When it comes to France, my joy is sparked not by the grand avenues of Paris, dainty treats from the patisserie, or high fashion shopping, but from the rough and ready parts – bold flavours, cold seaside towns, grimy newsagents, supermarket shelves and farmers markets. My favourite French towns and cities will never make it into Vogue, but they provide the kind of experience I crave – real life, real people, real food. A few years ago, my husband and I visited Marseille, completely unaware of its seedy reputation, and discovered a beautiful, underappreciated gem of a city, complete with a rich tradition of gorgeous Provencial food and culture that I fell in love with. Continue reading
If you head to Charlotte Street in London on hotdog related business, you may find yourself plagued with a decision the likes of which you’ve never faced before. Because in Charlotte Street there is not one, but two great hotdog places, both very close to each other, both very trendy and Instagrammable, and both selling delicious food.
Now, I don’t know you, but I’m going to assume you’re similar to me, and only eat hotdogs once a day. So that means I’m going to have to help you decide which one to visit. Don’t worry, I’ve done my research.
Let’s start with Bubbledogs – arguably the trendiest of the two. You can’t book in advance but mysteriously when you go in, they’ll ask you if you have. I’m allergic to speaking on the phone, but if you are socially minded you might want to try ringing them to see if they’ll put you on the secret booking list.
Bubbledogs’ USP is the fact that they serve champagne with their hotdogs (which came first? The concept or the name? I like to think they just made up the name first and then decided the only possible way to go ahead with a business called Bubbledogs was with champers and sausages… But I digress…) Because of that, the room is dominated by the glorious bar, dotted with dimmed lighting, and the exposed brick walls are adorned with cute pics of pups in various poses. Seats are high stools with higher tables – a pet peeve of mine, as I like to lounge when I eat. I assume I’m related to some kind of high up Roman senator or something.
The drinks selection is by far the biggest part of the menu. The food almost seems like an afterthought – but don’t worry, because as much care is lavished on the hotdogs as it is on curating the wine list. I plumped for the rose and waited patiently for my food to arrive before I supped away.
Making a decision on the hotdogs was pretty difficult – before I arrived I’d fancied a Sloppy Joe – chilli, cheese and onions – but on the day I wanted something sour and strong, so I ordered a Reuben with sauerkraut, Russian dressing and melted Swiss cheese, along with a helping of sweet potato fries.
It was delicious, but I still yearn for that hit of chilli and wish I could go back for a second helping of a Sloppy Joe – there’s just something unbeatable about that combo! Props go to Bubbledogs for the super traditional squeaky dog, springy, smokey, and savoury, and the soft, sweet brioche roll, as well as the fries, which were so crisp I could have shattered them against the bar.
On now to Herman ze German, which actually has several restaurants in London, offering a decidedly more rustic take on the humble hotdog.
Cheap and cheerful is the name of the game here, and there’s also a lot more variety on the menu – you can order your hotdog without a bun, or even *gasp* skip the dog entirely and go for something completely different… as long as it’s German, of course…
You’re supposed to fill out your wipe clean menu with your choices in a marker pen, and take them up to the counter to have your order taken – in reality, it’s a bit fiddly and unnecessary, and because the drinks options aren’t properly listed, you’ll still have to order those verbally. I’d recently tried currywurst in Germany (a country I have now visited twice for a grand combined total of three hours – and no, it wasn’t a layover!), so I went for a bratwurst with crispy onions and fries. Again, if I could reorder, I would go for a bockwurst – the bratwurst lacked the smokey taste I feel is essential for a hotdog.
Interesting, the dogs are served on a French baguette style bun – I always prefer my dogs on a sweet, soft, bun, but the bread was perfectly baked, chewy and robust. The crispy onions are a great addition, and of course, just like at Bubbledogs, there’s mustard and ketchup available to add to your heart’s content – but Herman also offers mayo too, which is great if you’re pretending to be Belgian.
Finally, don’t forget I said you could order other items – it wouldn’t be a German restaurant without a schnitzel! Crispy and moist, this breaded chicken breast comes with a salad, so you can pretend you’re being healthy while you eat fried food.
On the Instagram level, I have to score Herman higher simply because there are two window seats which afford great daylight for those sneaky snaps, and the seating is a lot nicer too, although still has that cafeteria vibe thanks to the metal and wood furniture and the benches. Food-wise, I preferred Bubbledogs’ hotdog (but I still must try that bockwurst!) and bun, but Herman offers a more family friendly experience, is a little cheaper, and has a wider range of options.
My verdict? Go to Bubbledogs for style and substance, and go to Herman ze German for a heartily good nosh. And, try their melon and gin cocktail, it’s delicious!
Find Bubbledogs here at www.bubbledogs.co.uk, and Herman ze German here at www.hermanzegerman.com. Both are located on Charlotte Street in London, but Herman ze German has outlets in Soho and Charing Cross too…
Late last month, we were invited along to one of my favourite cafes, Boulangerie Victor Hugo, for their special French evening to celebrate the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau! The event took on a new meaning following the awful terrorist attacks in Paris, which happened just a few days before the evening. It was a fantastic chance to show our solidarity with our French brothers and sisters by doing what they do best – sharing good times and enjoying great food and drink!
One of the specialties of the south of France is pastis, an aniseed liqueur which is usually diluted in chilled water and consumed as an aperitif. Pastis grew in popularity following the ban of absinthe and anise in 1915 – bartenders would concoct their own blends of a similarly tasting tipple and offer these illegal drinks under the bar to enthusiastic customers.
I had some incredible meals during my week long visit to Marseille, but let me tell you about the best one – Bouillabaisse at Chez FonFon. Continue reading
One of the jewels in Marseille’s crown is the brand new €191m museum, MuCEM, which sits on the seafront of the city, not far from the picturesque Vieux Port, which is the main hub of the old town. This beautiful building houses exhibits depicting the history of the city and the Mediterranean, cultural artifacts and the like, and is well worth a day of exploring. One of the highlights for me, though, was Gérald Passédat’s bistro, La Cuisine du Môle Passédat.
Gérald Passédat is a Michelin starred chef, whose menus are priced appropriately to his level of expertise. His main restaurant, Le Petit Nice, is located up the coast in Marseille and has been awarded three Michelin stars. If you don’t have the cash for €200 menus, though, you can still experience a little bit of his kitchen magic at an affordable price. €21.50, to be exact.
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This is the price for the cold buffet (and dessert!) at La Cuisine du Môle Passédat, which is located on the roof of MuCEM, and right next to La Table du Môle Passédat – another of Passédat’s pricier restaurants. The queues start early for La Cuisine, and once you’re inside it’s easy to see why. The complimentary loaf of bread is just the start of the delicious spread on offer.
Ever since I read Breakfast At The Wolseley by A. A. Gill, I’ve been desperately trying to plan a visit there on one of my trips to London. Finally, at the end of last month, I managed to get in and partake of their rightly famous morning spreads.
When my friend told me a new French cafe had opened in town, I had to rush down there as soon as possible to test it out! Boulangerie Victor Hugo (or BVH, if you’re going to be cool about it) is located down town, past the Bargate and just past Zen and La Lupa.