A few weeks ago, I headed to Shake Shack in Covent Garden in hope of some burger indulgence. If I had to choose my favourite burger hangout, it would probably be Byron with Honest coming a close second (those triple cooked fries are unreal). You’ll also see I wrote a review of Five Guys some months ago. I thought Five Guys served up some pretty damn good food but I was feeling enticed by the slightly trendier, more ‘upscale fast food’ vibe that Shake Shack in Covent Garden was giving off.
I left ShakeShack with a number of thoughts. Here are my top ten:
1. The ordering process at Shake Shack is pretty slick
You join the queue, make your order at the counter, then you’re given a pager to keep hold of until your food’s ready. I liked this because it gives you chance to find a table and it means you’re not walking around with a plate of food that’s going cold while you wait for seats to become available. Plus, when your food is ready, the pager starts flashing, vibrating and making a noise which is VERY exciting. Head up to the hatch and you’re greeted by some very lovely and smiley staff who make sure you have everything you need. Very good customer service indeed.
2. The shakes are pretty awesome
This scores points for me over Five Guys. While the endless supply of soft drinks via the super cool CocaCola machines in Five Guys are brilliant, I’m definitely a shake girl and the shake menu here is pretty wow. All the shakes and ‘concretes’ here are made from their ‘hand-spun’ frozen custard. You get the usual strawberry, chocolate and vanilla shakes as well as an Arabica coffee shake, and then you have the option of root beer or creamsicle floats or a simple cup or cone of frozen custard. Delish.
The frozen drinks are then taken up a further notch to the ‘concrete’ menu. I’m not really sure what ‘concrete’ is – I think it’s a denser version of the shakes. But the flavours they add in this section of the menu go a little bit like milkshakes on steroids. There are all sorts of flavour combinations. Think chocolate hazelnut brownie, St JOHN Bakery brown sugar biscuit, marshmallow sauce, peanut butter sauce, fudge sauce and jam – just some of the ingredients you’ll see.
They can cost you up to £6.50 for a double so I went for a simple, but good old strawberry shake. I have to admit, it wasn’t as good as the thick and gooey blends you get served in Byron (I love Byron’s diner-style steel cups), but it was lovely and sweet and hit the spot.
3. The salad you get in a Shack Burger is lovely and fresh
‘If you’re going for a burger why do you care about the salad?’ I hear you shout. Well to me, this is important. And while I adored the burger feast I had at Five Guys, I think it shouts out quality when you get a burger with some lovely fresh lettuce leaves and tomato slices in it rather than a simple sloppy gherkin.
While I went for the ShackBurger, a cheese burger (which I added bacon to) with ShackSauce, Mr OhSo opted for the SmokeShack – a cheeseburger topped with Wiltshire cure smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper and ShackSauce. It turned out, he couldn’t really taste the cherry pepper (and neither of us could really identify the ShackSauce) and he envied my salad a bit. So if you’re heading to Shake Shack, order the Shack Burger or Cheeseburger and ask for salad. Trust me, it’s tasty and fresh.
4. The burger meat is succulent and juicy
‘The important bit’ I hear you cry. And the verdict? A pretty high 8 I think. All ShakeShack burgers are 100% Aberdeen Angus beef and are cooked medium rare (unless you request otherwise). I remember the Five Guys patties being similar to these in that they were quite thin. And while the upscale fast food joints seem to be going for this style, personally, I do appreciate the gourmet style burger that’s thick enough to give you a pink middle. Still, the Shake Shack patty was juicy, tasty and tasted like good quality meat. Besides, they’ve always sold themselves as a ‘roadside’ burger company who aren’t pretending to be the gourmet burger restaurant So a thumbs up from me.
5. You don’t feel like you’re in a fast food restaurant
OK so it’s pretty informal and you’re eating off a tray with paper serviettes and paper pots of ketchup, but the interiors of Shake Shack are pretty chic. Whereas the likes of Five Guys is all bright lights, wipe down tables and fast-food style counters, ShakeShack is all about the wooden interiors, bare brick walls and stylish al fresco cafe tables set by outdoor heaters (I didn’t manage to get any photos). You also get to take in the oh so lovely surroundings of Covent Garden and listen to the string quartet in the courtyard below. So while it’s not really somewhere you’d spend longer than an hour, it’s offers a bit more than the ‘grab n go’ culture of the fast food world.
6. The crinkly chips are good but not that good
Fries are important. So important, sometimes I wish I hadn’t ordered them at all. Honest burger fries – the triple cooked ones – are chip heaven for me. They have to be crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. And if they’re rustic style with the potato skin left on even better. I mean business when it comes to choosing chips.
The fries in ShakeShack, to me, were a little bit meh. They look nice – they’re crinkly – but they kind of resemble the crinkly cut oven chips your mum served you as a kid. And they don’t taste that dissimilar too. Many of ours were short and stumpy which is a big turn off for me too – the longer the better! The Five Guys chips were definitely memorable for me and extremely more-ish. It was probably down to the fact they’re cooked in peanut oil and had the potato skin left on, but the fries at ShakeShack didn’t quite do it for me. Sorry guys.
7. They take care of your furry friends
Where else can you go where there are menu options for your four legged friend? While I don’t have a dog myself, the ‘Pooch-ini’ and ‘Bag O’ Bones’ dog biscuits are enough to make anyone want to have their own pooch. The latter are red velvet style too. Ooh la la. Doggies with class.
8. They serve booze but not sure how much they sell
That’s right, the fact that you can order a glass (or bottle) of wine here and a ‘ShackMeister’ ale, exclusively brewed for ShakeShack by Brooklyn Brewery in NY, certainly gives it an edge over other fast food burger joints. While it didn’t really feel like the right setting to be enjoying a glass of Napa Valley wine with my paper-wrapped burger and fries, I guess it could be tempting if you were seated al fresco on the Covent Garden cobbles, so long as a fellow customer armed with a pager wasn’t ushering you to drink up. Good to know though if the other wine bars in this tourist trap area are filled up.
9. It’s not cheap
You pay for the name here. Two burgers, two fries and two basic Shakes (the basic ones, not the pimped up ones) set us back over £30. That seems a little steep to me for somewhere that doesn’t involve knives and forks. But that said, I wouldn’t rule out a second visit. The fries actually are cheap at £2.50 a go. And if we hadn’t both ordered a double burger the price of these would have been kept down to £6.50 max. The things that would lure me back are the fresh flavours, great customer service and sound of those super-charged milkshakes, so don’t be put off my £30 bill. Perhaps just order a single rather than a double burger if you’re not looking to over indulge both your appetite and credit card.
10. I’d go back for the Hot Dogs
With rare-breed pork from Cumbria and toppings like ale-marinated onions and specialty relishes, I think the split and griddle flat-top dogs probably are something I’d go back for. At less than £5, these are something you could grab and go with on a lunch break and you can guarantee they’ll be better than some street-side vendor.
They definitely score points for mixing variety and ingenuity with simplicity at ShakeShack. I think Oh So London will be back.
Until next time x