Seldom has a restaurant been more omnipresent on twitter and various other foodie related social media and its opening more eagerly awaited than the recently launched Bubbledogs. Bubbledogs‘s concept is bizarre as much as it is genius, combining two things that I certainly have never enjoyed together (and never in my wildest dreams would have envisioned a possible match): champagne and hot dogs.
Brain behind this venture is Sandia Chang who I have met on a previous occasion as the very charming front of house at Roganic and her husband James Knappett who contributes his vast expertise as a chef (both have a very impressive CV, if you are interested, here you can learn more). The result is unique and fun, but for me not entirely convincing.
While the restaurant/bar is lovely with a beautiful shiny brass bar, high wood tables and exposed brick walls, the champagne menu is extensive and reasonably priced (the cheapest champagne by the glass is an affordable 6) and the toilets alone are worth a visit (pay attention to the wallpaper consisting of menus from our favourite London restaurants), the food sadly lacked the oomph.
I was intrigued by the outlook of a gourmet hot dog washed down by a glass of champagne, and at the same time was very grateful that I was spared the opening of another “the best burger in London” place ( I AM so burgered out).
We were early enough (5:30 pm) to avoid queuing (from 6 onwards people started lining up, not even discouraged by the rain) and were seated at the bar, where I ordered a glass of the second cheapest champagne that with 6.5 even someone working for the NHS can happily afford. I am really not a champagne expert, but it went down really well while we were waiting for the infamous dogs to arrive. There is a choice between 12 different hot dog toppings and you can combine them with either a pork, beef or vegetable sausages. Some of the options are inspired by Asian flavours such as the Trishna Dog with mango chutney and coriander of the K-Dawg with Korean Kimchi, while others are as American as can be – the Buffalo Dog is deep-fried and comes with spicy buffalo sauce and blue cheese and the New Yorker is served with grilled sauerkraut.
The choice was not an easy one, and we finally settled on the Sloppy Joe (7.5) which turned out to be the best of them dogs. A steaming hot beef sausage came immersed in a mildly spicy chili minced meat sauce and was topped with a lot of slowly melting grated cheese. My companion’s favourite was the Red Rocket (6.5) – a pork sausage with freshly grated red cabbage and rather spicy mustard. The least successful dog was the Middle American inspired Jose with jalapeño peppers, salsa and sour cream. The jalapeño peppers were unevenly distributed and super-spicy, the rest of the topping was boring.
My favourite dish of the night unexpectedly was the gorgeous crispy Sweet Potato Chips (3.5) from the sides section. In all their simplicity they were more memorable than all the dogs taken together. I am trying to think how to describe how the different hot dogs tasted but in the end they were just hot dogs, nothing more and nothing less.
I was not happy with the service. Even though we were seated at the bar, we were largely ignored (the 4 people behind the bar were too busy talking to each other), and then there is the question whether you should have your service charge included in the bill when you are sitting at the bar?
I did like Bubbledogs though, and I think if you accept the fact that the food is certainly not going to blow you away, you will have a very enjoyable time sipping champagne, doing some people watching and admiring the attention to detail and creativity that went into the concept and design of Bubbledogs. London certainly doesn’t need any more burger places, but what it needs is courageous food entrepreneurs like Sandia Chang and James Knappett who think outside the box and create diversity and challenge our culinary believes (champagne and dogs do go together after all…).
I am looking forward to their soon to be opened ”Kitchen Table” where the fine dining menu will hopefully not only entail hot dogs…
- Food: 6/10
- Service: 5/10
- Ambiance: 8/10
- Value for Money: 6.5/10
- Chances of Returning: 10%
- Verdict: Fun, weird and bubbly champagne bar with rather ordinary hot dogs