Is dining going to the dogs?

I’m at one of my local cafes, and the man in the queue before me is ordering his coffee and his lunch. And then this: “And a poached chicken sandwich,” he says. “But without the bread, ricotta, smoked scamorza, celery, pine nuts and tarragon. Just the poached chicken.”

The girl behind the counter looks at him. We all look at him. “It’s for my dog,” he says. “She loves chicken.”

food, is dining going to the dogs?

Cafes have long welcomed our doggy friends, with bowls of water and outdoor seating pretty much guaranteeing that every table will have a pooch underneath it.

In Sydney, the pioneering Cafe Bones at Hawthorne Canal Reserve in Leichhardt led the puppuccino charge (frothy milk, dog-biscuit sprinkle). More recent players, such as Dachshund Coffee of Hunters Hill, offer puppy gelato flavoured with honey, coconut, mango and carrot. Not to be outdone, the Puppy Tail Cafe in Lane Cove West offers a doggie latte and crisp, golden “woofles” of egg, lamb and carrot.

There’s more pun to be had in Melbourne, where Collingwood’s Doghouse cafe offers “barkery treats”, such as birthday cakes adorned with bones.

With everyone and their dog wanting to dine out, restaurants and hotels are now targeting pet owners. In Melbourne, you can double-date with your dog at Brighton Schoolhouse in Brighton, Dr Morse Bar & Eatery in Abbotsford, and Ciao Cucina in Port Melbourne.

Meanwhile, back in Sydney, Marrickville’s Bob Hawke Leisure Centre, Newtown’s Odd Culture and The Newport on the northern beaches all offer dog-friendly dining. Hotels are making sure they don’t come between owner and dog by offering V. I. Pooch packages (Ovolo) and doggy check-ins (Ace Hotel). At Pier One in Sydney’s Walsh Bay (reopening November 17), the dog-friendly rooms include a premium dog bed, water bowl and your doggy’s own in-room minibar and dining menu, charged on consumption. But why dine in, when you can both pop down to The Gantry for an al fresco “dogustation” dinner?

So far, nobody is talking about the downside. Like trying to sleep in a hotel room next door to a dog who’s barking and whining all night. Or dining in a restaurant at a table next to a slobbering Great Dane instead of a cute little Airedale. Or getting caught up in the daily snarling dog fight at the local cafe as the doting owners pull ineffectually at designer leads. Remember where you heard it first. Dining is going to the dogs.

To read more from Good Weekend magazine, visit our page at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times.

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