Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The Gourmet Hotdog Company, cnr. Berwick and D'Arblay Street
I was pretty excited when sausageandbread reader Joshua contacted me to tell me that a new place called the Gourmet Hotdog Company had opened in Soho.
Once again Soho was going to get a place that specialized in hotdogs but was it any good? Or would it meet the same fate as the failed Olly Olson?
The Gourmet Hotdog Company has an extensive menu (you can check it out on the official website) that includes all manner of hotdogs from a basic frankfurter and sauerkraut combo to some frankly ridiculous sounding options such as a Tandoori Lamb (curried lamb hotdog, topped with mixed pickles, raita & popadoms) and the Northerner (pork hotdog topped with mushy peas, pork scratchings & mild horseradish).
After a quick scan of the menu I went for two of the more recognizable house specials, the Berliner (Bratwurst topped with coleslaw, crispy bacon and ketchup) and the Smoked Toulouse (toulouse sausage topped with cassoulet). I should point out that as well as the specials that are listed on the menu, you can also order any hotdog with any combination of toppings (and there are a lot to chose from) but more about this later.
Breadwise, I opted for a sesame seeded bun for both dogs, although in an ideal world I would have gone for a plain, soft white bun. This option wasn't available, unfortunately.
Both hotdogs were pleasant enough. The sausages are cooked on steel rollers which gives them a clean but bland finish. I found the toppings on these house specials kind of confusing. The bratwurst gained nothing by having greasy bacon tossed on top and as far as I know neither the bacon nor the coleslaw are standard toppings for a German bratwurst. As for the cassoulet topping on the toulouse: this consisted of a few oversized beans in a tomato sauce. Both combinations seemed to me like ideas dreamt up on paper rather than in the kitchen.
Both of the sausages would have tasted better cooked on a grill or hotplate to give them a little colour and smokiness - but this was especially true of the toulouse sausage. The garlic flavour was there but it was crying out to be cooked properly.
However, both the sausages were of high quality, nicely herbed, with thin casings and tasted natural and fresh.
Overall, I wasn't blown away by either of the hotdogs and I was starting to think that this place was going to repeat the Olly Olson mistake of having a great idea but not doing it very well. But with such a large menu, I thought it was at least worth a second visit.
It was only on my return visit that I realised that the hotdogs on the menu are only suggestions and that in fact you can order any kind of hotdog you like, with any topping you like. And with that came the revalation that finally, this was my chance to try my first ever West Virginian hotdog!
Okay, so it may not have been made in West Virginia and I missed out the chopped onions on top, but this is fairly close to the famed frankfurter, mustard, beef chili and coleslaw combo that is championed by my friends over at WVhotdogs.com - one of the first sites I made contact with when I started this blog. I've been dying to try a West Virginia dog ever since and I'm happy to report that this UK version tasted pretty good. I can see now the attraction of the WV hotdog. It's a great combination of flavours and textures that compliment each other and I'll be back for another very soon.
Like Olly Olson, The Gourmet Hotdog Company feels a little bit stylized and you do feel like you're taking part in a concept rather than just enjoying honest, simple food. Cooking the sausages on rollers isn't ideal and I'm not sure why they have chosen to display the rollers prominently at the front of the shop. It's nothing to be proud of and I think some people would be put off by this.
But overall I think the Gourmet Hotdog Company is a great place to go for a sausage and bread fix as long as you ignore the 'conceptual' menu and order something a little more conventional. They use good quality ingredients and there's nowhere else like it at the moment.
4 out of 5. I'll definitely be back.