Saturday, 14 September 2013

Cordon du Chap: Shake Shack

Covent Garden
24 Market Building
The Piazza
London, WC2E 8RD
0203 5981360

There seems to be an awful lot of hype about burgers these days, a great furore has risen up around what is essentially a piece of meat between two slices of bread. Much the same can be said of hotdogs too. New places are sprouting up across the capital with each one offering their personal stamp, claiming to be the best or, indeed in one case, the most honest! There are now so many burger joints that one can easily develop an apathy towards such establishments and question whether the beef justifies the cost.

I, for my part as a budding gourmet (or gourmand some might say) around the capital have been to a few of these places. each one in turn is good but never better than the burgers that I make using my moulinex mincer and my butcher's steak, likewise with hotdogs using Frankfurters purchased from a polish deli and slathered with Sauerkraut and plenty of French's mustard. 

It was with this signature cynicism that I approached 'Shake Shack', the next "Big Thing" to have been imported from the States, offering the experience of an old fashioned US drive-thru as well as high quality milkshakes and frozen custard. A good friend of mine had been itching to try the place and, being a fellow of curious nature I naturally obliged. 

Located on the south side Covent Garden's old market square the whole place has an inside-outside feel with a first come first served attitude so popular with many de rigeur establishments. I must say I was not looking forward to the long queues that I was assured preceded placing an order at this place but being a Brit I was well used to standing in line and tapping an impatient foot to indicate my silent disapproval. 

Guess what? No queue! I couldn't believe it, we were given a menu and ushered behind a gaggle of excited people who had made up their minds while we were left floundering trying to decipher the simple looking (but deceptively complex) menu. The basic choices were clear but there was a plethora of choices within choices - add-ons and accoutrements to tantalise the tastebuds, it made it easy to get lost. 

Shunning the burger crowd I opted for a hot dog and some of the eatery's crinkle cut fries. On this visit I had a Shackago Dog, a fantastic array of kosher beef sausage, onion, cucumber, tomato, gherkin and the house's signature relish. My companion of the evening went for a beautifully cooked cheese burger and some cheesy fries. On a second visit I went one better with a a gut-busting ShackMeister Dog a crazy mix of Cumberland sausage, melted American cheese and crispy fried onions, I could feel my heart flutter on every mouthful! 

The mains are one thing, and done very well, but the puddings are another. If you've never tried concrete then you are missing out big time. Shake Shack sets itself aside from its competitors by offering a large range of American-themed frozen custards ranging from milk shakes to ice cream - Concrete falls somewhere in between and is a triumph of decadence! Using a simple blender the establishment mixes vanilla ice cream with all manner of delicious ingredients from salted caramel, Oreo cookies, berry jam, pretzels and many more. My personal favourite which I had on both occasions that I visited was 'Concrete Jungle' a heady mix of banana, caramel and peanut butter, it felt like America in a cardboard cup! My companion on my second visit went for the ever-so-moreish 'Sticky Toffee' a collation of Vanilla, chocolate toffee, chocolate chunks, salted caramel sauce and malt powder which she declared was utterly fabulous. 

Luckily you can also drink there so it is perfect both for lunch and dinner, try and order one of their own brand beers if you can, it went very well with my hot dog! 

Needless to say, I enjoyed myself very much at Shake Shack, it is good value, excellently prepared food, I hope they can keep it up in a market where the further a franchise grows the more mediocre it becomes. My advice is to live for the moment, go now and enjoy it while you can!

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