A Friday lunchtime, and four men’s quest for the holy grail – the perfect reuben sandwich – has brought them to a dog café in a former boxing gym nearly four miles out of Wales’ capital city centre. A distinctly unpromising destination, you might think – but those with their ear to the ground know that however unlikely it might seem, Scruffy Pups, like the Spit & Sawdust indoor skate park just off Newport Road in Cardiff, is earning itself quite a reputation.
With such a narrowly focused objective, our mission could have easily been derailed. Mercifully, though, any fears that they might not be serving or might be out of salt beef prove unfounded. And it’s no problem that we don’t have a canine companion with us – popping in without a pooch is perfectly acceptable. (If you do, though, take note that the special doggie dishes look like haute cuisine.)
In addition to grooming and washing services (one pampered pug emerges looking particularly pleased with itself), Scruffy Pups offers agility training, but this isn’t restricted to man’s best friend. The second challenge in our quest (after finding the place) is having to hurdle the wooden fence erected the full width of the café to prevent inquisitive pooches from getting too close to the counter and kitchen area. The third challenge is arguably the trickiest, though: consuming our reubens without ending up covered in the ingredients.
All of the key constituents are present and correct: sauerkraut, gherkins, a slice of Emmenthal and a liberal quantity of Russian dressing (plus some bonus mustard), sandwiched between toasted bread. But ultimately it’s all about the salt beef. Rocket & Rye’s version, sampled in the summer, was typical in featuring thin slices of meat – but Scruffy Pups’ offering is in a different league altogether: hunky slabs that have been brined in spices for days and then super-slow-cooked in a water bath.
Little wonder that wooden stakes are required to hold everything together. We retain them for as long as possible, but these four scruffy pups are very soon four mucky pups. Thankfully, co-owner Joanna pre-emptively identifies the need for additional napkins – no doubt through a wealth of experience.
A small side-portion of skin-on fries would make for a better accompaniment than the bowl of crisps, but there are no complaints whatsoever about the sandwich itself – quite the opposite – and we leave in no fit state for agility of any kind, in agreement that Scruffy Pups is well worth going out of your way for in Cardiff.
The Hut, Ball Lane, Llanrumney, Cardiff. 07494 595690 / Facebook
words and photos BEN WOOLHEAD
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