The Fat Hippo, Durham

FRIDAY evening, Durham City and it’s the birthday of a ten-year-old. There’s plenty of options out there, while trying to avoid the noise and attitude of the time of the week. But where do you go when the individuals turning ten is a dog?

A celebrating Pomeranian had to go out for his birthday tea according to a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old.

Choices are pretty scarce out there, although the dog friendly signs are going up at more and more places.

The previous weekend we had been in Edinburgh – without dog – but in the pleasant suburb of Stockbridge on Sunday afternoon if you didn’t have a dog in tow in either a pub or restaurant then something was missing. Dogs are de rigour north of the Border it seems.

The Northern Echo: Hillbilly LagerHillbilly Lager

Some people frown upon seeing four legged friends in pubs and restaurants. Suppose it depends on how badly behaved the dog, or owner, is.

The Fat Hippo welcomes dogs, of all breeds and sizes, although squeezing a larger variety into the dog friendly front of house may be a problem.

This specimen is small enough to sit on the floor, perch on your knee and not weigh you down.

There’s three Fat Hippos, Jesmond, Newcastle and Durham and all welcome a man’s best friend, although it must be pointed out there’s no dog menu or specials for them.

The Fat Hippo is about burgers, burgers and more burgers. The jucier, the bigger, the messier the better.

The Northern Echo: Peanut butter and jelly burgerPeanut butter and jelly burger

The menu is akin to an American diner, with a refined English appearance. There’s nine beef burgers to opt for, four chicken variants and four veggie options.

Carnivores to the fore, it was four of the plumpest for us.

And, for the Christmas period, there’s the added option of The Gavlaar (£12.90). A beef patty, pork stuffing patty, American cheese, ‘Nigellas’ maple-basted turkey, cranberry jello and Christmas slaw. Who needs turkey and all the trimmings when you have have a Christmas dinner in a bun?

Mid-November, however, is too early for such gastronomic joy.

Stinky Pete might be a Toy Story character, but there’s also a burger in his name (£11.90): double patty, topped with blue cheese, onion jam and jalapenos. The double patty was decent enough, blue cheese anonymous as it was overpowered by the jam. Too much jam, not enough jalapenos. Not stinky enough, more sweet than stinky.

The Northern Echo: Dirty FriesDirty Fries

You can upgrade the standard portion of handcut chips (£1.50), so the dirty fries came with melted cheese and a layer of meat on top. They were quite clean, without being really dirty.

The PB and Double J – PB is not their personal best, but peanut butter. Yes, a double burger with peanut butter, as well as cheese, bacon jam and smoked chilli jello (£11.90). Peanut butter rules in the world of Thomas, the burger coming after taking on a banana and peanut butter shake (£4.70).

It didn’t last long, no scraps for the dog to pinch and the peanut butter was spot on. A strange mix perhaps, but one that works well.

Fat Hippo Burger (£12.50) is topped with streaky bacon, chorizo, cheese and a Fat Hippo sauce. The two giant, crisp and light onion rings added to the size and taste. Upgrading to sweet potato fries (£1.50) was a bonus.

Wild Bill (£12.90) is topped with smoked bacon, cheese, Cajun waffle fries, bbq sauce and jalapenos. All the burger options are, in their own way, remarkably messy and it’s all about eating with your hands (or paws) and using the endless supplies of kitchen roll on the table as you pile the ketchup and all on your tray.

Hippo Hour appears good value, with two courses for £12.50, three for £15 at certain times.

With a range of pale ale and craft beers, the Fat Hippo also has its own Hillbilly Lager brewed with the Allendale Brewery, as well as alcoholic shakes and slushes.

The Northern Echo: Stinky Pete BurgerStinky Pete Burger

It appeals across the board, plenty of students were present, plenty of people arrived without bookings, Deliveroo orders were flying out of the door, and as the Festive night outs approach where better to soak up the alcohol, or stroll off the calories as part of a long dog walk around the city?

Food facts:

The Fat Hippo, 36 Saddler Street, Durham. 0191 3709699. Dog friendly.

Hippo Hour 5pm - 6pm Monday – Friday.

Ratings (out of ten): Food 8, service 7, surroundings 7, value 6.