‘Remember that video of Kyle Walker’s girlfriend getting a lick out off a dog earlier this year?’ Anton asks me, after a thoughtful chuckle at our destination’s title.
‘That wasn’t real,’ I explain. ‘That was just some Arsenal fans having banter.’
‘No, but I saw the video,’ he replies. ‘It was really sick.’ He shakes his head.
‘I know. I mean, the video is real, it just wasn’t Kyle Walker’s girlfriend. You saw it on some Arsenal fan-site.’ Anton pauses.
‘No, I’m fairly sure I didn’t. I’m fairly sure Kyle Walker admitted it.’
‘He definitely didn’t.’
‘I’m fairly sure he did.’
Before beginning, the simple fact of the matter is that Porndog does not go far enough. What initially appeared, through its online presence and general buzz preceding its opening, to be the most contrived Dublin restaurant yet, the ur-yuppie haunt, the Gabbo to Joe Macken’s Krusty, instead turns out to merely occupy an unremarkable spot on an already existing continuum of affectation: about a 7.5 on a scale from 0 (mini breakfast at Gerry’s, incidentally situated almost precisely opposite Porndog on Montague Street) to 10 (eating slow-cooked meat off a literal dustbin lid in Smokin’ Bones on Dame Street, or any of the countless equivalent humiliations now commonplace amongst the city’s dining options). Well, come at the king, you best not miss.
Miss it unfortunately has. Porndog, with its wacky name and red neon-on-black aesthetic, situates itself precisely in the corner of the market predominated by Crackbird, Skinflint, etc., but fails to match these in terms of smartness of decor or ingenuity of the menu. If you’re charging €13 for a ‘gourmet hot dog’, the problem is, at the end of the day, it’s still a hot dog. The ‘Chow Chow’, containing a beef teriyaki sausage, tastes and feels so similar to the ubiquitous pork frankfurter as to be virtually unrecognisable, particularly underneath its excesses of dressing. Less significant than this, but certainly related, is the troubling decision to slather sauce across the bun of each hot dog — a foodstuff designed to be eaten by hand — with the net result of making their consumption an unavoidably messy experience. At this point one reflects that ‘gourmet’, stupid term though it is, ought to refer ultimately not to the food, but to the individual eating it. It’s probably just that little bit too expensive, for what it is, for it to work as bar food — and this is nominally a bar — while house beer, sold in growlers, works out at €10 per litre, a round figure of no exceptional value.
Then there is the troubling decision to decorate the seating area upstairs in the manner of a dog pound. Customers sit behind partitions that imitate the wire cages in which stray dogs are kept before, of course, they are killed. It is not a pleasant position to be placed in, even if only metaphorically. And if we are the dogs, in this scenario, then why too do we eat ‘dogs’? In this hellish scenario, who then are the servers, attending to our every wish? One’s mind races. Why the ‘porn-‘ prefix in the bar’s title? Who is watching all of this?
‘That was great,’ Anton smiles at me as we settle our bill and leave. ‘Really reminds me of my dog-catching days with the Corpo. Very authentic.’
‘Oh yeah? I didn’t know that’s what it looked like,’ I reply.
‘Yeah, pretty much like that. None of the suits though, they wouldn’t last five minutes in that line of work.’
‘Yeah, probably,’ I smile.
‘I have to say though I kind of enjoyed it,’ he says, thoughtfully. ‘Being on the other side of a cage for once.’
16 Montague Street, Dublin 2
Words: Oisín Murphy-Hall
Photos: Patrick Dyar