One could easily meander past Top Dog (TD) on Frith Street Soho without a second squint.
UPDATED: 26th Sept 2016 – now closed
First of all, the name doesn’t grab you like Herman Ze German or House of Ho – but equally, it’s not as off-putting as La Polenteria – really, polenta-smolenta. And secondly, the dark exterior doesn’t wink at you – one has to sport a bright button-hole on one’s lapel to make an impression in this neck of the smog-laden metropolis.
But you’re not to be put off, TD has recently undergone a bit of a refurb and has utilised the space upstairs by transforming it into a speakeasy bar. What they don’t exude in a colourful shopfront they make up for in cool. A minimalist bar with ’70’s leaf-shaped and made-out-of-scaffolding tables, grey walls with a hand painted mural: think a merman Eddie Izzard in a spacesuit, sporting an orange umbrella, serving drinks – it just works.
We arrived to the Going Live of all receptions; the staff are animated and personable – move over Ant and Dec. We were whisked straight up to the speakeasy drinking room where two cocktails were suggested.
Dill or No Dill: Gin, elderflower cordial, lemon, cucumber, dill and smoked sea salt at £8. A martini-style imbibe, aromatic and citrusy. The cucumber tones down the salt – slightly bitter. Not bad, but not top hound.
El Chaplulin: Olmeca Altos Reposado, Tio Pepe, Briottet Cacao and Briottet Menthe Blanc at £9. A touch of the My Fair Lady’s, a decent enough tequila softened by the dryness of the sherry – a fruity kick from both Briottets enhances tobacco flavours. The world was a better place once the glass was empty – Top Dog.
After our sharpeners we were led downstairs to the restaurant. You’ll feel as though you’re sitting in an industrial staff canteen, but with a touch of the Hoxton Square’s. More of the scaffold, simplistic bare wood chairs, tables and work counter all lit with factory-style caged bulbs.
We shared all the nosh.
To arrive first: Kentucky fried cauliflower served with home-made BBQ sauce at £4. If you like cauliflower, and you like tempura – you’ll find this finger-lickin’-good. We then tucked into truffle mac and cheese at £6.50: al dente pasta – the truffle oil didn’t overpower the mild cheese. My dining chum vacuumed up the lot.
Before choosing the food we were informed all ingredients are straight off the farm wagon and all the burgers and hot dogs are made on the premises. We think they secretly have a little abattoir and greenhouse out the back – f-f-fresh.
Next up: chilli cheese hot dog, cheese sauce, lettuce, coriander, pickled chillies and red onions at £9. A sophisticated hot dog – quality meat, porky and beefy notes elevated by lemon and nutty undertones from the coriander. Chilli and pickle is like adding hollandaise to a poached egg and muffin – the ruler of dogs.
And: pulled pork ’n’ slaw, slow-cooked pulled pork, apple slaw, lettuce, pickles and Kansas City BBQ sauce at £10. My dining compadre wasn’t keen, which made me very happy indeed – not a crumb was left. An addictive beef patty oozing beefiness covered with succulent pork all merged with sweet apple and tomato – hints of garlic and chilli and a tease of paprika – makes a Big Mac seem like a shrivelled up chipolata – we’ve all been there.
Along with: sweet potato fries at £4 – overdone and dry. The house white, El Muro Macabeco 2014, had a similar bouquet to carpet stain remover.
Bung Top Dog to the top of your Soho easy stops to line stomachs before snogging hotties in the Shadow Lounge, for an easy-on-the-Gucci-purse-strings buzzy din-dins with chums or if you just need to fill ya chops with a decent, fresh, meaty flavoursome sausage.
Review By: Thabian Sutherland
Address: Top Dog
48 Frith Street
London, W1D 4SF
Telephone: 020 3019 2380
Star Rating: ★★★★ (explained)
Cost Rating: ££ (explained)
Tipping Policy: A discretionary 12.5% gratutity is added to all bills.