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Bermondsey’s once-derelict railway arches are now home to some of London’s best food suppliers and markets.
If you haven’t wandered through Maltby or Druid St Market sipping a delicious coffee, craft beer or locally distilled gin whilst nibbling on tasty snacks then, frankly, I have no idea what you have been doing with your weekends.
These arches also host Dynamic Vines, one of London’s most interesting wine suppliers, specializing in Biodynamic or ’Natural’ wines. Soon you will be able to visit their beautiful wine cellar for events and dinners. The launch of Bubbledogs new food truck gave me the chance to snoop around the space, munch hot dogs, sip champagne and listen to some of London’s most knowledgeable wine folk waxing eloquent about their favourite subject. It’s a hard life, I know.
Bubbledogs have a little joint in Soho that pairs tasty hot dogs with some of the world’s best champagnes. They are now bringing their concept to a wider audience by touring the UK this summer in their colourful new food-truck (which happens to be called Johnny).
Sandia Chang, co-owner of Bubbledogs and an expert sommelier, is an inspiring female figure in London wine. She grew up in Saudi Arabia where alcohol was banned and her family would brew their own wine out of shop bought grape juice. She has since spent her career in the pursuit of good wine whilst working for some of the world’s best restaurants including Noma and Kitchen Table, a Michelin-starred restaurant that she co-owns with her husband James Knapp. She believes in ‘eating and drinking what you love with the people you care about. So why not have champagne and hot dogs with your friends?’ She is most interested in what’s called ‘growers champagne’. This is champagne made by independent farmers who grow the grapes instead of wine-makers who work for big companies.
‘Growers champagne’ falls under the same category as ‘natural wine’. It s quite trendy at the moment but it’s also vague. Simply put, it means wine made in the most traditional fashion possible: organic, no pesticides, simple fermented grape juice using local yeast cultures and minimal additives. Champagne follows the same process except that it undergoes a second fermentation with added ‘dosage’ or sugar. ‘Growers champagnes’ have a far lower dosage than big batch company champagnes allowing them to stay closer in flavour to the original wine. This is a long and complex process, which is not hugely profitable, so the growers have to be incredibly committed to their product. The stories about the winemakers themselves are part of what makes the new natural wine movement so inspiring.
Champagne isn’t a drink we consume regularly as a nation; historically it was only available in fine dining establishments serving expensive food.
Traditionally the big champagne houses price their drink high on the ‘champagne’ label, but their product isn’t really worth the money. The companies buy in grapes and make big batches of champagne in sterile conditions, resulting in a far less unique flavour. However, good champagne is undeniably delicious, the bubbles add a sense of occasion and a certain something to an already complex glass of wine. It seems crazy to me that anyone would buy commercial champagne when with ‘grower’s champagne’ you can get so much more for your money.
The main question bothering me is does this flavour combination succeed? Well, in some ways, yes. Rich, oily hot dog with crisp, dry champagne, there’s definitely a good contrast there. However, some of the finer flavours of the drink are a little lost, particularly if, like me, you get carried away with the mustard sauce.
On the other hand, a glass of world-class champagne with a hot dog comes to less than twenty pounds. In my opinion it’s not important whether this flavour combination is the best way to taste champagne or even if Bubbledogs make the best hot dog you’ve ever tasted, it’s more exciting that it’s affordable. Making champagne the focus is a clever move – hot dogs are more like the peanuts you snack on at a bar, tasty, but just a side note.
That’s not to write them off entirely, though. Bubbledogs hot-dogs have unusual toppings such as ‘The Small Eye’ with pickled veg, sriracha mayo and peanuts. I chose ‘The Mac Daddy’ which came with creamy mac and cheese and crispy fried onions. It was a winning combination, although eating it whilst holding a glass of champagne proved a challenge. I dropped fried onions and pieces of macaroni all over the tasting room, ruining my sophisticated journalist act. Sides are simple and include sweet potato fries and childhood favourites tater tots. Fried foods always taste better after alcohol and champagne is in no way an exception to this rule.
Anyway, let’s talk about the real event of the evening: the champagne. To start with I had a glass of Gaston Chiquet, one of my favourites, crisp with a mellow richness to back it up. We tasted Chartogne Taillet, St Anne, a fresh, easy drinking champagne followed by Alexandre Filaine’s Cuvee Speciale which was richer and stunningly complex. I am in love with this champagne, I want to cradle it in my arms and waltz slowly, I want to drown in its perfect creamy bubbles. Filaine’s champagne is aged in hundred-year old barrels and only four thousand bottles are made per vintage.
The variety of between these three drinks proved that champagne, at least that made by independent producers, varies wildly and there are plenty more to taste. Raphael Rodriguez, Head sommelier at Fera restaurant and generally charming Frenchman, believes that befriending your sommelier and taking his advice is the best way to discover your favourite wines. Sandia and Raphael are part of a new generation of sommeliers making wine a more accessible and engaging subject. I hope that Bubbledogs can help to spread this idea across the country.
It’s really exciting to see champagne being given a new, image and brought to a different audience, there are some truly delicious bottles out there waiting to be drunk. I can’t wait.
Bubbledogs review by Helena Goodrich
Johnny The Van
Alongside attending festivals, events and markets across the country the van is available for private hire for birthday celebrations, weddings, parties and film premieres.
For any booking enquiries please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the bubbledogs website for further details on Johnny’s locations this summer