Saturday, 13 July 2013

Restaurant review: Five Guys, Covent Garden

Shamelessly wanting to be at the crest of the London restaurant wave, Sartre and I darted in here for a burger on a scorching Saturday afternoon. Well, I say darted, but I mean dawdled, as we joined the queue of other early adopters, patriotic Americans and tourists who assumed something big was going on.

The queue moved swiftly while we perused the menu. Well, I say menu, but I mean flyer. That didn't take long, so we killed time remarking on the startling similarity of the Five Guys branding and that of a mini-cab firm.

I know this place is doing insane business here in this new London outpost, following its conquering of the States, but I wasn't wholly convinced.

Things I liked:

- That double patties come as standard.
- The fact the burgers come wrapped in sheets of no-nonsense foil.
- That toppings are free and in fine variety.
- That bonafide American serving staff are strategically positioned at key moments of truth - I give you the easy chit-chattin' doorman, and the gritty New Jersey lady who yells your number when it's time to collect your food, then gives you a winning smile and a "have a nice day".
- The smarter than average self-serve Coke machines, that dispensed every flavour of soft drink you've ever encountered or imagined.
- That everything's fresh - they proclaim in person and in poster that there are no freezers on-site.

Things I didn't like:

- The self-congratulatory signage EVERYWHERE. Winner of Best Burger in Wisconsin.  The USA's favourite fries. Voted Best Bun in New Mexico. Victor of the Relish Wars in Rhode Island. I'm here, I'm in - you already got me. It's like pulling someone average-looking at a club, and having them phone their sister so she can list out all their good qualities on the cab ride back to yours.
- The fries. Although I learned (from one of the many backslapping posters, cf previous point) that Five Guys fries are Brooklyn's favourite, they didn't come close to a chip-shop chip. I found these chips limp and moist.  Five Guys think they are Lord of the Fries. I do not.
- That they fill your bag with chips in addition to the chips you actually bought, which come in a cup. Putting aside the fact I wasn't sold on the pre-eminence of their chips, there's something grotesque about this. And, unlike the piggy thrill you get from sneaking the one or two that find their way to the bottom of the bag in McDonalds, this was just gut-busting excess that no-one could hope to finish.
- The decor. More accurately, the lack of any kind of decor whatsoever.

Glad I've done it but not desperate to go back.

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