There’s a current obsession in London for restaurants with the word “bone” in the title. First we had fried chicken shack Wishbone in Brixton, then came ramen joint Bone Daddies in Soho, followed by rotisserie restaurant Bones in Dalston, and, most recently, Fishbone – a two month pop-up at Notting Hill seafood restaurant Kensington Place serving scallop dogs and prawnish pasties.
The latest venture to enter the bony hall of fame is the no bookings, venture capitalist-backed Dirty Bones on Kensington Church Street. Operating as a hot dog kiosk during the day with a blink and you’ll miss it skull and crossbones sign above the door, follow a flashing sign to the dive bar downstairs and you’re transported to a land of pinball machines, battered books and glued-down Nintendos in a retro mash-up taking inspiration from the last 50 years.
Wallpaper is bright and geometric, while flattering lighting comes in various shapes and guises, from low hung squirrel bulbs to space age shades.
Group creative development chef Ross Clarke worked alongside Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, and his time under the wing of the culinary alchemist shows in the odd flash of brilliance wafting from the kitchen and touches of theatre that surprise and delight – salads, for example, emerge from underneath silver cheese graters.
The Bourbon-based Mutt’s Nuts cocktail
With Bubbledogs in Fitzrovia having kicked off the hot dog trend in the capital two years ago, pairing flesh and buns with grower Champagne, Dirty Bones looks set to ride the wave of the capital’s current love affair with Americana.
The menu is pleasingly pared down, with a choice of six dogs, including the Brit Dog stuffed with maple bacon and mature beer cheddar, and the Burger Dog – a sausage-shaped burger in a finger bun.
All six dogs can be made with British beef, pork or as a veggie option served in pillowy brioche buns. Visiting midweek, the place was buzzing with animated banter and live music. With its wild décor and kooky clientele, it seems Dirty Bones has successfully transplanted a slice of hipster Hoxton to the more safe and sensible W8.
My ravenous dining buddy and I kick off the night in style with a pair of Mutt’s Nuts cocktails blending Woodford Reserve Bourbon, cinnamon and vanilla-infused maple syrup, Angostura bitters, and lemon and apple juice. Smooth, sweet and dangerously drinkable, the result was a mellow take on an Old Fashioned.
Half a pile of fried chicken
To nibble on while we waited for our dogs, we ordered the smoked pickles, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the night.
With Clarke showing off his Heston-like flair, the pickles came crammed in a Kilner jar that billowed with smoke when the lid was lifted, giving off an alluring whiff of roasted chestnuts that rewound the clock to Christmas.
Dressed in smoking jackets, the pickles had plenty of crunch and a pleasing tang, while half a pile of boneless fried chicken arrived in a crunchy coat of armour, its Cajun spiced batter light and delicate, protecting the moist meat beneath, which, when doused with the accompanying baked lemon, made for moreish munching.
But what of the main event? Packed with sauerkraut, French’s mustard and ketchup, the classic Yankee Dog did what it said on the tin. Neither wowing nor disappointing, much more intriguing was the Asian Dog, stuffed with kimchee, crispy seaweed, wasabi mayo and sesame seeds.
The Asian Dog
A triumph of well balanced textures and flavours, the crunch of the seaweed married well with the subtle kick of heat offered by the wasabi mayo.
Our little bits on the side meanwhile, included triple cooked fries served diner style in a paper bag, and boozy Bourbon beans that packed a punch.
Clarke’s theatrical side came out to play again at dessert in “Milk and Cookies”, which, at first glance, looks exactly as it sounds. Take a closer look and the glass of milk in fact houses a generous serving of vanilla ice cream with a straw shoved in the middle for good measure.
There are no tricks with the chewy chocolate cookie, served warm from within the folds of the napkin. It perfectly complimented the ice cream, which, with its Mini Milk character, tasted of childhood.
Part of Dirty Bones’ charm lies in the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Service is friendly and attentive, the food is fast, fun, and for the most part fiendishly tasty, and cocktails are of a high calibre for a West London restaurant.
For Sloane Rangers seeking a slice of East London cool without the willpower to trek across town, Dirty Bones ticks all the boxes for a fun night out. Come hungry and leave your airs and graces at the door.
Dirty Bones, 20 Kensington Church Street, London W8 4EP; Tel: +44 (0)20 7920 6434