I recently spent a weekend in London since I was advised to leave Germany and reenter on a different visa. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable trip, but I made the most of it by examining the burgers of London. Here are my reviews of a few of the major burger chains I discovered.
Who are they: Five Guys is an American fast food chain which has found its way into the UK where they have under 100 locations.
The Burger(s): I ordered the Cheeseburger (£8.00) from the High Street Kensington store. This burger comes as a double with two medium-well patties which are very juicy and, as per the Five Guys‘ philosophy, are not seasoned. It’s served with an unpretentious, relatively large, sweet and eggy sesame bun, toasted on the grill, and two slices of American Cheese. All toppings at Five Guys are free of charge, so I ordered “all the way”, a generous combination of mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onion, grilled mushrooms, ketchup and mustard.
The burgers are completely wrapped in alfoil which reduces the mess when eaten as it catches all the juices and sauce. This burger, with its unpretentious nature and shitload of toppings, reminded me of the kind of burger you’d get at a fish and chip or yiros (kebab) shop in my hometown. Fortunately, the toppings never overpower the beef like in so many of these newer, trendier burger establishments. In conclusion, a solid burger which doesn’t excel in any one area.
The Other Stuff: The decor is retro. Think 1950s American diner with a copious amount of red and white everywhere with loud music blasting. The service was quite fast, under 5 minutes, even if the staff were dead-eyed and not particularly friendly. It’s also worthy to note that the chip servings here are huge, a regular can easily feed 2 or 3 people, and the milkshakes are deliciously decadent.
Who are they: Shake Stack is a hugely popular modern fast food chain from East Coast, USA, and has 10 locations in the UK.
The Burger(s): The ShackBurger (single, £5.50) at the Leicester Square store comes with a single griddle-smashed patty cooked medium-well, a slice of American Cheese, a toasted supple potato bun, sliced roma tomatoes, green leaf lettuce and the house sauce, ShackSauce.
Presentation-wise, the ShackBurger is beautiful and colourful; it served in a paper pocket to facilitate eating. It may also be the smallest burger I tried in London but boy does it have a punch of flavour from the intensely-beefy smashed patty. The only problem with the single is that it is simply not enough; it leaves wanting more, so naturally I returned the next day to try a more substantial burger.
The SmokeShack (double, £10.75), from the Victoria Road store, features two smashed patties, two slices of American Cheese, applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers and the signature ShackSauce.
Now this is what I’m talking about! The perfectly-browned beefiness of the patties combined with the salty, smoky bacon and sweet, slightly piquant peppers is exceptional. Normally, I prefer my burgers without bacon because sometimes it steals the thunder of the beef, but I must eat my words here since this is a perfectly cohesive culinary construction.
The Other Stuff: The decor is modern and one must order at the counter, after receiving a menu at the door, and wait for a considerable amount of time due to the sheer hecticness of the place. For me, waiting times were about 10 minutes on average. Luckily, there’s plenty of seating space. The frozen crinkle-cut fries here are average.
Who are they: Honest Burgers are a British burger chain with under 40 locations in the UK.
The Burger(s): The Beef Burger with Cheese is a single patty cheeseburger which costs £10 (including rosemary chips and £1 extra for cheese) from the Portobello outlet. The patty is cooked medium (your waiter will ask you how you’d like it cooked) on a grill and seasoned with salt and pepper whilst cooking. It’s served with a large (perhaps oversized) brioche bun, a slice of cheddar cheese, red onion relish and lettuce.
While the beef patty was perfectly charred on the outside and pink on the inside, it was unfortunately a little overseasoned and a little dry. The toppings were also not particularly noteworthy. For the price, this is not great value for a single patty burger. Perhaps, I should’ve tried the much more substantial Honest Burger or Tribute Burger.
The Other Stuff: The location is a modern, cosy restaurant, with friendly staff and table service. Waiting time is short (about 5 minutes) even though the restaurant was relatively full. The rosemary chips are nice!
Patty & Bun
Who are they: Patty & Bun are a British burger chain with 9 locations.
The Burger(s): The Ari Gold Cheeseburger is a single patty cheeseburger at £8.75. The single beef patty normally comes medium-rare but I ordered medium since burgers aren’t steaks; it was juicy with an acceptable amount of seasoning. The burger comes with a sweet, soft brioche bun which is, unfortunately, not toasted. The toppings consist of American Cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions, ketchup and smokey P&B mayo.
This cheeseburger comes wrapped in paper and when unwrapped reveals a wet, juicy mess. The cheese was an overcooked, liquidy confusion. The heel of the bun was cold and wet due to not being toasted and having direct contact with the cold toppings which had probably directly come from the fridge. This made for a very uncomfortable eating experience as no-one wants to eat a burger with a cold, soggy bun. The beefsteak tomato was completely unnecessary (I’m not the biggest fan of tomato on burgers anyway) which just increased the amount of fluid leaking out of the burger. The pickled onions were probably the sole highlight, imparting a refreshing tang and texture. A very average burger which had lots of potential.
The Other Stuff: The location itself is a modern, trendy restaurant with friendly table service (but be aware of the eat-in 12.5% service charge). Service is fast: under 5 minutes (in an almost empty restaurant).
Who are they: Bleecker are a British burger chain with 3 locations, all in London.
The Burger(s): The Double Cheeseburger is a double patty cheeseburger at £10 at the Bloomberg outlet. Bleecker‘s super juicy patties are 113g each and are cooked medium-rare with an adequate amount of salt and pepper. The patty is housed in a uniquely flaky, light sesame bun which is browned in an old-school conveyor toaster. The toppings are minimal, only American Cheese, chopped raw onion and house sauce are used.
Toppings are used sparingly since the Bleecker philosophy is to let the patty shine. And boy, does it shine! Burgers here are served on a small paper plate and pack a lot of flavour. If you want a delicious classic, no-frills cheeseburger made with love, this is your place.
The Other Stuff: The location is quite small but cosy with a modern, simple decor. Burgers are ordered at the counter, staff are friendly and service is fast (about 5 minutes). There’s also a Blue Burger with stinky blue cheese which produces an extremely pungent smell when prepared, so perhaps it’s best to sit outside if you’re not a fan.