Jessie So and Jaguar Fungsa experience the latest in American fast food made with high quality British ingredients
Must-try: Pulled pork dog, sweet potato fries
Good for: Dinner, followed by drinks
Situated on 48 Frith Street, Soho – merely a 15 minute walk from UCL – is Top Dog: gourmet hot dog joint in the heart of London’s entertainment district.
Having opened in June 2015, Top Dog has adapted the classic American staple with locally sourced British ingredients to bring us an updated version of American fast food. This is all channeled with a dose of US rebel biker culture of the 1950s through the restaurant’s retro design.
We see this immediately as we enter the restaurant on the ground floor. Although it looks like a take-away style restaurant with tables and seating around the edge, we were assured that this is all soon to be refurbished. We were taken to the basement where there is additional seating. Décor consists of biker memorabilia and a real motorbike that can be used for photos. We couldn’t resist, of course.
Just outside was a display of similar photos, giving a personal feel to the place.
When we go up to the first floor, we discover the restaurant’s hidden gem: a bar area, similarly decorated with a 1950s biker theme, that also serves reasonably priced drinks and cocktails. By now quite excited and certainly extremely hungry, we head back down to the ground floor to go through the menu and try some dogs.
The basis of Top Dog’s menu is the 100% natural, grass-fed, free range, locally made beef or pork dog, with an alternative of an organic tofu dog. Buns come in classic or gluten free options. Pulling it all together is the house sauce, which has a slight kick to it. Top Dog are able to cater to vegetarians and often vegans too, if notified in advance.
There were all sorts of dogs on offer, from innovative to wacky – for the less adventurous there are the Plain Jane or BBQ dogs – but you can also opt to build your own dog, by adjusting the level of spice, type of dog or type of bread.
We decided to try the Kimchi dog, which we are told is one of the restaurant’s bestsellers. Although it didn’t taste like authentic kimchi (it was quite sour), it was still nice to have the contrast of flavours.
Chicago is the place of origin for hot dogs – subsequently there is one named after it. Not for the faint-hearted, it packed a spicy punch.
The pulled pork dog uses the restaurant’s own pulled pork recipe, with its sweetness contrasted by the sharpness of the apple slaw. We agreed that it was delicious indeed.
We had both never tried a tofu dog before, but it was a positive experience: lots of flavour, crunchy textures, overall a good dog. It was purely the texture that gives it away.
We also sampled the skin-on potato fries and sweet potato fries. They weren’t as greasy as fries usually are, so I ended up eating them with a little less guilt than usual. The offerings of cheesy and beef chilli fries made me drool inside, but seemed too ambitious a choice for the two of as they are supposedly more suited to sharing.
To wash this all down, we had to sample some drinks as well. We were strongly recommended to try Harry Brompton’s alcoholic sparkling iced tea (which came in original and berries & cucumber) – although my suspicions were that he was trying to get us drunk. Nevertheless, the original flavour was lovely but the berries & cucumber had a hint of bitterness to it. As it isn’t too sweet, it is a preferable option to sickly sweet fruit cider or alcopops if you don’t like the strong taste of alcohol. They also seem to be of high quality, being handmade with finest handpicked Kenyan black teas with the addition of natural flavourings. Containing 4% ABV, it was £5.50 for 275ml – so maybe not the best choice for getting smashed, but definitely one to try.
Certainly deserving a mention is their milkshakes, which come in vanilla, dark chocolate, and salted caramel. Obviously we had to try each flavour.
They were creamy, had a good consistency (not too thin or thick); heaven when you’re needing a treat. The dark chocolate wasn’t too sweet and had lots of chocolatey flavour. The salty caramel tasted like Werther’s originals, although perhaps it was on the saltier side. The adult size is 16oz, while kids’ is 9oz – but they are so good that it’s no surprise even kids ask for the adult size!
As well as the above, there was a choice of seven handpicked beers, whose brands are not as well known, and both red and white wine are offered.
All in all, we left with our stomachs bursting.
Perfect for dinner followed by some drinks, or perhaps as a late night snack – Top Dog is open until 11pm Mon-Wed and 12am on Thurs-Sat.
Pop over to their website for more information and to have a closer look at their menu!
Attention students! Top Dog currently have a student deal:
To redeem the offer, students just need to show the Top Dog Student Meal Deal Voucher (either printed out or on their phone) and their valid student ID / NUS card. Offer ends 31st December 2015.
Image credit: Jaguar Fungsa