I like hotdogs and I like champagne, so naturally I was intrigued about Bubbledogs (70 Charlotte Street, London).
We arrived on Saturday (Dec. 8) at 5:25pm, just before the restaurant opened (there are two sittings: 11:30-4pm and 5:30-11pm). A short queue had already formed at the door and, at 5:35pm, the door woman came out and started letting tables in one by one. Unfortunately, because there were three of us in our party and only two of us present in the queue, we were made to wait outside in the freezing cold until our entire party arrived before we could be seated. (Later on, I noticed a woman was allowed to come in from the cold after her two friends finally arrived – she’d been waiting more than an hour.) Perhaps an indoor waiting area with bar access wouldn’t go amiss?
Bubbledogs has received much (mixed) media attention, hence the queue. (I had turned up at 9pm on a previous wintry Saturday, only to leave after being told I’d have to wait outside for at least 45 minutes). Perhaps as a result of all the media hype, one or two of the staff give off the impression that you’re not really worthy, and the place has a slightly pretentious atmosphere. You also feel a little rushed through your meal because of the queue of starving, freezing cold punters sticking their faces up against the glass windows like puppy dogs locked outside at Christmas. That said, the bulk of the staff, including Assistant Restaurant Manager James Snowdon, made us feel very welcome indeed.
As soon as our third party member arrived, we were shown to our wooden stools at a small wooden bench similar to a school desk. The restaurant is small and very simple – exposed brick walls, benches and stools, the increasingly common unisex toilets, and a small bar lining the front window. There is a drinks menu with a wide selection of exclusive ‘grower’ champagne (only about 8 of which are available by the glass), cocktails and other drinks, and a very straightforward food menu consisting of 13 different varieties of hotdog and a few sides.
Now, I have simple tastes and I like my hotdogs plain, in a bun, with ketchup. So it was hard to choose from the menu, not because I fancied everything on it, but because I didn’t really like the sound of any of the hotdogs on offer.
Tempted as I was to go for the ‘Naked Dog’ (does what it says on the tin), I felt I ought to try something new, so I first went for the ‘Fourth of July’ – bacon wrapped with smoky BBQ sauce and coleslaw (£7) with my glass of champagne. Next up, I had to choose whether I wanted pork, beef or vegetarian sausage, so naturally I chose pork, and an order of sweet potato fries (£3.50) as a side. The sides list is pretty limited: Tots (£3.50) (a type of cylindrical, American hash brown, something I’ve never come across in the UK before), Sweet Potato Fries or Coleslaw (£2.50). ‘Cheez Whiz’ is another side option but was crossed off the menu board as it ‘sells out immediately,’ according to our New York waiter. When I asked him whether ‘Cheez Whiz’ was the disgusting, gloopy, plastic cheese they squirt all over nachos at the cinema, he said yes, so I don’t really know how the cinema manages to keep a constant stock of the stuff if Bubbledogs can’t. Anyway…
My ‘Fourth of July’ hotdog was ok – fairly bog-standard sausage and bun wrapped in bacon with bland-ish coleslaw on top. Tasty enough, but really nothing special, and definitely not filling, so the three of us ordered a second round of hotdogs. This time I went for the ‘José,’ (£7.50) a Mexican-style ‘dog consisting of salsa, avocado, sour cream and pickled jalapeños. It wasn’t spicy in the slightest, I barely noticed the avocado and sour cream and, I have to admit, I finished off the last bit with a healthy dollop of ketchup, and it was the nicest part. The sweet potato fries were really good though – crispy on the outside, squidgy on the inside and sweet as they ought to be.
Between them, my friends also tried the ‘Trishna’ (mango chutney, mint and coriander, £6.50), the ‘New Yorker’ (grilled sauerkraut or NY onions or both, £6.50) and the Reuben (sauerkraut, Russian dressing melted Swiss cheese, £7). Our conclusions were pretty much in line: you can’t make a hotdog Indian, Mexican or Japanese (the ‘Dogzilla’). It will still just be a hotdog, and will probably taste better with ketchup or mustard.
Although it was good to go along and see what the hype was all about, I won’t be returning to Bubbledogs in a hurry. Champagne and hotdogs is an interesting concept, but the restaurant claims to offer ‘gourmet’ hotdogs, and I just don’t think this is what we got. There is no information on where the hotdogs are sourced, whether the meat is organic, and the bread rolls are supermarket-style basic buns, nothing special or artisan. For £7 a piece, I would expect a whole lot more from Bubbledogs.
What we ate:
Laura: Fourth of July, José, sweet potato fries, one glass of champagne
B: New Yorker, Trishna, coleslaw, one glass of champagne, one vodka tonic
P: Reuben, Trishna, one glass of champagne, one Coke
Price for 3 people for dinner (6 hotdogs), 3 glasses of champagne
£85 including tip
Service: On the whole friendly, fast, efficient, knowledgeable.
Value for Money: 5/10
Recommend? No. Have a hotdog on the street instead for a fraction of the price and save yourself the wait.
This article was originally published on Life After Cancer.