I had recently arrived from America and was tasked with interviewing some UK customers by my employer. One such customer accused the company of being arrogant. Leaning forward, he angrily stuck a finger in my face and asked, “why do you guys think that you are the dog’s bollocks”? I had no idea. In fact I had no idea what “dog’s bollocks” meant. I remember carefully writing down the words “dog’s bollocks” in my notebook and promising the customer that I will get back to him on the bollocks issue…
Dog’s bollocks means dog’s testicles, but in British slang usage it means very good, or the top of the pile. Really. Think bee’s knees or cat’s pyjamas. On the other hand when the word bollocks is used by itself, it means rubbish. Or nuts.
Dog’s can famously lick their own testicles. Through the ages men have been fascinated and/or jealous of this canine capability. I never did get around to getting Nigel Wood’s personal perspective on testicles as we chatted inside his restaurant, The Dog’s Bollocks in Cape Town, South Africa. This is currently the hottest ticket in Cape Town, a burger restaurant in a garage/drive way. The October 2012 UK edition of Esquire magazine lists it as one of the top ten attractions in Cape Town. They take no reservations and open from “5 to 50″. Nigel starts serving at 5PM and stops when he’s served 50 burgers. After that he pushes the tables back to make room in the garage for his one-eyed 1970′s Lotus Eclat. (The Eclat has a vacuum seal that keeps the pop-up headlamps shut. If the car is left parked for a while, the vacuum leaks and one headlight pops open. Cute.)
The entrance to the restaurant is literally the garage door. The tin roof has a few translucent plastic panels to let in light. The long narrow space is broken up by a grill where the famous burgers are cooked. Tucked away to a side is a branch of Deluxe Coffee Works, the artisanal coffee roasters in Cape Town. A tiny motorbike repair shop also shares the space. Customers of the coffee shop regularly ride their scooters and motorbikes into the store. Its all uber trendy and slightly nuts.
The garage roof leaks when it rains. It was raining hard when I visited with Capetonian friends including the Cupcake (she’s sweet and she bakes well) and the Princess Monkey (she’s titled and she’s nuts). The sloping garage floor was soon awash with rain water. Nigel kindly showed us to a “good table” where we’d get less wet. A waitress hurriedly unplugged a floor lamp. Eventually someone donned galoshes and splashed across to fire up the grill. The restaurant is BYOB except for wine. Nigel bottles his own red and white in tubes and sells them under the U-Tube label (by Ukuva iAfrica). It’s big in Poland, apparently. At Dog’s Bollocks the wine is served in conventional bottles at R55 (GB£4 or US$6 ). I ordered a bottle of red. Nigel gave me a bottle and said “here’s the wine, there are some glasses, here’s a corkscrew.” The service is delightfully quirky, as is everything else about the place. The restaurant serves different menus through the day – and is called different names at different times. At breakfast the restaurant is called Mucky Mary’s Hubcap. At lunch time it’s called The Bitch’s Tits. Hubcaps, tits and testicles – only in Africa!
The burgers are amazing. They are served on enormous, light as air rolls with what must be half a head of lettuce, onions, tomato and pickle. The secret is in the home made sauces. Mexican chocolate mole, pepperberry and blue cheese, and prego (a spicy Portuguese sauce) are standouts. The table went quiet as we greedily tucked in. I had the prego sauce and felt the spice gradually build up on my taste buds as beads of sweat broke out on my forehead. The burgers are so large that once you man-handle them into your mouth you don’t want the hassle of putting them back down and figuring out how to pick them up again. We inhaled our food.
Dog’s Bollocks is a symbol of how South Africa would like to see itself; multicultural, irreverent and re-inventing itself as it goes along. Yet roofs and more leak all over the country. I can’t tell whether we are seeing the birthing pains of a great African state or witnessing the last days of empire. Either way it’s a fascinating place to visit. Go! It’s the dog’s bollocks.
Further Reading and Drinking
The hot cocktail bar of the moment in Cape Town is The Orphanage. An unfortunate choice of name perhaps but it is on Orphan Street and a share of profits do go to the orphanage up the road. My favourite place for a post prandial drink however, is the bar at the Mount Nelson hotel where old world colonial glamour meets some of the most hospitable bar staff I’ve met. The Old Fashioned’s and the Hendrick’s Cucumber Martinis they make are particularly good.