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Filtering by Tag: 3/5 stars

Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger


£8.75 for a double patty Bacon Cheeseburger plus £2.75 for a portion of fries. But was the experience as "posh" as the price? Not really.

It's taken months for me to get this post together, mainly due to a complete lack of enthusiasm for Five Guys and its fare...

So, I got to Five Guys in Covent Garden around 11:30 one morning a few weeks ago. Well, I didn't want to queue and I also had two other burger joints I wanted to visit that day so what the heck - there I was ordering a Bacon Cheeseburger at least an hour before I'd normally consider getting some lunch.

The place is kind of horrible looking from a design / branding perspective. Ill-chosen type combined with black, red and white makes for a bland, joyless interior, which is further uglified by really annoying quotes printed in yet more horrible, sometimes stretched type and stuck to the walls here and there on what might as well be bits of A4. As a fan of good design, this place makes me feel queasy, I just don't get it.

Why would you come to London and set up in Covent Garden – a well-to-do part of town, after all – but allow your restaurant to look like some business students (with no design student friends) took over an old McDonalds restaurant site for a pop up experiment only to find that they've no idea whatsoever about how to make it appear welcoming or friendly or anything other than blandly functional? I'm guessing the answer is simply "it's for tourists, not Londoners".

So, what to order? Well, I was hungry and I didn't want a "little burger" so I opted for a Bacon Cheeseburger which consists of two beef patties, American cheese and crisp bacon and nothing else. The whole concept of Five Guys is that all its burgers come plain and you can pimp them to your particular tastes with a range of free-to-add  toppings which give, apparently, over 250,000 possible ways to order a burger. 

So basically, the concept is that Five Guys has no specific recipe for a blow-your-brains-out awesome burger - just an army of T-shirted folk on hand to delve rubber-gloved hands into plastic buckets of whatever-you-want and shove it into your plain ol' burger of choice. The plastic-tubbed toppings available to add to your burger are lettuce, onions, tomato, pickles, green peppers, jalapeño pepper, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish, HP sauce, BBQ sauce, and hot sauce. I opted for grilled onions, lettuce and tomato.

Then, once your burger has been hand built to order, it's wrapped in tin foil and placed in a brown paper bag along with the rest of your order. If you order fries, be aware that a small fries is ENORMOUS. If only they'd been crisp.

As for the burger itself, it steams and continues to cook in the foil wrapper so you need to get that package open pronto. I found a seat and unwrapped it mere moments after I'd been handed it at the counter but the bun already looked like someone had sat on it, which in a way actually suited it quite well as it was of the cheapest, white seeded variety – the kind that does its job of housing a burger without contributing to the ensemble's flavour profile. To be honest, this is one of my favourite type of burger buns - but my first bite kicked thoughts of burger bun types into touch and instead raised some concerns about the viscosity of the just-melted cheese. With just a little more R'n'D, this sticky yellow stuff could just negate the need for all forms of welding.

The grilled onions had been cut into small squares, the taste and texture of which suggested they'd more likely been boiled than grilled – they were slimy and tasteless. Probably just as well seeing as the meat was also too bland to withstand the oomph of a decent bit of onion. The beef patties had managed to become super-heated (and over cooked) in the foil. They were juicy but not in texture so much as in that they eminated a thin horrible grease. My hands smelled like a butcher's shop afterwards (rather than of burger or of cooked beef). Shudder.

OK, look, the burger wasn't awful. As fast food burgers go, it was pretty substantial and when I totted up my score, it got the bare minimum to scrape a three star status. BUT at £11.50 for burger and fries this meal demands to be compared, not to fast food burgers, but to the "posh" ones served by Byron, Honest, Patty & Bun and the like. And the simple truth is that nothing about what Five Guys is doing stands up to the offerings of our more talented homegrown burger vendors.

If it had arrived on these shores say ten years ago when only McDonald's and Burger King were the main burger players in the UK, then maybe Five Guys would have been seen to raise the fast food burger game. However, in the age of the gourmet burger and in the wider context of British gastronomy in 2013, Five Guys seems to be something of an anachronism: last decade's food, served today. But with zero enthusiasm or verve.


Five Guys
1-3 Long Acre

Five Guys Burgers & Fries on Urbanspoon

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Burger-BBQ-Whisky-Beer BBQ Pork Burger


£8.50. What's this, a burger pop-up in West London? Could it be true? I headed out west to investigate Burgers-BBQ-Whisky-Beer...

It's a bit of a schlep for me, but I headed out to Ravenscourt Park a week ago with Hannah from the Burgers and Bruce blog to check out pub pop-up, Burgers-BBQ-Whisky-Beer, set up in the former Grand Union pub at 243 Goldhawk Road, W12...

Truth be told it was as much a social occasion as it was a burger-reviewing mission and so actually besides a few shots of my burger when it arrived, I didn't take any other photos as I was chatting away and, you know, stuffing my fat face.

There are six burgers on this pop-up's menu – three of which are aged beef burgers. There's the Half Pound (£7.50), which comes with bacon, cheese, pickles and relish; the BBQ Pork (pictured throughout this post, £8.50) which comes with cheese, pulled pork and slaw; and the Beef Royal (£8.50) which comes with short rib and truffle mayo.

There's also a Fried Chicken burger (£7.50), a Mac + Cheese burger, and a Fish + Chip burger on offer as well as sides including Chicken Wings with blue cheese sauce (£5), Chips / Chilli Slaw / Green Salad all at £2.50.

