Concrete garden where dreams are made of | Shake Shack, 24 Market Building, The Piazza, London WC2E 8RD
When you’re chatting to a member of staff at the one of the most eagerly awaited restaurants to hit London, the last thing you expect them to say is ‘I don’t really rate the burgers, I prefer GBK‘. This guy seemed genuinely flummoxed at Shake Shack’s popularity. We were mildly amused, but also saddened that the staff may not be as passionate as the customers.
More than a week late to the party, the huge Covent Garden site was still heaving. Meanwhile, a (passionate this time) member of staff flown in from New York admires the building crowd. He said the queue waiting time has been a steady 45 minutes since Shake Shack opened their first UK site on July 5th. But we know for a fact that the queue has been longer – a group of ‘friends of friends’ bought a box of lager and ‘made a night of it’, such is the appeal of this burger mecca. Sat in the piazza while opera booms out from below us we felt like tourists in London, in a good way, not an eating at an Aberdeen Steak House sense.
Although this is undoubtably the best spot in the restaurant, it’s also possibly the most cluttered and compressed. Perhaps it’s intentional to get people moving. Anyhow, we were excited to be here, we visited the original shack in NYC Madison Square on the weekend we got engaged at the oh-so-cool Ace Hotel. Being limited for time we swapped the burger queue for the Concretes (frozen custard) so were officially Shake Shack virgins. Ace is also heading for London – a hotel is soon to land in Shoreditch, who needs New York!
I cooled off with the best strawberry malt £4.50 I think I’ve ever had, whilst Ade quenched his thirst with a large iced tea £3.25. We were only at drinks and already we wanted to try everything on the menu.
Because of my cheese ‘problem’ I couldn’t try the more exciting burgers, such as the SmokeShack £6.50 single/£9 double or the Shack Stack £7.50. Ade had to do this hard work all by himself. Nevertheless, my ShackBurger £5 was gorgeous, and most importantly, I didn’t need to add any condiments. The crinkle cut fries £2.50 tasted a touch synthetic, the kind you had as a kid, but this only made us love them more. The cheese fries £3.50 were really filling, easily enough for two to share. Ade was glad he had ordered a large drink, the blended cheddar cheese sauce is a touch on the salty side.
You can spot a Shake Shack burger a mile off with the bright green lettuce sprouting out, these burgers are so pretty. Firstly, absolute genius idea having a hinge on the buns, love that. No risk or the insides shooting down your front – this is a burger breakthrough. These magic buns are made by a small company called Martin’s and shipped to London from Pennsylvania. Ade couldn’t decide between the Shack Stack and the SmokeShack, so he had both. The Shack Stack was amazing, the breaded crisp-fried, cheese-filled portobello mushroom was almost enough to turn him vegetarian… Good job it was sat on top of a 100% Aberdeen Angus grass-fed beef patty. On to the SmokeShack, the same beef patty topped with well done slices of British free-range Wiltshire bacon and subtle spicy chopped cherry peppers.
The Brooklyn brewery have exclusively brewed the ShackMeister Ale for London, £2.50 half, £4.50 pint. Frog’s Leap in Napa Valley have produced a wine but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time or belly capacity to try both, the ale however was as good as you’d expect from Brooklyn .
When it came to choosing Concretes (frozen custard) we were faced with an impossible decision yet again – so we had three. In our heads it was OK as we walked to Covent Garden from work, surely that would burn some fat, right?
From top to bottom, the Drury Lane Jam - vanilla custard, local strawberry jam, St John Bakery brown sugar biscuit and fresh banana was the creamiest of them all, the most unbelievably pillow-soft texture that filled our mouths with joy . We liked this one so much that after we’d finished it we went strip mining for the vanilla in the depths of the Big Blend.
The Union Shack – chocolate custard, St John Bakery hazelnut brownie, fudge sauce, Paul A Young chocolate chunks and sea salt. You can’t go wrong with anything involving Paul’s chocolate, add to this the soft almost cookie dough like brownie and you get pure heaven.
Big Blend – chocolate and vanilla custard, St John Bakery, brown sugar biscuit and chocolate hazelnut brownie. This was the best of both of the above Concretes, the brown sugar biscuits very much like a blondie. All £4 single/£6.50 double.
Our next mission is to find a cute dog to borrow for the day as Shake Shack caters for our canine friends too. Offering Bag O’ Bones - Doggie bag of red velvet dog biscuits by Bocce’s Bakery £4 or even a Concrete Pooch-ini - Red velvet dog biscuits, peanut butter sauce and vanilla custard £3 - Amazing. Talking of dogs, we’ll have to have to come back again and bring the kids so we can try a flat top dog… Any excuse, one trip was never going to be enough.
24 Market Building, The Piazza
London WC2E 8RD
Telephone: 0203 5981360
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday, 11:00 – 23:00
Sunday,11:00 – 22:30
Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Leicester Square