The pairing of hot dogs and champagne may not be a classic combination, but for Sandia Chang and James Knappett, the idea is the perfect marriage of accessibility and luxury. The husband-and-wife team spent years working in the food and beverage industry—Sandia as a sommelier, James as a chef—in top restaurants, including Copenhagen’s Noma and New York’s Per Se, before launching Bubbledogs in London in 2012. The venue broke the traditional mould of what a champagne bar should be, with its informal ambiance, bare brick walls and approachable menu of inventive hot dogs designed to be eaten with a glass or two of grower champagne. As Bubbledogs prepares for its role as headline international restaurant at Taste of Hong Kong in the Year of the Dog, Sandia talks about food, fizz and puppy love.
Where did you and James meet, and what did you eat on your first date?
We met while working at Per Se in New York City. Our first date was actually at a bar, late night after work. But our official first date was at Casa Mono. I remember we had the most amazingly braised cockscombs. I paid the bill.
What's your top tip for pairing champagne with food?
Champagne is best paired with salty and oily food, which is why the pairing with caviar comes so naturally. However, other foods like French fries, charcuterie and grilled cheese are also amazing pairings with champagne. The natural higher acidity and freshness of champagne balances the richness of these foods perfectly.
Tell us something about champagne that isn't spoken about enough.
Simply put, great champagne is essentially great wine but with bubbles. Because of this, it should be appreciated just like wine and drunk from a white-wine glass, not a champagne flute.
What’s your favourite hot dog and champagne combination?
I’m quite classic. I like our New Yorker dog, which is just caramelised onions with sauerkraut, paired with my new favourite champagne from the producer Dhondt-Grellet.