Haute hotdog restaurant, Bubbledogs, brainchild of husband and wife team James Knappett and Sandia Chang, takes the unique concept of pairing gourmet hotdogs with fine grower champagne and makes it reality.
With the hype surrounding its recent grand-opening, followed by a flurry of foodie blogposts, mobile uploads and a plethora of decidedly mixed reviews, I wanted to check the place out for myself.
Along with much positive feedback, many critiques have been pretty ambivalent towards the Bubbledogs experience, describing it as a ‘low-brow guilty pleasure’, ‘four-star drinking with two-star dining’, ‘poshed-up junk food’ and at worst ‘an expensive gimmick’. The restaurant was conspicuously absent from this weeks’ Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards 2012, and to my surprise not even nominated for Best New No-Bookings Restaurant. It would have been impossible to eat there without the preconceptions spoon-fed to me by various online sources, but I arrived with an (as much as possible) open mind and an empty stomach. The prospect of a post-work champagne fix was a hotly anticipated one.
Arriving early meant avoiding a queue, which I only really began to appreciate as we watched a large crowd gathering outside. They were in for a long wait. There still seems to be a huge demand for Bubbledogs, which is testament to its word-of-mouth popularity. On arrival we were offered a choice: ‘you can sit at that table over there, “the ledge” or the bar’. The layout is unconventional and although sitting at “the ledge” (a thin slab of wood unfortunately overlooking the stairs to the toilet) seemed like a quirky alternative to a normal table, we quickly realised our mistake. There was little space to swing a cat, let alone a ‘dog’.
We swiftly relocated to eat at the bar where we had the immediate service of five enthusiastic bar staff making conversation and helping us out with the menu. As I was handed a glass of Gaston Chiquet champagne it was impossible not to feel a sense of occasion. The atmosphere was full of expectation and curious diners sizing one another up. The décor is very much in the style of a Lower East Side Diner but everything is exaggeratedly compact – getting cosy with fellow diners is non-optional.
The sense of expectation that precedes Bubbledogs springs from the combined expertise of owners James and Sandia, the former a Sous Chef at The Ledbury and Sandia an experienced sommelier. Hotdogs may be humble street-food but the quality of the offerings was second to none. With a choice of 13 ‘dogs’ ranging from ‘The Naked Dog’ and ‘The Horny Dog’ to the Vietnamese inspired ‘K-Dawg’ – all available in pork, beef or vegetarian – you couldn’t ask for more of a selection. My ‘BLT’ with its caramelised lettuce and truffle mayo was certainly a haute dog, great with a side of perfectly cooked sweet potato fries. My friend enjoyed the ‘Sloppy Joe’, piled high with meat and cheese, which was much more substantial than your average hotdog and real value for money. There was nothing gimmicky about the calibre of the food that we tried, or the thoughtfully selected champagne to complement.
The set-up felt very personal and this was reflected in the cuisine. Bubbledogs provides a champagne meal without the pretension. It is one-of-a-kind, affordable and the marketing concept is undeniably on trend. For those of us that can’t fly out to New York on a whim where joints like Crif Dogs are renowned for serving a combination of hot dogs and cocktails, Bubbledogs is London’s answer. Every dog has its day, and given the substance behind its concept, Bubbledogs should see many more.
For more information go to www.bubbledogs.co.uk
words Sophie Dee-Shapland