It must have been just after the first Cape Town hipster had tragically died from beard-oil poisoning while drinking an almond latté when I first heard of the Dog’s Bollocks. I initially assumed this to be the name of one of these ridiculous shooter drinks or a vogueish new tattoo pattern. Instead, the Dogs Bollocks turns out to be a place in the Gardens flipping burgers which the in-crowd deemed to be the best thing to hit town since Dis-Chem started selling a ladies’ underarm grooming kit.
The eternal quest for culinary adventure led me there, twice, and I have yet to be balled over. At the first visit I got a burger that was smothered in a pile of soggy onions big enough to make the Statue of Liberty cry ketchup, rendering the meat and Mexican sauce tasteless. So, in the name of methodical research and journalistic diligence I made my way there last week for a three course meal so as to get a more comprehensive impression.
That first impression is one of intense noise. There is a lot of hollering going around this cavernous shed in a side-street aromatised with the intoxicating fumes of petrol, 3-stroke oil and that bitter burnt coffee-bean aroma that has become a Cape Town Central fixture. The waitresses, all tight-jeaned, confident and assertive in a decidedly non-virginal way, shout at the kitchen. The kitchen shouts at the waitresses, who then shout at the barmen, who shout at each other before shouting at the waitresses. It all sounds like a combination between a bull-fight, a mud-wrestling match or Saturday night domestic violence in the Northern Suburbs.
Oh, and you – the patron – are also shouted at.
As you enter you are asked to chalk your name onto a blackboard. Thus, when your food is ready, the waitress hollers your name, sending the fear of God running down your spine and encouraging you to get off your butt and collect what you have ordered from the kitchen. For the consequences of not doing so must surely be too ghastly to contemplate.
I started off by wishing to be screamed at for portraying a hunger for chicken wings, so ordered these. They come with a choice of barbecue baste or Asian-style, and I went for the latter hoping that my wish for some exotic flair would exude my personable debonair attitude, making the waitresses go easy on me. Not so. I was barely halfway through my tap-poured craft-beer when my name was screamed with enough gusto and height of pitch to make me recant for sins I had yet to commit.
Talking of sins, the kitchen at Dog’s Bollocks was also having its fair share of these judging by its execution of the reasonably simple task of preparing chicken wings. The wings were listless in the basket, obviously having been cooked before Bruce Jenner’s transgender operation and looking like one or two of the pieces of Bruce’s anatomy that had to be removed before she could acquire her current ladylike status.
Having been cooked prior to my visitation and just been heated up in some simmering oil, the wings were dry and stringy to the bite, followed by the flavour of old cooking oil, rancid chicken fat and bone that had been buried by a mangy Rottweiler with poor oral hygiene.
Another beer washed away the flavour, and by now I was anticipating my main-course. No burger, pizza, taco or dish of wet fries for me: I was going for my all-time favourite hot sandwich after the Portuguese Francesinha, and that is a Philadelphia Cheese Steak.
Now look, I know a Philly Cheese Steak as well as I know the two hairs growing on the left side of my navel. I used to grill Phillies at tail-gate parties in Philadelphia after Eagles games. I handed Rocky his first Cheese Steak after he ran up those steps. It is a real thing of beauty: Fresh white bread bun, buttered. A thin beef steak grilled medium-rare. Slice or two of cheddar, melted. Sweetly sautéed onions and, if one wishes, some green and red peppers.
It is also, incidentally, as easy to prepare as it sounds.
The Dogs Bollocks crew, however, obviously know as much about Philly Cheese Steaks as they know about controlling the volume-setting of their own vocal cords. And when my name was screamed I dutifully reported to the cooking station to collect my dish, which by no stretch of the imagination resembled what I had ordered.
What looked like a broad hot-dog bun had been sliced in half. Inside was some gangrenous yellow-stuff covering what looked like the sandwich-filling version of the Heart of Darkness. For garnish, a smear of some purple, lumpy stuff resembling playground scabs and brain-surgery residue.
Seeing as a sandwich is about bread, I’ll blame the roll or bun or whatever they wish to call it.
A pale brown, lifeless crust held some insipidly baked dough that was as mean on texture as it was on taste. A R2,50 morning-baked Portuguese roll from the grocer would have been far better than whatever this was. The gooey yellow stuff – cheese, apparently – was tasteless or odourless proving that is was, surprisingly, neither rotten nor poisonous. Once bitten through, the biting tool hit what was apparently the steak part of the Philly Cheese Steak.
Like aforementioned chicken wings, the strip of beef (hopefully) had been cooked in a previous time zone and reheated before entering the realm of the worst sandwich in the world, ever. The outside of the meat was burnt to a dark char tasting like a Cadac gas barbecue which had just cooked for a Romanian bachelor party. Having negotiated the exterior without the use of a chainsaw or Colt. 44, I was met by a dehydrated layer of flesh which showed an uncanny resemblance to the facial hue Prince Philip sported at his grandson’s recent wedding.
To the bite it tasted like an eraser that had been left among the half-eaten contents of a school-lunchbox which had been forgotten about for two terms.
Oh, and that purple stuff? That was onion jam, sickly sweet and syrupy, valiantly attempting to cover-up the disaster of the other three ingredients. The full diagnosable nightmare was rounded off with those horrible pre-frozen fries, which might just have taken the taste of the rest of the dish away had they been decently thawed.
As for the third course…. Ask yourself: would you?