The humble hot dog and I have had a long and rather glorious relationship over the years. From serving them at my beloved Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium to demolishing tins of them as a student to putting post-clubbing hunger before hygiene on the streets of Central London, these little beasts have always been wieners in my eyes.
But could such a frankfurter fascination give me the tools I need to conquer ubk’s one-metre monster dog challenge? (Devour the beast in 30 minutes and you get the whole thing free and your name in lights in the hall of fame.)
I certainly hoped so, especially given my previous eating exploits (remember that 1.2kg burger and sides?) that had led me to being crowned Time Out’s (un)official food challenge champion.
Dressed in the baggiest shirt and trouser combo I could dig out from my wardrobe, I hop into a taxi and head over to the Mövenpick in JLT where an almighty test of my gorging prowess awaits. With my editor, Holly Sands, coming along to offer some much-needed moral support, my spirits are high as I’m greeted by ubk boss Dmitriy Shevchenko and head chef Andrew Fletcher, whose colossal, 5,500-calorie chicken sausage creation I’ll soon be tackling.
I’ve done my homework (if trying to stare out an inanimate object on a Facebook photo counts as prep) and know this will be a game of four quarters, each with a unique flavour. The monster dog would be a challenge in itself, even if it came without the quartet of tasty toppings. And as soon as I catch a glimpse of sous chef Manoj Aneja and his team piling them on, the nerves start jangling.
I take my seat and feel my tummy rumbling as Fletcher goes through each of the lovingly prepared toppings. [Cue Tony Green and Jim Bowen from Bullseye] “Iiiiiiiin one… a large helping of mac ’n’ cheese. Iiiiiiiin two… sautéed mushrooms with caramelised onions and mustard. Iiiiiiiin three… nachos with guacamole, sour cream and salsa. And ubk’s special prize… pulled beef with beans and corn.
But unlike the contestants on that fabled TV show, I didn’t have Mr Green reassuring me with a “take your time, take your time”. I had just the 30 minutes to scoff the lot (far more time than it would take Bowen to count out a wad of cash, admittedly, but still). Absent-mindedly I throw my pre-match tactics out of the window and after cutting the hot dog into eight, more manageable, portions, tuck greedily into part one of the gorgeous mac ’n’ cheese.
Despite burning the roof of my mouth with the very first bite, it only takes me a few minutes to get through the first three eighths of the dog. Confidence is high, but soon ebbs away when I tuck into the pulled beef. Delightful as it is, this topping is more stodgy than the rest, and I can feel my belly start to fill, as if it were putting up a “no vacancies” sign.
At this point, I attract the unwanted attention of a garrulous regular who decides that baying at me to “man up” would be helpful. I stand up, glare at him and after a few choice words of my own, he backs down, claiming it was “only a pep talk”.
My blood is boiling, I’m ashamed to say, but with the verbal volleys over and the support from the rest of the room unwavering (thanks, Cybelle and Holly!) I return to the job at hand. With ten minutes to go, I’m still steadily working my way through the feast until there’s just a quarter of it left (I even manage to shovel in a few French fries for good measure).
All of a sudden, I can feel a wall come crashing towards me like a meaty meteorite, and sadly my bid for monster dog glory ends with less of a bark and more of a whimper. There are still five minutes on the clock when I throw in the towel (soiled serviette might be more apt, actually), and am forced to try and walk it off.
Hanging my head in shame, in spite of Shevchenko’s words of commiseration, I come to the realisation that my career as a competitive eater is over after just my second challenge. Clearly, it was a sausage too far for this amateur glutton.
Dhs169 (free if you finish the challenge). Daily noon-3am. ubk, Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Cluster A, JLT (04 438 0000).
Four to try
The big, the weird and the ugly
If you want a food challenge set up by a Michelin-starred chef, head to Firebird Diner by Michael Mina, and try the Burger Khalifa. This beast includes a double Creekstone beef patty, Boston lobster tail, foie gras, truffle aïoli and an All-American slider for good measure.
Dhs450. Four Seasons Hotel DIFC, Gate Village 10 (04 506 0100).
The chefs at Boulevard Kitchen are very much of the waste not, want not school of cooking. This fact is epitomised by the Lamb Board, which is a lamb-tongue salad with lamb sausages, liver, kidney, heart and “fries” (the latter not of the potato variety).
Dhs74. Manzil Downtown Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard (04 428 5888).
Mo’s Party Sundae
This super-sized sweet involves eight scoops of ice cream, brownie squares and four bananas all topped with caramel sauce, hot fudge, whipped cream, toasted almonds, chocolate sprinkles and eight cherries. Who said anything about sharing?
Dhs89. Mo’s, City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 344 3305).
For those feeling a fire in their belly, Wingsters offers The Initiation, which means stuffing your face with eight unbelievably spicy chicken wings in just four minutes. No milk, no serviettes, no pain threshold. Only the bravest need apply.
Dhs36. Marina Diamond 1, Dubai Marina (04 427 9900).