So we all know that NappyValley.net is a parenting site and that families are our first love, so having a short series of reviews on venues for a boys’ night out might seem counterintuitive. It is those very families though that have cut down on our time for socializing, meaning we no longer have the patience to suffer through another mediocre night out when who knows when we’ll get another opportunity. Family commitments have added scarcity value to our times of male bonding, and we now want each second of it to be pure gold, or as close to it as South West London can offer. And so hence this new irregular column specially written for the men of NappyValley.net.
OK so I’m a bit of a fraud, I don’t as of yet have a family, my only real commitment is as part time dog owner (long story.) Most of my male friends are though now happily part of a familial unit, and this does pose unexpected problems for me. These same friends were the beer monsters, party animals, ravers that I went to school, college or used to work with. At home they are now role models seemingly sober upstanding citizens, suppressing their inner beast.
This all changes though when they meet up for a night with that rare thing, a childless friend. Their eyes widen, the nostrils flare and the feet move as if off their own accord, transporting the rest of them to the bar. Up and down the country on any night of the week you can find fathers of young children embracing this temporary freedom to get blotto before they pick up their responsibilities again in the morning.
Part of any successful lads night out is the crew and I’d assembled a crack(ed) squad. There was me, new part time dog owner, my friend Captain Moonlight, new father and owner/manager of one of London’s best dating services (the two are unconnected.) And finally the Town Councillor, an old friend who has become rather a political legend in his local patch, but we won’t say why.
Captain Moonlight is the only one of us with child as it were and so this enabled us to go out on Friday, whereas usually for these sort of occasions the weekends are verboten. Our destination was to be Red Dog South which ironically is located in Clapham North. I guess that they mean that its south of the other branches of the Red Dog Saloon.
Anyway on a boys night, you don’t want to head straight for the food as you need to get the conversation going first, and lubrication is needed for tongue loosening. We decided to start in the Falcon pub next door, home of one of the larger and nicer beer gardens in the neighbourhood.
It was a lovely late summer’s evening, warm without being hot and not a cloud in the sky. With the youngest of us being in his mid-30’s and the rest having somewhat hazy memories of our 40ths we may have stood out a bit in a setting that seemed to designed as a venus flytrap for millennials. The company was good, and the cider cold. The conversation which revolved around fairly neutral laddish topics, fav films, sport and strangely the most attractive women in the ‘carry on’ series was weirdly engrossing. This meant that there was no time to spare when leaving, which was OK as it turned out as the restaurant was right next door.
So have you ever been to the original Red Dog Saloon in Hoxton, you know the one that serves the world’s biggest burger and chicken wings hotter and spicier than H-bombs, you have? Well this is just like it. OK, for those of you haven’t been, the décor is fairly minimalist in a way that with little to work with seems to scream that this place serves BBQ, being a mixture of bare metals, unpainted wood and red walls. Red Dog South has a largish dining room and a slightly oversized patio at the front which serves as an additional drinking/dining area.
It being such a nice evening we eschewed the table inside that they’d offered us and took one outside on the patio instead. For those of you who haven’t been, the menu is separated into roughly 4 parts, starters, BBQ platters, burgers and other mains (pretty much all southern fried chicken.) There’s a fairly extensive list of side orders and also salads for those who are looking to be slightly more health conscious.
OK so this is meant to be a lads night, so there should be unlimited beer right? Well wrong, myself and Captain Moonlight decided to share a bottle of sauvignon, whilst the Town Councillor probably weighing the political considerations went for a glass of red wine. Advancing in years it was felt that too much beer would hamper our abilities to fit all the food in. Both were good, but probably at the high end of what you’d normally pay for something of that quality.
To start, we decided to share a wing sampler. This is where you can choose up to 3 different styles of chicken wing out of a portion of 12. This meant 4 of each type, which when spilt between the 3 of us, meant one of each and an extra portion of the one you liked best. We choose original Buffalo, maple and bacon and teriyaki style.
The Buffalo wings I have to say were good, really good, but so hot I felt like my mouth had suffered a terrorist incident. The other wings were also tasty some of the best I’ve had locally, where I’ve been more often disappointed than not, both my companions agreed.
OK, time for a confession, this was not my first time at a Red Dog, I’ve been to the original saloon in Hoxton square a number of times. The first was about 3 years ago when I found myself as part of a corporate evening entertaining some important clients. To be honest I’d never heard of it before, and didn’t know to expect. When I saw that they had a hot wings challenge where you earnt a trophy for eating a mere dozen chicken wings I could already see it in pride of place on my mantelpiece.
So I was an idiot, I’d never heard of Naga Viper chilies, but reasoned that they couldn’t be much hotter than some of the stupidly spicy curries I’ve ordered. The first hint of danger was when those of us who’d decided to take the challenge were asked to sign a disclaimer in case we suffered any ill effects. Well I thought that was nothing more than a publicity stunt. When they made us wear plastic gloves similar to those doctors wear to eat with I became more genuinely concerned. What sort of food is it that can’t touch naked skin, but is fine to go in your mouth?
Well I soon found out, being a real man I decided there was no way I needed gloves & decided that I’d get an advantage by testing a finger of sauce before the official go ahead. The moment I touched it I felt burning like nothing I’d felt since I accidentally stuck my elbow into the flame of Bunsen burner in chemistry. This should have been a warning, but no I went ahead and stuck the finger in my mouth. Said my mouth suddenly became the centre of my personal universe, with my thoughts being not so much on how I could complete the challenge, but how I could find an edible fire extinguisher.
You won’t be surprised, but my mantelpiece remains trophy free, I only completed one and a half wings out of 12, at the end of which my eye brows resembled nothing so much as mini Niagara’s with the volume of water running off my forehead. I can’t have been the only one suffering as I first went to the bar for some milk and then finally over the road to the pub for a pint of cider and my seat was empty for 20 minutes and no one noticed. Yeah real men do the hot wings challenge, real stupid men.
Anyway, back to the near present, for the main course both The Town Councillor and Captain Moonlight went for burgers. It was left to me to experience the specialty of the house a BBQ platter. The Town Councillor went for something called a gooey Louie. This was a beef burger served with mozzarella sticks in the bun. Captain Moonlight going against everything I thought he stood for went for a southern belle chicken burger, whilst I ordered the BBQ short rib with pulled pork platter.
My platter came with 2 sides and not wanting to over order we just went for one more, so ended up with chips, onion rings and a wedge salad. A wedge salad is basically a wedge of lettuce, smothered in dressing with bacon bits on it, possibly the least salady and healthy salad you can order. Incidentally it was lovely.
The gooey Louie and southern belle burgers were judged to be excellent, in fact perhaps more so, though that could have been the wine kicking in. Me I was left disappointed. My short rib though well flavoured was exceptionally tough to cut and stringy to eat. The pulled pork was bland and rather cool, though that could have been caused to be honest by eating outside. I would say that my main course came in on the disappointing side of OK.
Service was efficient and friendly and the bill when it came at £97.14 was I thought just slightly on the high side of reasonable for what we’d had. So for me there was nothing wrong with Red Dog South, in fact it was pleasant. The problem was it wasn’t more than that. Now there are only 2 other branches, but for me it still felt as corporate as Starbucks with little character of its own. Not so good for a lads night then where you want something with a bit of character, in fact perhaps a bit like having a hen night in All Bar One.
With us laughing at what a ridiculous idea that was we jumped in a taxi to the All Bar One on Northcote road and had a rather better time than expected, so who can tell. Till the next time.