It's an exciting week for burger lovers in London: timed with the Independence Day celebrations, two of the biggest American burger chains (Five Guys and Shake Shack) are opening in the city.
Will they live up to the hype? Only time will tell, but one thing is sure: the foodie community has gone crazy about these openings!
So, what can we expect from them? Let's start with a little preview of Five Guys!
The Five Guys family business started in 1986 when Jerry and Janie Murrell opened the first restaurant in Washington DC, where they worked with their four sons.
The Murrell family served only hand-formed burgers cooked to perfection on a grill along with fresh-cut fries cooked in pure peanut oil. The little burger joint quickly developed a cult-like following. Press paid attention. Customers voted the burger"#1" in the metro area.
They began offering franchise opportunities in 2003 and the business exploded, transforming Five Guys from a local restaurant to a nationwide successful chain.
Today they open the doors of their first overseas restaurant, here in London.
The idea is simple: choose between hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon burger and bacon cheeseburger, then go crazy on the toppings: they are all free!
Go "ALL THE WAY" and your chosen burger will come filled with mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup and mustard.
Little burgers are also available, as well as hot dogs, veggie sandwiches and BLT. The fries come in different sizes and two flavours: regular fries or cajun.
The drinks: order a regular soft drink and you will receive an empty paper cup, which you can re-fill as much as you want at the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. Playing with it was quite fun, as well as tasting new flavours like Lime Diet Coke and Orange Schweppes!
Bottled beers are by Brewdog: nice to have a Scottish beer on offer in this all-American restaurant!
After placing your order at the till, it will take about 5-10 minutes for it to be ready. The burgers are prepared on the spot, wrapped in foil and served in a brown paper bag.
I ordered a standard size cheeseburger "all the way", without mushrooms. Under the foil wraps, there was a big sandwich with squashed bread, two thin beef patties and toppings coming out from all sides. The sesame bun was thin and reminded more of McDonald's than any of the delicious brioche buns that are so common in British burgers (such as Patty & Bun and Lucky Chip).
Curious to try more of the menu, I also ordered a hot dog with ketchup (no cheese).
The hot dog was good and tasty, and so was my cheeseburger. The skin-on fries were more of a disappointment: not crispy or "epic" as I have heard them being described online.
Can Five Guys compare to London's best burgers and hot dogs? The answer is no, of course! How can we compare a fast-food chain with a small independent business (such as Lucky Chip, Patty & Bun, Meat Liquor, Big Apple Hot Dogs, etc.)?
Five Guys pride themselves on their fresh and handmade ingredients, but it's still fast-food, not gourmet food. The high standards of burgers in the city have made "us" very demanding about what we eat and where the ingredients come from.
We have researched and tested all products including meat, potatoes and produce. We will fly ingredients over if we have to, but we will source from the UK as long as we can find the same specifications and quality standards.
Also it must be said: the Five Guys burger recently made it on to a list of America’s most unhealthy foods. My cheeseburger was 840kcal, plus 526 calories for the fries and some more for the soft drink. That's nearly the recommended daily calorie intake for a woman my age!
And there's the experience: Five Guys, where you eat out of a paper bag and surrounded by white and red tiled walls, is not the place for a foodie meet-up, it's more the destination for a post-hangover guilty meal.
I doubt it will be a hit with the foodie community, but I'm sure Five Guys will be a success in London and suburbs, where they plan to open five other locations next year. Good luck, Five Guys, and welcome to London.
Disclaimer: I was a guest at a Five Guys party. All views are my own.
I tried Five Guys for the first time in NYC 6 months ago, and am looking forward to seeing if they’ve changed anything for the London branch. I totally agree with what you say in terms of atmosphere, and comparing like-for-like for burger places.
Mmmm…I have never tried Ed’s Diner. I usually eat burgers from places like Honest Burgers, Lucky Chip, Patty & Bun, Meat Liquor and so on. The only chain I go to is Byron.
I was really interested about all the fuss over Five Guys launching in London. I’ve eaten at Five Guys in the US and yes, for fast food, it’s okay. Nothing more, nothing less. Certainly nothing to get excited about! Reading your review kind of confirmed my opinion :-) Looking at the prices on the menu in your photograph, they do seem to be aiming at the market currently occupied (in London at least) by the likes of Ed’s Diner. Any thoughts on how Five Guys compares? Thanks, Brian.