Regular readers will know I loathe queuing for food, even more so because on the occasions I have queued to try the latest over-hyped burger it turns out to be just that – an overhyped disappointment, where (largely, ironic) style over substance wins. So, the thought of joining what promised to be a queue of epic proportions, to try out a new chain restaurant on its first day did not fill me with joy, but I agreed nonetheless.
I’d never heard of Five Guys, a huge US chain that has “has grown a cult-like following around the world” (their words), but dining companion Lucy convinced me it was worth a visit. We joined the queue just before 6pm, which seemed to be the best time (it was snaking round for a couple of hours when we left). The sun was shining, we had a couple of cans of Pimms as we waited, and we were in within 40 minutes (having also randomly bumped into one of my best friends en route to see Derren Brown…).
I opted for the cheeseburger at £8, and Lucy went for the ‘little cheeseburger’. If you’re new to Five Guys, I should point out that the standard cheeseburger comes as a double, and is pretty substantial. Don’t be put off by the ‘little’ – this is what we’d class as normal. All the toppings were included in the price of the burger (and they’ve got 15). I opted for lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, jalapeños, green peppers, ketchup, and mustard. (They also offer free monkey nuts as you wait, which is nice).
We shared a regular fries at £4 (today’s potatoes, we were informed, came from the Netherlands, and they’re cooked in peanut oil), and again, this was more than ample for the two of us. There’s a selection of beers available including Brewdog, Budweiser, and I was delighted to see Brooklyn Beer, as well as the magic 100 Coca-Cola machine, which I’ll come back to.
So, the burger itself was huge, pretty filthy, but pretty good. The beef’s 100% Aberdeen Angus and tastes good (although they insist on cooking it well done), and the cheese is plentiful and satisfyingly oozy. The bun reminded me more of the McDonald’s sesame style rather than the current trend for toasted brioches, but it held together, so did the job. The toppings were great (and it’s refreshing not to be charged 50p/£1 for each one…), and although the jalapeños tasted awesome, I’ve got to warn you – they’re hot, very hot. The chips were a bit disappointing. They’re hand cut and skin on, but came slightly undercooked and not all that tasty or exciting.
The double burger (or standard by their terms) is big, and I was beginning to struggle by the end. The unlimited drink machine didn’t help. Their magic machine has all Coke’s brands (Fanta, Dr Pepper, Schweppes etc…) along with multiple flavours for each one. We tried vanilla Coke, Lemon Fanta, Grape Schweppes, Fruit Punch something or other, and carried on until the novelty wore off (and I couldn’t stomach any more), after about 10. Anyway, it amused me.
So, all in all, this is a decent offering. It’s not gourmet by any means, but pleasurable and good quality for the price. The staff (we counted more than 20 working behind the counter) were efficient and there were lots of smiles with everyone willing to help out, which does make a difference.
I’d recommend a visit (go for the ‘little’ burger), and whatever you do, don’t look up the nutritional information online. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…