Shake Shack is just the latest in US burger chains opening up a shop in London as the craze for that delicious meaty sandwich continues. Although slightly pipped by 5 Guys (which opened the day before), Shake Shack snagged the better location with a double storefront in Covent Garden Market Piazza. There is an ordering and production assembly line which would please even the most ardent efficiency expert and a mix of indoor, semi-outdoor, and fully exposed seating to suit every taste. The menu is simple with a handful of burger options but fleshed out by the frozen custard and concrete selections – because we all know that burgers must be followed by ice cream in some form.
I first hit Shake Shack on their opening day but I’ve held off writing a review until I could revisit for a more typical experience. Opening day was awesome with almost as many staff as customers (and since the seating area was full and there was a line – there were just a ton of staff). Everyone was smiling and welcoming, a number of the staff (both local Londoners and experienced NYC staff brought in as trainers) stopped by for a chat, and even Danny Meyer was making the rounds to talk to as many people as possible.
I’d suggest one of two tacks. First off, if you can trust them to be there more or less on time, get in line. There usually is a fairly long one at peak times but it moves fast – the most I’ve waited is about 20 minutes. However, they do frown upon multiple people cutting in if you are near the entrance so keep that in mind.
Alternatively, there are a number of great places in the area to wait for people. The Punch & Judy has a cool terrace to enjoy the sun or just around the corner there is Champagne + Fromage for a glass of bubbly.
What to eat?
Here you’re presumably coming for the burgers so let’s start with that. My two favourites are the SmokeShack (a smokey bacon double cheeseburger) and the Shake Stack (a cheeseburger with a deep fried portabello mushroom). The SmokeShack is garnished with cherry peppers and is a pretty solid burger. Two patties covered in cheese and topped with bacon is everything you could hope for in a fast food burger and the spiciness of the cherry peppers gives you a nice warming feel. This isn’t an amazing burger – I won’t be waxing lyrical on the blend of meats or the softness of the bun – but it’s exactly what you want. I’d say think of a middle ground between McD’s and Lucky Chip.
The Shack Stack is actually my favourite with the meaty portabello mushroom being even beefier than the patty and giving a great breadth of flavours. The one thing it was missing was that bit of heat the SmokeShack can boast. So an easily solution – get them to add it on, something the staff are happy to do.
Next, take a look at the custards and concretes. I know some friends love the strawberry shortbread custard (and it is pretty good), but the concretes are the key to my heart. While one has been kept from the US menu, the rest are new designs using local bakeries – in particular St. John’s. The Big Blend and the Sticky Toffee concrete are excellent which creamy ice cream, brown sugar biscuit bits, and rich chunks of decadent chocolate brownies all mixed in. You can opt for singles or doubles and I’d strongly suggest the double for two reasons: 1) people are going to want a taste and 2) the single is just not enough to satisfy the craving.
Alright, but what if I want a drink?
You’re in luck! Shake Shack sells a range of wine and beer including their own bespoke Shackmeister Ale. However, I’ve always opted for a concrete so I really couldn’t comment – I do want to try that ale so maybe I’ll push for it next time.
Worth the dosh?
At £5-8 for a burger and another £3 for fries, it’s a bit expensive when you compare it to the US prices but as far as London goes it’s not too bad. Sure you can get a McD’s meal for a few quid less but you get a much better quality burger here. The concretes are excellent value at around £4 for a single and £6.50 for a double (almost a pint of delicious ice cream) – in fact maybe I’ll drop by for just one of those tonight on my way to the Zoo…
So yes, in my view, it’s worth the money as you get your food fairly fast, reasonably cheap, and don’t have that oily feeling of shame afterwards.
Find Shake Shack here
24 Market Building
London WC2E 8RD
020 3598 1360