I was hungry but slightly wary of ordering the Half Pound burger, thinking it might be a double-patty monster. And seeing as I was planning to gorge myself on chips and chicken wings AS WELL AS a burger, I plumped for the BBQ Pork option only to find that when it arrived it was obvious that ALL the beef burgers at B-B-W-B are enormous half pound beasts.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for big burgers, but here the patty was simply too big for its bun. In the words of my new burger-buddy Hannah: "er, wide load!" As you can see from my photos, the circumference of the patty is considerably greater than that of the lovely seeded brioche style bun in which it was housed, an imbalance of ingredients which ultimately led to the collapse of my burger before I could finish it.

Structural issues aside, the enormous size of the patty meant that its flavour profile was way too big in the mix. Yes, there was a slice of cheddar cheese, slaw and slightly spicy pulled pork in the burger but you could hardly taste these additional elements. Moreover, the flavour of the patty was a bit weird. At first I thought perhaps there was a subtle herby flavour I couldn't quite put my finger on. But as I persevered, I realised it was the flavour of beef fat that was slightly overshadowing that of the beef. 

Turns out the Burgers-BBQ-Whisky-Beer crew opt for "at least 30% fat" in their patties. Which is a lot. I'd wager that somewhere around 20% might be a better target. The age-old problem (pun intended) with using aged beef for your burger is that the fat-to-meat ratio isn't just about texture, but about carefully balancing flavour. It is, of course, the fat that takes on flavour the more it ages, thus increasing its ability to potentially overpower actual beefiness. To be honest, I don't care how aged the beef is in my burger - or how much fat is in it. Call me old fashioned, but all I really care about is that it's succulent and tastes, more than anything else, of beef.

In summary, the actual venue (an old dimly-lit Grand Union pub) is a really nice spot to spend an evening with friends. The curated selection of beers and Scottish whiskies is well worth exploring, and the chips and wings were pretty decent (although the wings could have been a little crispier). The burgers themselves are certainly indulgent in concept and generous in proportion and there's much evidence that the B-B-W-B crew have been doing their burger-homework.

I had a super evening eating, drinking and chatting here and I think it's hugely encouraging to see this kind of venture pop-up in West London. A few tweaks here and there could bring this cheeky pop-up's fare up to the high standards set by the likes of London's now well-established burger kings.

PS I almost forgot to mention the AWESOME show-stealing Cornflake Sundae we had after our burgers, wings and chips: 


PS, Jan 2013 B-B-W-B has popped up for a few months in the Lord Wargrave pub in Marylebone (40-42 Brendon Street, W1H 5HE) so you CAN check out their fare right now.

Follow the guys on Twitter: @BBQWhiskyBeer  

Tommi's Burger Joint Cheeseburger


£9.40 for "Offer Of The Century" which equates to a cheeseburger, fries and a can of pop. Cheeseburger on its own is £5.80. Fries: £2.90.

People have been raving about Tommi's, the new Icelandic burger joint in town and while I shared my thoughts on its wares in a news post in Burgerapp the day it opened, I thought I'd share them here on the blog too...

Burgerac's New York correspondent, Colonel Mustard, dined at Burger Joint in Reykjavik back in March this year, and reported back to the effect that there wasn't much to report. Well, she's a New Yorker and a burger has to be hella good to impress her. Some readers might recall that she controversially gave Shake Shack only four out of five Burgerac stars last year. Anyways, we both headed to Tommi's at 58 Marylebone Lane the day it opened (on the 6th August) to check it out.

Tommi's is a cosy 25-seat diner with exposed brickwork, lit by lamps and fairy lights. I actually love the premises and the vibe. And to be able to see the chargrill / deep fat fryer action happening just inches behind the guy taking the orders is pretty cool. Burgers start at £5.30 and a basket of fries will set you back £2.90. There's no booze license but there are cans of soft drinks or milkshakes.

But whilst I've since read various rave reviews about Tommi's burgers, mine and Colonel Mustard's first impression was that the burgers were a bit... well... basic.

The buns are lovely and soft – but so is everything else: an accompanying squirt of ketchup and American style mustard (I'm pretty sure they inadvisably use a French's wannabe rather than French's), a frugal slice of tomato, a few scraggly bits of iceberg lettuce and a very thin slice of completely tasteless cheese (optional) make for a somewhat underwhelming burger experience. Tommi's burgers just don't compare to either the well constructed burgers at Honest Burgers which has opened it's second restaurant (in Soho) recently, or the sloppy indulgence of MEATliquor's fare just around the corner.

Tommi's fries are OK in terms of texture (think Maccy Dees) but they taste slightly more of spud than of fried spud. I'm pretty sure they're cooked from frozen and I'm guessing ours were slightly undercooked and under salted.

The promising news, though, is that Tommi's course ground beef patties themselves are remarkably good, very tasty indeed, and ours were perfectly cooked on the rare side of medium.

It seems a shame, then, that Tommi's burgers are thrown together as they would be at a back yard barbecue – there's no real finesse and so the experience hinges on the quality of the beef patties (which, admittedly, are excellent) rather than on the ensemble as a whole.

Above: my second Tommi's burger

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I hope Tommi's will start to show the patties a little more love and put some more thought into the construction of their burgers, because at the moment I wouldn't go out of my way to go back there. There are street vendors serving burgers that are way better put together than these and which cost less. Mother Flipper and Burger Bear (review coming soon) are cases in point.

Mabye I'd be raving about Tommi's if I'd never had a burger before in my life, but I have - and some ruddy good ones at that. For me, Tommi's doesn't compete with London's best burger vendors but because their meat patties are so awesome, I'm not writing them off just yet. I just hope that they realise that in a crowded market place, they're gonna have to do more than simply cook a mean patty.


Tommi's Burger Joint
58 Marylebone Lane

Tommi's Burger Joint on Urbanspoon

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Want to find all of Burgerac's recommended London burger joints at the touch of an iPhone screen? Check out Burgerapp, now available to download from the App Store: