The guys behind Five Guys who have been enjoying their successes in the USA and Canada have been paying attention to this little island across the sea. We're having a burger revolution, or revult-ation dependent on where you dine/your preferences in food lie, nevertheless burgers are everywhere whether you like it or not and Five Guys have chosen the opportune moment to jump on that. Clever.
Five Guys decor is pretty simple, white and red tiles, it's nothing fancy. Murrel (the founder) is quoted saying that it's because he wants to plough money in to the food not in to the look and marketing of his joints.
The menu is simple too, you chose a burger, with or without cheese, with or without bacon. Then you add your toppings for free. There are chips salted or Cajun in three sizes. There are also hot dogs but I didn't see one person in there eating a hot dog, burgers all the way.
Word of warning, if you are allergic to nuts this is not the place for you. Everything is cooked/fried in peanut oil. Something that is slammed in to your face everywhere you look. There are peanuts in boxes, peanut shells dotted around the tables and floor and on the menu-boards it states they use peanut oil as it's lower in cholesterol, doesn't contain any trans-fats and low in saturated fat. Let's be fair, it's never going to be healthy deep frying a potato but if you're going to do it this is probably one of the better oils to do it in.
The drink choices are something to rave about, and I have heard (read) many do so too. The drinks are refillable and that's because there is a vending machine that lets you chose from hundreds of different options from the coke brand, that's if there is any left in stock. On the night I visited there was no diet coke, but with peach Fanta to chose from who cares! (Peach flavoured Fanta is just like a sweetened version of peach sparkling water, raspberry coke should be avoided, it tastes like Calpol).
I've only ever come across one of these coke machines once before and that was in Disney World Florida, pretty far to travel for a weird flavoured Fanta.
Five Guys is very much a fast food joint, you line up to order, you're given a number, you wait for your number to be called out and it's all handed to you in a brown paper bag with the grease already starting to seep in to it. This combined with the fast food joint decor, uniformed teenagers and that distinctive smell of American grease in the air I had made preconceptions of food portions. I expected a large fries to be on par with a McDonald's fries, where you're scanning the bottom of your brown paper bag in the hope that there are some more in there. Here, that is not so. The fries are piled in to plain cups and then overflowed in to the bag. Being naive D and I ordered a large fries each, one salted and one Cajun. I can hear those who have been before laughing, exclaiming and wondering how on Earth we ate all those fries. We didn't I literally took home half a paper bag full of chips for the housemates to scavenge at (of which they were most grateful as they were suffering from a horrendous cold... similar to the one I had the week before...)
|More sodding fries...|
I've purposely saved the burger for last, because surely that's what this place is all about (and I've now tricked you in to reading all of my post) and you should always save the best for last.
We arrived at the tills around 7.10pm on a Wednesday evening to be told that they had sold out of bacon. THEY HAD SOLD OUT OF BACON AT 7.10PM. THEY HAD SOLD OUT OF BACON ON A WEDNESDAY. It's not like we were trying to tackle their menu on a Saturday lunch time when I would have been more accepting of the fact that they had sold out of bacon. It was hump day, the middle of the week day, just tea time not its too late to cook lets have a takeaway time. It clearly wasn't bacon delivery day.
Not having bacon saved us 75p as we instead had to go with the cheeseburger. Burgers come in two sizes, a 'little' burger is not a kids option although you will be forgiven for presuming so, it simply means that it has one patty rather than two.
There are sixteen toppings to chose from and some maths geek has done the calculations to conclude that means you can have 250,000 different ways of having your burger.
My one in 250,000 burger had lettuce, pickles, ketchup, mustard, tomatoes and relish.
|What the hell did they do to my burger? Sit on it?!|
D's one in 250,00 burger had the above minus the tomato and hot sauce as an addition. Hot sauce 'lite' I should add as the cashier told us that it was very hot, it wasn't.
|No hot sauce visible|
Burgers come numbered in your bag with the receipt attached so you know which number is yours. Smart.
These are dirty burgers. They drip, they ooze, they disintegrate in your hands and you need about 10 napkins per person. Made even more dirty by the fact that the cooks appear to squash them in the tin foil once wrapped. Really? Why? I hear you surely the fries don't weigh that much? I read somewhere it's to make sure the foil creates condensation and by doing so it makes the bun more moist and enjoyable. Whether this was just Internet twaddle I'm not sure I will ever know.
The patties are thin, well seasoned and do taste pretty good. The cheese is standard melt-quick-plastic-looking that helps glue the patties together. The tomatoes weren't watery and this in addition to the pickles and lettuce gave it a good bite, it helped that they were fresh too. The bun wasn't brioche, it comes with the sesame seeded top and lightly grilled inside.
It's a much a better tasting (better looking to be debated) version of a fast food burger, without all the huffing and puffing when you ask for a topping to be removed, and that additional satisfaction of being able to add whatever tickles your fancy (within the remit of available options).
This is where it gets me.
The burgers are good, better than any fast food joint burger I've had (which I'm limiting to McDonald's, Burger King, Mahmoods, dirty-greasy student area takeaways, city centre dirty takeaways and non-branded venue burgers). The peanut fried fries are pretty good too. The techniflavoured coke machine is pretty awesome too.
I just don't know if I can justify their prices. For a cheeseburger (regular with two patties) it's £8. That doesn't include fries. A large fries is £5. Drinks are £2.50. The bill for two of us was just over £30. For a fast food joint that is beyond extortionate. Again, I get it that this is better than other fast food joints but when I can get a Patty Smiths with chips in Belgrave for £6, a more comfortable setting and a load of beers on tap - I know where I'd rather be headed. Granted, as I said before, we over did it on the fries, and if we were being smart we could have shared a refillable drink between us. This would have brought the cost down by £7.50, or even £8.50 if we shared a regular fries which I'm betting would still be adequate for two to share. This still works out £5 more each than my favourite place to get a burger. I'd rather not pay an additional fiver to gormlessly be amused by a coke machine and experience the latest fad from America.
Maybe I'm just becoming an old tight-wad.