chicken Wings into hot dog form, with Frank's hot sauce underneath and a topping of blue cheese and celery. The K-Dog came topped with a generous mound of spicy, zingy kimchee, and the José with guacamole, sour cream, salsa and fiery jalapenos. And if you think the poor pig itself would be lost under this barrage of toppings, think again - it was always the dominant flavour thanks to incredibly good sausage meat, certainly on a par with those from Big Apple Hot Dogs if not (whisper it) perhaps even better.
Sides were just as luridly addictive. North Americans will be more familiar with "tater tots", sort of mini hash browns fashioned into dinky little cylinders, than a native Brit but I'm sure they'll find an appreciative audience here. They went particularly well dipped in "Cheese Whiz", best described as a salty neon-yellow custard, like the kind you get with nachos at a multiplex cinema. It bears as close a resemblance to cheese as a pack of Quavers does to a truckle of aged Comté, but what the hell, I loved it anyway.
As with anywhere charging not very much for great food, Bubbledogs& is likely to be hugely oversubscribed. I believe the current queuing system is similar to Burger & Lobster - you put your name down and kill time nearby waiting for a call rather than line up outside - but this may change depending on how well it works long term. The worry I have is that the room and atmosphere and service is just so lovely that people will be tempted to linger and thus make the queues even more terrifying, but that's still not going to stop me trying. And in fact, they'll even save you a table if you book in groups of six, so maybe just grab a few friends together. And if you can't immediately find six friends? I imagine having a table booked at Bubbledogs& is the perfect way to make some new ones.
For photos that are far better than I could have come up with even if I had remembered to take any, try The Skinny Bib