A tiny and crammed Fitzrovia parlour, specialising in hot dogs and champagne; we couldn’t quite rationalise the appeal on our early days visit, but it was certainly already drawing in the punters.
A small neon sign above an unimposing street frontage announces the name of this discreet newcomer. Might we be in Greenwich Village? Er, no – it’s Fitzrovia. The feeling of dislocation increases as, having gone down the small entrance corridor, we approach the actual dining room. It’s full of people, almost all of the same age (25-35), many standing, most drinking champagne. Just after noon.
A corporate party? Someone filming a homage to Sex and the City? Was our journey therefore in vain? Turns out not: we could be squeezed into the last available ‘space’ (by a shelf, pictured); this is just a normal day at a newcomer which has captured the imagination of the local media-world worker bees with a bizarrely improbable formula billed as ‘hot dogs and champagne’.
Can it really mean that? Well, the hot dog bit is true enough. Three sorts of sausage (beef, pork, veggie) come about a dozen different ways. The one we tried – a Fourth of July seemed appropriate – was certainly tasty enough (if perhaps not of any great character), and we had it with some very good tater tots (potato croquettes), which is one of the tiny range of accompaniments. No puds (yet). No coffee.
And the drink they push really is champagne. Our glass of Gaston Chiquet – the same one they pour at Sheekey’s – was £6.50. There’s a wide choice of other ‘grower’ champagnes, as they call them, too plus – and here the hype does give way to reality a bit – a range of not inexpensive still wines and beers too.
So, does champagne – contrary to all expectations – prove to be a natural complement to hot dogs? No.
Notwithstanding this basic failure, does the formula seem to work? Well, it certainly seemed to be keeping the punters happy on our lunchtime visit. But a younger colleague, a New Yorker, who subsequently went on a Saturday evening, found the hot dog too bland and well-mannered, and the appeal of the overall formula difficult to see.
Perhaps, then, this really is one of those, mercifully quite rare, reviews where the only answer is recommend you go and see for yourself. It’s not a huge investment – a glass of champagne, a hot dog and a basket of tots weighs in at a fraction under £20.