Husband-and-wife James Knappett and Sandia Chang both worked – as chef and sommelier respectively – at top restaurants including Noma and Per Se before setting up their informal champagne-and-hotdogs bar, Bubbledogs, in August 2012 in Fitzrovia, London. Kitchen Table, a fine-dining space at the back of the bar, opened last month.
Where did the idea of pairing hotdogs with champagne come from?
We’re passionate about supporting the growers in Champagne, and we wanted a very humble champagne. We also didn’t want to serve caviar and all that sort of thing. We wanted something accessible and fun, so we came up with hotdogs.
Do they really go together?
In many countries, sparkling wines are traditionally paired with charcuterie and other cured meats. The acidity and the bubbles make a good balance with salty, oily food. Think caviar.
How do you research the champagnes, Sandia, that you serve at Bubbledogs?
Many of them are ones I worked with at Per Se in New York and Noma in Copenhagen. I also found new producers by asking colleagues, at tastings with suppliers, or just dining out around the world. Scandinavia is actually a great place for discovering new small-producer wines.
Kitchen Table is very different to Bubbledogs: what were your aims with each space?
With Bubbledogs we just wanted to create a fun and comfortable place that offered great-quality wine with great-quality, simple food – it’s the wine bar I’ve always wanted. Kitchen Table is what James has always wanted; an arena for him to showcase the skills he has accumulated, in a tasting-menu format. Our background is in fine dining – we needed a restaurant like Kitchen Table in our lives.
Which city has had the greatest influence on you, James, in culinary terms, and why?
New York. Working at Per Se taught me how serious and professional this career could be, and I was surrounded by an immense number of diverse restaurants.
What do you think of English fizz, Sandia?
I think English wine has improved tremendously over the past five years. I recently took a bottle of English sparkling wine to New York for my friends and they were amazed by the quality.
Have you established any “rules” about working together as a couple?
We’re still working on it!
Do you have plans to open a Bubbledogs outside London?
No. Expanding would mean that we would have to increase the amount of champagne we need, which wouldn’t allow our producers to remain small and artisanal. Sometimes it’s not just about making more money but about remaining true to what you believe in.
Name a restaurant that you’d be happy to queue for.
Koya [in Frith Street, W1].