In 2013, two American burger institutions invaded British sovereignty. They stormed ashore within 24 hours of one another and fired warning shots across the bow of all the recently-opened British burger joints.
Five Guys opened on July 4th and Shake Shack on July 5th; almost as if this was a carefully planned retaliation for the British Invasion of music in the 1960s, fifty years in the making. The British stormed US shores with their excellent music culture in 1963 and the US hit back in 2013 with greasy, but delicious hamburgers.
The timing of the openings was no coincidence I’m sure, Independence Day (in the US). Shake Shack is just five minutes away from Five Guys in Covent Garden, the heart of London. Shake Shack is in the centre of the Covent Garden market near the Royal Opera House. They have a full menu of their “shack” classics along with a selection of particularly British-themed offerings using local ingredients.
Shake Shack actually began life as a hot dog cart in New York’s Madison Square Park in the early 2000s. The cart grew in popularity with the locals who would line up in the park for a hotdog. After three years as a cart, Shake Shack got official planning permission to open a “kiosk” in 2004 and Shake Shack was born. They expanded their offerings to include all kinds of delicious burgers, dogs, shakes, frozen custards and other delicacies that becomes an institution in New York.
In London, you don’t quite pay NYC cart prices, but for a single-patty Shackburger you’re looking at £5 which isn’t too bad! Double down for £8 and your stomach will be happier, trust me. All their burgers are 100% Aberdeen Angus, grass fed in Scottish pasteurs and… blah blah blah, they are TASTY. They are cooked a nice medium and purposefully taste like a fast-food burger, not a rich over-the-top gourmet burger. Their all-beef hotdogs are excellent as well – 100% beef German-style franks priced between £4.25-5 is a great price when you look at places like Bubbledogs by comparison.
I enjoy the SmokeShack version of their burger, pictured here. It’s topped with British free-range Wiltshire cure smoked bacon, chopper cherry peppers for some bite, and finished off with the Shack sauce. It’s £10.75 for the double, but I love it.
If you have cheese running in your veins like I do, then you’ll have to try their cheese fries. In true american (liquid cheese) form, these crispy little ripple cut french fries are cooked perfectly golden and then doused in cheese sauce and served with a carnival style wooden spork-like thing. If you still haven’t filled your gut American-style, then their custard and ‘concretes’ are the real starts of the show.
Their ice cream shakes are dense and rich unlike many “milkshakes” here in the UK. They are heavy and filling and delicious. Their concretes are spun custards with crushed mixers added to them. They include The Union Shack: chocolate custard with a crumbled chocolate hazelnut brownie, fudge, chocolate chunks and sea salt. The Drury Lane Jam is vanilla custard with chocolate toffee, chocolate chunks, salted caramel sauce and malt powder. My personal favourite is the Big BlENd: vanilla and chocolate custard swirled together with brown sugar cookie and chocolate hazelnut brownie.
Overall, Shake Shack is a fast and low-cost contender in the crowded burger marketplace. They are excellent but casual and should be regarded as a lunch destination week-round. Not a place to really sit and enjoy a nice long indulgent dinner though. The prices are better than competitive and the ingredients they use are top notch – you can eat here on the cheap or really go all out and treat yourself, the choice is yours!
Shake Shack – 39/50
Beef (6): A bit disapointing, it tastes a bit like a short order kitchen more than burger grill.
Bun (9): Nice, soft white bun, but nothing standout.
Toppings (9): Really fresh and delicious
Value (10): Cheap by London standards and very easy to add on ice cream or sides.
Ambiance (5): Stuck in the middle of Covent Garden market, you have to seek out a table not too far away from a heat lamp.
Shake Shack is located at 24, Market Building, The Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RD and as of writing, I don’t believe they are planning any additional franchise locations in London. You can visit their site here