How do you find a vegan at a dinner party?
Don't worry, they'll let you know.
I hate fussy eaters. Unless at risk of disfigurement from allergies, shouldn't one celebrate their first-world status by eating, well, everything? Those who announce a dislike of an entire cuisine ("I don't like Japanese food"), or, worse still, a whole food group—are attention-seeking dullards. There's nothing more boring than talking about what you don't do.
So it's annoying but necessary to point out here that drinking is not a regular feature of Forking Knife meals. We're certainly not teetotallers—it's just that alcohol can double the bill, yet isn't a fundamental to our enjoyment of a meal.
Especially at 2.30pm on a Friday, which is when we landed at Bubbledogs on Charlotte St. If we painstakingly deconstruct the portmanteau we'll see that Bubbledogs is a place for bubbles (Champagne) and dogs (hot ones). And as it turns out, it's more about the fizz than the eats. We kept our drinking soft. But more on that in a bit.
A five minute wait was less than expected for a pair of stools near the copper bar. The interior is the now familiar embrace of brick, wood and pipes. It feels tight, cosy. The front of house girl seemed to be in the midst of training and left us perched for fifteen more. Eventually a friendly Lancashire lad emerged and turned out to be Waiter of the Year. At once funny and relaxed but professional and respectful, our man from Bolton was a template of near service perfection.
Drinking root beers, we didn't have much cause to tap into the server's Champagne knowledge, though eavesdropping on our table mates' chat revealed they're doing the bubble part very well, and at prices most modest.
Instead we ate two dogs; 'José' and the BLT. They're an amalgam of sausage and frankfurter. Namely the reassuring meatiness of the sausage, with the questionable, Bakerloo line brown colouring of the frankfurter. They're good. It's nice they're not trying to gentrify the concept. Maybe you'd expect a straightened Cumberland from any other form of 'gourmet' hot dog stand outside Twickenham. But Bubbledogs is a myriad times more knowing than that, so they're kept thin and shiny.
The food comes in a red plastic basket and invites slathering of standard American condiments. From the choice of sides we tried sweet potato fries that are a delight worth traversing Oxford street for - crispy and saline on the outside with suitably mushy innards. Coleslaw is never likely to be notable unless it's bad, and this wasn't; just nicely shredded with subtle seasoning. At least they didn't call it 'slaw.
James Knappet hasn't created a food destination, yet*. I think it's unlikely that people will try the hot dogs here and be gnawing at the muzzle to come again in a week's time just to eat. What they'll be drawn by is the convivial, feel-really-good atmosphere that the social layout and service excellence lends itself to.
We weren't drinking that afternoon, but skipping up to Warren Street tube afterwards, it almost felt like we had been. Bubbledogs is a little gem. We'll be back to pop a cork or two soon.
* '&'—a tasting menu for lunch and dinner, will be served at Bubbledog's Kitchen Table when it opens soon.