Content Block


The east London pop-up restaurant for dogs

A trip to Bethnal Green's Curious Canine Kitchen

I have to be honest: when I first read about it, I thought the pop-up fine-dining restaurant for dogs was an April Fool. For a start, the news was announced in early April. Secondly, it appeared, beneath a cartoon of Snoopy, in my local area guide The Dalstonist, in which the fine line between modern urban life and self-parody is so thin that you fear one day it might satirise itself to death. Then again, it was in East London, where nothing is too satirical to be true. Cat cafe? Been there, stroked that. Cereal cafe? Snapped it, crackled it, popped it. Owl cafe? Too wit, too true – only last weekend, in fact. Micro-pig cafe? Coming soon...

So it was with a certain degree of confidence that I turned up with my Cavalier King Charles spaniel Rocky, and my daughter Lily, to see if the Curious Canine Kitchen was real. “What if the dogs are all much bigger than Rocky and he gets frightened?” asked Lily anxiously. I reassured her that hipsters don't have big dogs; with the rent on a tiny flat in Hackney equivalent to the annual wage in a small African republic, there would be no room for anything much bigger than a chihuahua that they can pop into the basket of their fixed-gear bicycles.

Sure enough, the omens were good when we arrived at the pop-up venue in an art gallery in a Bethnal Green backstreet. Several small dogs idled outside with their hipsterish owners, all of whom had paid £20 per dog (accompanied by one owner) to give their pooch a five-course tasting menu. There was a sausage dog, a small terrier of some sort, something furry and cute and mongrelish, all blending seamlessly with the beards and tattoos. Even the one huge dog, a placid-looking fellow whose owner had the biggest beard and inkiest tattoos, had a gingery beard.

Nutrition and health for hounds

Inside, we were welcomed by Natty Mason, the self-styled “spiritual dog trainer and nutritionist” whose idea this was. Barbara Woodhouse she isn't. Natty was wearing an extravagant designer tapestry dress decorated with an embroidered dog (a Cavalier), a silk scarf decorated with pictures of a different dog (a Dachsund) and several kilos of chunky jewellery around her plunging cleavage as she tottered around on five-inch Vivienne Westwood heels, welcoming everyone like long-lost friends in a voice loud enough to summon an errant pet from the other side of London. Inside, the gallery was decorated with paintings of dogs, a balloon sculpture of a dog, a sugar sculpture of a dog (another Cavalier) and a series of low-set tables for the customers – namely the dogs – and a handful of stools for the adults. You got the feeling Natty quite likes dogs.

“I've been studying nutrution,” she announced by way of an introduction, “but I haven't, like, got the diploma yet.” This, it transpired, was because, rather than attending a course, she's been travelling the world, investigating dog behaviour and dog nutrition. It might not be the academic route but it seems an eminently more informative method than going to canine college, if such a thing exists. Even if it does result in her coming out with occasional sentences – sample: “I was working at a spiritual dog retreat last summer and the animals were all in the meditation ring when this Labrador turned up unannounced...” – that made you check it wasn't 1 April after all. But no one could doubt her enthusiasm for dogs, or their nutrition. Natty created the whole menu, inspired by the principles and passions of Juliette de Bairacli Levy, apparently the “grandmother of holistic dog care and holistic medicine.” Levy, Natty told us, was a herbalist and pioneer of holistic veterinary medicine who picked up her knowledge from gypsies she had met around the world. I have to confess, I had not heard of her.

What's on the menu?

Natty's “Nature Way” [sic] menu for us read like something from a Michelin-starred restaurant, if such places had separate menus for dogs. Rocky was initially unimpressed by a bowl of Coconut Water, served by our waitress, who was appropriately dressed in a skintight all-in-one outfit decorated with bones – not so much a cat suit as a dog suit. He perked up at the arrival of the first canape, a bowl of “Popcorn with Seaweed and Dried Fish Skin”. There followed a “Superfood Bedouin Cake” (me neither) which he nibbled happily, and he was positively enamoured by the “Crispy Paddywack with Reishi Mushroom and Flaxseed Cream”; so much so that as he chewed on the former (apparently a muscle from a cow's neck, fried in coconut oil), his long floppy ears mopped up the latter. He was even more enthusiastic about a starter of “Cod & Plaice Fishcake” (sustainably sourced, obviously, and bought from the very trendy Fin & Flounder fishmonger in Broadway Market, officially Britain's Trendiest Street, according to several newspapers), made “with Sweet Potato and served with Peas, Flaxseed and Chia Seeds”, which seem to be a new superfood, judging by their astronomical price when I looked them up later. Then came a meat dish: “Textures of Tripe, on a bed of Seaweed & Kale”, which Rocky wolfed down with alacrity. Even the kale.

At the neighbouring table, to the consternation of his owner, Bully the dachsund cross remained unimpressed with any of the dishes until the arrival of a Beef Consomme, which swiftly had every dog in the room lapping away like a herd of thirsty nomads after days lost in a desert. And we had not even reached the main course. Natty kept us entertained with anecdotes about her travels, which seemed to have taken her all over the world. Especially Peru, where she encountered some street dogs with sad stories to tell, inspiring her to put on this very event – from which all proceeds went to Amazon CARES, a charity for rehabilitating those very same street dogs. Meanwhile, Emily, who may or may not have helped with the cooking of the dog's dinners, brought the adults a succession of “raw-some” amuse-bouches from her own pop-up “supper club”, Vegan Vortex, including a “Mini Raw Pizza with Hempseed Pesto and Dehydrated Mushroom, on Sprouted Buckwheat and Flaxseed base”, and “Sauerkraut with Sesame and Ginger Dressing on Spirulina Seaweed Raw Cracker”, washed down with a glass of Gazpacho. Suddenly I had lost my appetite.

But back to the dogs, for it was their day, and the main courses were about to arrive. First up: “Steamed Chicken with Kale & Dandelion Quinoa, accompanied by Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke, Turnips and Parsnips.” Frankly, you only have to say the word “chicken” to get Rocky licking his lips and, to my amazement, he was undeterred by the presence of quinoa, which must be what happens when you bring up a dog in East London. “Oh my God,” gasped Lily as he scoffed the final crumbs from the plate, “He's got quinoa stuck in his ears – how embarrassingly middle-class is that?” She had a point, I felt. The meal was rounded off with "Chia Pudding with Coconut, Honey, Blueberry and Almond Milk", which looked like mauve rice pudding. Rocky sniffed it. He licked it. He politely declined to eat it. I don't think he's really a dessert dog – at least in the sense that he's never had one before. All that was left to do was to say our goodbyes, but not before being given one last treat to take home: a Piquant Marrow Bone to cleanse the teeth and a Fresh Breath Tea Tonic. It was presented to us in – of course – a doggy bag.



Tim Cooper has written for most national newspapers and many magazines on every subject from politics to pop culture. His first published work was in his own punk fanzine, Cliché, and his last (before this) was online at He lives in north London with his wife, two children and a dog, indulging his passions of writing, reading, cinema, music, football, cricket and vegetable gardening.

Related Posts