When US burger kingpins Shake Shack and Five Guys announced they were both opening new restaurants in London, I could practically feel the ground rumble from the collective sigh of the London foodie elite. That lot aren’t too happy about the burger invasion that’s been conquering our capital, but calm down folks, it’s a food-stuff, not the Third Reich.
I’ve had a thing for burgers since forming an unorthodox crush on the McDonald’s character Officer Big Mac as a child. He had such charisma and looked so good in his uniform, that I’ve not been able to shrug it off since.
Having adored Shake Shack in New York, I was the very antithesis of the London lot. However, Southern chippies don’t serve gravy, so I can understand why they’re quite grumpy all the time.
We were in London on a fleeting day trip and off we went to Shake Shack. Set bang in the middle of the Market Hall in Convent Garden, it was hardly surprising that it was a trifle busy. I set the hubby the job of finding a table while I joined the queue.
The line went down fairly swiftly. The staff on the tills are very smiley and friendly although after finding out my name, perhaps used it a little too often (never trust a stranger who knows your name, it could be a trick!) I was surprised that drinks were not supplied at this point - it was boiling hot and some refreshment to ease the wait may have made it a little more pleasant.
Ten minutes later I was summoned by my little buzzer of hope. I was faced with yet another queue at the collection window and at this point was beginning to wonder if Shake Shack were performing an alcohol intervention, as once again, I was without a drink. A few more minutes of flapping and apologizing and I was enjoying my Thatcher’s cider.
I ordered the same burger that I had loved so much in New York but can only suggest that this was an imposter impersonating a Shack Burger. The sauce was runny and overly sweet, the bun seemed to disappear into nothing and the over-riding flavour was tomato. My expression instantly formed a rather good impression of a child’s drawing of an unhappy person.
I looked hopefully up at the hubby to see if his bacon cheeseburger was any better, however his face looked like a child’s drawing of an angry person. The next few minutes resembled the fast food restaurant scene from 1993 film Falling Down. There were no brief cases, handguns or managers named Rick involved, but I assure you it was equally terrifying. Let’s paraphrase his speech and say that the burger ‘looked like it had been sat on.’ It did and I promise this time it wasn’t me.
The Shackmeister beer didn’t impress him either, stating it tasted like Brooklyn beer, only with less flavour.
Fries were nothing to write home about and even their crinkles couldn’t raise a smile, although I did like the supply of all you can eat ketchup and mayo.
Despite the fact that the food wasn’t very good, my biggest problem with Shake Shack is the location. The seating area is plonked in the middle of Covent Garden surrounded by tourists and shoppers. There is zero brand identity – it doesn’t feel like Shake Shack. It doesn’t embody anything.
And so I cry fraud under the trade descriptions act. The London branch of Shake Shack in no way relates to its contemporary across the pond. £25 for what is essentially a (not so) fast food meal - we were both extremely disappointed. In another restaurant, we’d have refused to pay. However, Shake Shack take payment up front. I’m beginning to think this is the work of the Hamburglar.
The London foodies are right on this one. I’m off to snog my poster of Officer Big Mac to cheer myself up.
Want to see my thoughts on Five Guys? Click HERE!