When we heard the news that Shake Shack was coming to town this summer, we wasted no time in planning our visit. In the end though, it took us a over a month to get around to it. Let me introduce you to the concept of anti-hype.
Shake Shack set the bar high from the start. They made it clear that they’d only be serving grass-fed Aberdeen angus beef patties and cooking them medium. They also promised us wondrous sounding desserts called concretes, using some of the best ingredients around.
However, after reading a number of disparaging reviews and negative first-hand accounts from friends, a thought occurred. Was it’s all just hype and marketing spin?
Last weekend, we finally decided to find out for ourselves and planned our trip with great precision. Since opening its doors, Shake Shack London has been attracting queues that would make even Meat Liquor jealous and we were determined to beat the inevitable rush. As such, we cunningly arrived before midday on Sunday.
Our strategy worked a treat. There was no queue to speak of and we had our choice of tables. I was surprised that more people weren’t out for a burger brunch, but I definitely wasn’t complaining.
We decided to cover all bases with our order and went for a double ShackBurger, a SmokeShack, cheese fries, regular fries, two shakes, two concretes and an extensive course of personal training sessions to follow (pending). In total it came to an impressive £37. In my book, that’s pretty good going for a ‘fast food’ joint. I wonder how much you’d have to order in McDonald’s to rack up that kind of bill.
Shake Shack food photos are everywhere at the moment so we had a good idea of what to expect, or so we thought. As it turned out, we were very impressed by the look of our burgers. Perhaps they’ve upped their game of late or maybe they just did a better job because we’d arrived at a quiet time.
In any case, the burgers were excellent. I’m sure Westminster council would disagree but they were cooked perfectly medium as promised. They even had a decent crust to them and the patties were a lot thicker and juicier than we’d anticipated. They didn’t quite have that superb beefy, aged meat flavour that you get with the very best burgers but we were impressed nonetheless.
We particularly enjoyed the gooey American cheese and ShackSauce in the ShackBurger and having a double offered even more bite. The SmokeShack was equally tasty and benefited from the addition of the smoked streaky bacon and chopped cherry peppers. These were slightly spicy and piquant.
‘Hang on a minute.’ I thought. Something strange was afoot. We were enjoying our meal, so why were we surprised? After all, this was what Shake Shack had promised all along.
Then it hit me, we were expecting not to like it. I can only assume that we’d been fooled by anti-hype. Lesson learned.
There was one decidedly crinkly disappointment though, the ‘McCain-esque’ fries. They were certainly crispy and they may look the part but that’s about it. Their salvation though, was the addition of the cheese sauce. It may add on an extra 200 calories but who’s counting? If we were to pay Shake Shack another visit, I think we’d probably just order one portion of cheese fries on the side.
Onto the sweet stuff. We opted for a peanut butter and a black & white shake and both were delicious. I’d actually go so far as to say, ditch the concretes and just have a shake instead.
In fairness to the concretes, I’m sure they’re very popular and the Paul A. Young chocolate was a great addition to the Union Shack. Nevertheless, the St. John brownie was in seriously short supply, as was the brown sugar biscuit and chocolate hazelnut brownie in the Big Blend. Don’t get me wrong, these pimped McFlurries were enjoyable enough but they didn’t live up to their £4 price tag.
All in all, Shake Shack is a little pricy for fast food, but it’s in line with what I’d expect to pay for a good burger in town. That’s what this was, a good burger.
Our experience then, was far better than we’d anticipated and both of us thoroughly enjoyed our meal. I think a lot of the criticism I’ve heard was caused by people going in with sky-high expectations, only to have them come crashing down to earth. This time, we did the opposite. No matter how many ‘likes’ they get or how much praise you see on blogs and on Twitter, you have to remember that it’s still fast food, not The Ledbury.
If Shake Shack is on your pig list, I recommend that you give it a try and put your expectations aside. You may be pleasantly surprised. We were.
Meal for two: £37.00
Address: 24 Market Place, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8RD
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