First came New York Bagels, then milkshake bars, burritos and now, the current hip foodstuff of choice for a food loving Londoner is the gourmet burger. Since last summer a number of gourmet burger restaurants have opened up in the capital with the latest entry onto the market being American chain Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Covent Garden, London. Name ring a bell? The Five Guys burger is responsible for this viral food review.
Anything that can elicit such a comical reaction is worth investigating;, so I headed down to Five Guys with my housemate one recent Wednesday to see how Five Guys stood in the already crowded dirty burger market. First things first; it'd be remiss of me to not mention that we had to queue 15 minutes for the privilege to enter Five Guys. Boasting an already burgeoning reputation on the fast food market, your average trip to Five Guys could come with anything up to 45 minute wait to enter; hopefully buzz shall have died down somewhat as time passes since initial opening but I recommend you avoid visiting at peak hours if you simply fancy a quick bite to eat.
Five Guys goes for a classic 50s Americana style diner and my friend, the talented Michael Hardy with a love of all things Americana assures me they’ve absolutely nailed the vibe. Nearly nothing is lost in the tran-Atlantic translation with all you eat monkey nuts on serve while you decide on your burger/heart attack in a bun of choice.
After venturing to a few burger joints around London I tend to put each burger establishment into one of two camps. Some restaurants, such as the West End’s Patty & Bun (and purveyors of the best burger I’ve ever had) offer a limited selection of options for a trade in quality; they’ll often be no more than three or four burgers, patties are served close to medium rare and you can taste a lot more of the interplay between the flavours and ingredients in each dish. The meat tastes like something. Others, (towards the Byron spectrum of burger dining) tend to go for the “more is more” approach, giving diners the sort of sort of meat monstrosities previously available only in our most starved “Man vs. Food" fever dreams; you want onion rings and extra crispy bacon in your burger with jalapeños? You’ve got it; but other than “spicy”, “meaty” and “crunchy”, you’d have difficulty in describing your meals other than “food, and lots of it”.
Five Guys sits largely in the latter camp. Those expecting a nuanced meal with subtle flavours may be disappointed. All burger patties are a uniform well done meat temperature and choice is largely offered by the free toppings on offer. Any of the four burgers and hot dogs on choice can be fully customised from a menu of fifteen toppings including sauces, onions and peppers. You can pick as many or as little as you like, or you can do what I did and get the full works on your bacon cheeseburger (I’m assuming you’re getting the bacon cheeseburger, Five Guys isn’t a place for half measures) and chow down. Five Guys isn't trying to charm you like other burger restaurants, it's trying to have a cow hug your gullet - it's a Burger Valhalla, offering enough beef and potato to make you rue every wasted penny you've spent in pretenders to the throne such as Bryon Burger. An indicator of a good burger is if its capable of rendering you incapable of speech afterwards, one bite and all you can manage is your manliest nod to your eating companion as you try and struggle for breathing space. One bite into my bacon cheeseburger and I encountered another problem; I was so impressed by the burger I found myself unable to to take a second bit as amy face was fixed in meat fuelled permagrin - this is a solid eating experience.
French fries are served in abundance. You get so many with your order I feel the need to repeat that with caps lock. French fries are served IN ABUNDANCE. The small joy you get when you get when you find a few fries at the bottom of your McDonalds? Take that and multiply it by fifty. Your average serving cup holds about 30% of your regular order. The "and fries" is more than just an addendum to the restaurant's moniker; french fries at Five Guys are some of the best around, soft and fluffy while still providing a satisfying thickness in texture to bite down on, Five Guys fries deserve all the accolades they’ve pulled in. (I must point out that they are fried in peanut oil so those with allergies will unfortunately have to miss out.)
In terms of beverages, Five Guys possesses one of the most astonishing drinks machines ever created by man. An unlimited refill soda effort similar to a Nandos experience, you’ll be taken aback buy the number of drinks stored in the machine. A eat in experience at Five Guys can provide you with over 100 drinks to compliment your meal. One hundred. On my first trip, I manoeuvred up to the drinks machine to get a regular Coca Cola; the machine then queried, “Would you like regular cola, cherry cola, vanilla cola, cherry vanilla cola (apparently there’s a difference) and so forth. Several flavours of Powerade are an option. For the person who wants to bulk but stay well hydrated I suppose. A hundred flavour options combining to theoretically provide an infinite amount of drink combinations I'd recommend a visit to Five Guys on its drinks alone, its that much of an ace in the hole.
In the end, my Five Guys experience is one of the more enjoyable I’ve had eating out in London. For around £18 (ordering the most expensive burger, regular fries and a drink) I experienced the type of satisfying food coma outside of post Christmas dinner. Foodies expecting a bit more nuance to their burger may go away slightly disappointed but I think it ranks as one of the better "chain" dirty burger experiences out there, ahead of Shake Shack (which is a bit too "clean" for my tastes) and possibly tied with MEATliqour. It's certainly worth a visit, just plan a 20 minute walk around Leicester Square afterwards to sweat out the food baby...
You can find out more about Five Guys and their unique online ordering system here, on their official website.
Enjoy, comment and criticise. And if you want to be meaner than the comments will allow then my Twitter is@Ankaman616
This article originally featured on Carl Anka's personal website, Sharper Living.