RESTAURANT REVIEW: Shake Shack in Covent Garden – Part 2

15 Aug

Slurping noisily, I finished my chocolate shake and possessively hugged the carton like a gorilla cradling her young. Churned with fresh, frozen custard, every gratifying slurp had generated a contented sigh, leaving me bereft after draining my last drop.

My fellow diners may have misconstrued this attachment as a sign of intense satisfaction. After all, Shake Shack – the much-hyped American burger bar which opened its first UK outpost in London two months ago – has attracted an army of cult-like followers, religiously tweeting and instagram-ing tales of near divine experiences. Yet today was the second time I have eaten at the Covent Garden restaurant and both meals proved average and lacklustre.

On both occasions, I rocked up to the soulless yet stylish grey eatery, housed beneath the market square’s glass atrium, and queued for ten minutes for the “amazing” and “incredible” burgers. Surrounded by excited newcomers looking like randy teenagers desperate to enter a brothel during a trip to Amsterdam, expectations were naturally high. Sadly, although my orgasmic shake was worthy of unbridled praise, the same cannot be said of my remaining meal.

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A SmokeShack burger, fries and shake cost a steep £13.50, which goes some way towards explaining why my burger seemingly blinked up at me like a mocking clown with clashing face paint. A golden brioche bun enclosed a brown Aberdeen Angus patty layered with neon cheese, pink Wiltshire smoked bacon and a smattering of red peppers.

Determined to find the fabled ShackSauce allegedly annointing the burgers of hardcore devotees, I dismantled mine to find coral-stained bread and a tiny squelch of remaining sauce. Like a gynaecologist conducting a cervical smear, I prodded at the area with a crinkle cut chip. Feeling apprehensive, I finally shoved the cream-coated stick into my mouth and – Praise Jesus! Holy Ketchup! Or whatever else devoted Shack-ites spout – I was pleasantly surprised. The mild sauce was deliciously tangy with a subtle undertone of heat: a delightful condiment that needed to be laddled on with a skip to sucessfully compete with the mush of bread, bacon and beef. The three core ingredients were locked in a war against a ruthless oppressor: pickled cherry peppers. The ShackSauce was a mere casualty in the epic battle.

Not one to overlook the virtues of an eatery, the chips were undeniably good: crispy, buttery and an acceptable alternative to French Fries (which would have been preferable). It takes a special kind of chef to cock up fried spuds so Shake Shack can rest assured that Mr. Potato Head won’t fire off any angry letters about the mistreatment of his brethren any time soon.

The biggest disappointment was the patty itself: lean and smeared with yellow, it looked as though it had been flattened by one of the local council’s road-marking trucks as they were painting new parking lines. In hindsight, perhaps my visit had some divine intervention after all… had I taken heed of the warning earlier by scanning other people’s trays, I would have parked my rear for lunch elsewhere – Byron Burger and Five Guys are both within walking distance.

The only reason to venture into Shake Shack again would be to grab another delicious milkshake. At £4.50 each, they cost almost as much as the burgers – but with the added allure of rich flavour.

In the blog following my first visit, I concluded that Shake Shack was all frill and no knickers. Now, having tried a milkshake and chips, I concede that I was unduly harsh; it’s more like a lacy crotchless thong – plenty of frills around the edges but a gaping hole in the centre.

Square Meal

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