When it comes to food, I am a fully paid up split personality. I love to eat healthily, I like trying new wholegrains, I’m obsessed with avocados and I’ve totally trained myself to enjoy the sort of green juice that often has a vague aroma of feet…
…however, I also completely adore fat burgers that drip between my fingers, bursting-at-the-seam burritos that are bigger than my arms, pizza that sags under the weight of its own bountiful toppings and ice-cream sundaes loaded with enough hot chocolate fudge sauce to make Augustus Gloop’s eyes gleam.
What this little glimpse into my psyche means is that while I’ve been dying to try Shake Shack since it opened on these shores last year, I’ve had to wrestle with when that would happen thanks, in no small part, to the rise of all things that fall under the banner of ‘clean eating’ and all the frankly freakin’ awesome burger joints we currently have in London. However the time has come, the day has been, the Shack has been sampled and oh lordie, it was gooooooood.
Given that the original Covent Garden location always appears to involve queuing for roughly the same amount of time you’d need to devote to transatlantic flying, I skipped round the corner to New Oxford Street. Here you’ll find the most cavernous location where the menu filled an entire wall, plasma screens told us about the restaurants’ suppliers and slatted wooden tables stood under enormous brushed metallic letters proclaiming devotion to the gods of ‘shakes’, ‘burgers’ and ‘fries’.
It’s important you know the difference between the two types of burger places currently on offer in the capital – Honest, Patty & Bun, Bobo Social, these are all sit down, have a beer & enjoy table service sort of spots. Shake Shack & its main US originated competitor Five Guys are self-serve and fast food. This isn’t a bad thing you understand, it just means that you have to think of them more along the lines of those golden arches…except they’re in a whole other league when it comes to taste and quality.
Service wasn’t bad; staff on our early Saturday evening visit had the weary demeanours of customer facing workers who’ve been on their feet for 8 hours already but they were perfectly pleasant. For such an apparently huge space, there aren’t as many tables as you might expect so it took a few minutes of diner-stalking to bag seats as a couple left but food was pretty quick to arrive via a handheld buzzer that took me back to my (short lived before being moved into the kitchen) heydays of waitressing in Pizza Hut.
Two burgers, one cheese fries, two sodas and a frozen custard totalled around £25 so not as cheap as the aforementioned Ronald McD but for the most part, it was totally worth it.
Patties were juicy, buns were sweet, cheese was melty, lettuce was crisp, and tomatoes were ripe. I absolutely devoured my burger in greedy bites, loving each one a little more than the one before; it was everything a top quality fast food burger should be. Fries were retro-perfectly crinkle cut – anyone else have one of those hand-held slices with the crinkled edge?! – and generously covered with the sort of gloopily delicious cheese sauce your inner fat kid wants to pour on everything…yep, this food made me one happy gal.
A word of warning; for me, the frozen custard which we had in the form of a New Oxford Street Style Concrete (frozen chocolate custard ice-cream blitzed with St. John Bakery brownies, peanut butter sauce and banana) was something of a let-down. I’ve had better ice-cream (Udderlicious), I’ve had better fro-yo (Pinkberry) and I’ve had better take-out from the supermarkets (Ben & Jerry) of our capital. I didn’t consider it anything outstandingly creamy or delicious and while it didn’t offend me, I definitely don’t rate it as worthy of the £5 price tag.
I’ve spent a lot of time stateside where celeb-fave In’N’Out has always topped my fast food treat list but a recent visit there proved disappointing and in an age where good burgers are the holy grail of our ‘grams and tweets, you just can’t rest on your laurels so from now on, Shack, I got your back.