Reverse snobbery is a funny thing. Everyone coos over the pop-up, the plucky underdog, the ‘undiscovered’ chef. But a trend-chasing restaurant-by-numbers, backed by venture capitalists – where’s the romance in that?
Yet financing doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Sometimes, as in the case of this new no-bookings Kensington hotspot, deeper pockets simply mean a slicker end product. Take the decor, for instance. Styled as a basement ‘dive and dog bar’ – hot dogs, that is – it’s a triumph of studied retro cool. The hostess table is a vintage pinball machine, the lighting is flatteringly set to drinking-den low, and the music is at ‘party loud’. But you can tell it’s faux-bohemian: the faded old record players and ancient Nintendos are all glued down, so you can’t nick ’em.
The compact menu consists of pimped dude-food, making it bang on trend (for 2012). Dishes include the ‘burger dog’ – a sausage-shaped burger in a finger bun, with melted cheese down its centre. Nice idea, but it was the proper hot dogs that stole the show. Three kinds (beef, pork, veggie) were all impeccably sourced and came in five variations, all served in pillowy brioche buns. Our combo of ‘Mexican’ filling (tender pork pibil, fiery salsa and a lick of sour cream) with pork dog (meaty, smoky and juicy, with a proper ‘knack’) was one of the best restaurant hot dogs we’ve had in London.
Likewise, a stack of succulent chicken limbs was brilliantly ungreasy, having been dusted in a spicy flour coating, then baked: a refreshing change to the battered or sauce-slathered varieties. Our dinky mac ’n’ cheese, made with creamy taleggio and a breadcrumb topping, was equally swish. Last up was a cute twist on ‘milk and cookies’: a chewy, chunky chocolate cookie and milk gelato served in a small glass, with a teeny-tiny straw.
The cocktails we tried were fine, if nothing special (we liked the sweet and tangy Mutt’s Nuts best). But staff on our visit coped well with the unrelenting influx of young west Londoners, each batch seemingly more modish and attractive than the last. If there’s one thing you can’t buy, it’s a fun-loving atmosphere. And Dirty Bones has that in spades.