Food review: Time for the dog to have its day
NEAR the Arboretum, "nondescript" is a death sentence for a pub. There are too many excellent boozers on that pub-crawl golden mile that is Mansfield Road for anyone to get away with mediocrity.
Want proof? Take a quick glance around at the formerly mediocre pubs there that are now student flats.
That had always been my fear for Shakespeare Street boozer the Hole in the Wall. But recently I heard from several trusted friends that the HitW was trying something new – namely hot dogs.
I reckoned this could go one of two ways.
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One, it would be some cloyingly hipsterish London-pub exercise in faux-Americana. Or two, it could do for the hot dog what Annie's Burger Shack at the Navigation in Wilford Street has done for burgers – as in, do them right, with proper ingredients and a fun menu, but without gouging on price.
Having visited, I am pleased to report that the HitW is doing the latter.
They call the food side of things Dickies Dog House. The menu wasn't massive – and why would a hot dog menu need to be? – but it was cleverly done. It's divided into three steps. Step 1: choose your meat. Step 2: choose your toppings. Step 3: choose your side.
Step 1 offers seven different sausages, including a vegetarian one. Other choices include bratwurst, chorizo, a spicy option and for an extra quid, a venison-and-red-wine "posh dog".
Step 2 offers everything from a straightforward hot dog to chilli and cheese-slathered. There's sauerkraut, macaroni and cheese, a Mexican dog with guacamole and salsa, a barbecue sauce with onions dog, even a breakfast dog with bacon, scrambled eggs and beans.
I went with the garlic sausage and chilli topping, and made a mental note to apologise later to my wife. My Step 3 involved sweet potato fries.
I'd not been sat long when the barman came over.
"We're out of the chilli, but we've got a vegetarian chilli that he couldn't tell the difference between," he said, pointing towards a man at the bar who looked like he could probably kill his own cow and eat it raw. I said that would be fine, thanks.
What arrived shortly after was a hot dog slathered in a chunky substance I never would have sussed as meat-free had I not been informed.
Benefiting from ample chunks of not-meat, this chilli announced its presence but didn't dominate the conversation. Which was good, because the garlic sausage also earned its keep. It was a more British-style sausage than a strictly American hot dog, but that worked well – and the garlic, like the spice of the chilli, offered just enough kick without being overwhelming. It was served up in a bun that kept everything from spilling onto my hands without being so large that it makes you wonder if chef is trying it on by serving mostly bread. It was all capped off by thick, slightly crispy sweet potato fries.
The charmingly eclectic decor looks like a collaboration between a Metallica roadie and his nan.
Rock swag – a skull with ram's horns over the bar, black-and-red Jägermeister promotional posters – sit alongside little framed pictures of old Nottingham. The music being played was also of the hard rock variety, but at my lunchtime visit it was turned to a volume where it didn't overpower.
Worryingly, you fetch your cutlery and condiments from under the dart board. I hope they've thought that through for darts tournament evenings.
With a limited choice of proper ales on offer – two hand pumps were in use, both featuring products of big ale brewery Wychwood – it's good to see the pub getting creative with the food menu.
At the Hole in the Wall, that's just what they've done. Dickies Dog House does an old classic in a creative, tasty way.