Burger and Lobster… MeatLiquor… Duck and Waffle… do you pick up on a theme here? It appears that London is not a stranger to contrasting and somewhat strange food pairings. Recently opened in buzzy Fitzrovia by foodie force team James Knappett (ex Ledbury, Noma) and his wife Sandia Chang (ex Roganic sommelier), Bubbledogs is the latest establishment to join the trend, offering punters a pairing of champagne and hot dogs.
Following a social media storm amongst fellow foodies, my expectations were high of this busy establishment. Arriving reasonably early on a weeknight, I was surprised to see a kaleidoscope of colourful umbrellas extending down the street. I hate queues, particularly when I’m cold and hungry, and this queue was definitely one of the slower variety.
After two hours waiting, wishing and dreaming of hot dog heaven, we were finally seated at a cramped section of the eclectic copper topped bar. The venue is small, fitting a maximum of 40 people. Young and trendy corporate types chattered noisily while sipping their bubbles and devouring their dogs. The decor is quite rustic with a mix of exposed brick walls and wooden panels. Bubble-like lamps dangle from the ceiling, consistent with the champagne bar theme.
All of the champagne on the wine list is sourced from independent grower producers who are small vineyards personally chosen by the team. Champagne by the glass is in the affordable range of £6.00 to £11.50 and per bottle from £32. I chose the Gaston Chiquet which was beautiful on the palate with clean and crisp notes.
The menu – sketched on a blackboard over the bar – offers a rather large selection of 13 hot dogs. You can choose from a basic naked dog – simply dog and bun (£6) to the more gourmet variety with toppings including blue cheese, truffle, kim chi or my old-time favourite sauerkraut. Three types of sausages are on offer – beef, pork and vegetarian.
After some deliberation, I settled on the BLT beef dog. The dog was served in a red plastic basket and topped with lettuce, bacon and truffle mayonnaise. On first impressions I was generally underwhelmed. The dog was tiny. On the positives – the dog itself had a good texture and density which came with a good burst of flavour. However I was quite disappointed by the size of the dog and the toppings. For starters, I almost needed a microscope to find the bacon. The caramelised lettuce and truffle mayonaise were nice additions but generally lacked depth. I would have also preferred the bun to be softer – ala Dirty Burger or Dach and Sons.
The sides, on the other hand, were great. The sweet potato fries (£3.50) had a crispy shell with a soft inner. The tater tots (£3.50) – potato croquettes – were easy to sink your teeth into and had a delicious creamy consistency.
The New Yorker was a slightly better option than the BLT, choosing to keep it simple with generous lashings of sauerkraut and onions.
Although I love both bubbles and dogs, I didn’t find the pairing worked particularly well. Hot dogs are not glamorous. They are meant for getting your hands dirty, not for greasing up a pristine champagne flute.
I have found something that I dislike more than queues, and that is glorified junk food which doesn’t deliver on expectation. I would settle for a dirty burger or a local sausage sizzle any day. Worth a try, if you want to make up your mind for yourself. I can see this venue continuing to be popular due to the force of social media and the tendency for consumers to follow the pack.
What does the ampersand mean in Bubbledogs&? This refers to Kitchen Table, the adjoining project attached to Bubbledogs which has James Knappett serving up tasting menus for small groups of diners directly around his kitchen. Rumour has it that this more ambitious project is a hit and showcases his undoubtable talent.
Approximately £40 for two including dog, sides and drinks.