Almost perfect (albeit pricey) takeaway patty smash
Shake Shack needs little introduction. A US import, with food-stand to National chain heritage (albeit via the medium of a large food services company), it arrived in the UK in 2013 and expanded slowly from its original location in Covent Garden. In addition to its dozen or so physical locations, it runs a dozen “dark kitchens” with Deliveroo, starting peak pandemic and evidently thriving.
So, when Lisa and James (who I was catching up with) asked me what I wanted to do for takeaway dinner, and Shake Shack was provided as an option… well, I felt I was long overdue.
James warned me that the burgers were ‘small’ but I assumed that he was using the same mindset to describe it that I use when I go shopping when I’m hungry – i.e. one informed entirely by greed. So I flexed my willpower and ordered a single smokestack burger (cheeseburger with applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers, shack sauce), and we shared a time limited herb mayo bacon fries (crinkle cut fries with – you guessed it – herb mayo and bacon, sprinkled with chopped spring onions), and – largely because Simon was mocking me about it at Black Bear Burger and I relented – we shared ten chicken bites.
The meat of it
Post unboxing, this is how it presented.
Turns out, James wasn’t seeing this through a lens of greed. This is a small burger (4oz max, at a guess), but in a delightfully soft, brilliantly yellow brioche bun. A perfectly melted American cheese is evident and dark, crisp bacon peeks around the edges. You can sense rather than see the shake shack sauce.
In cross section, those peppers come into evidence, and the burger squishes into further submission. The knife didn’t so much cut through the applewood bacon as shatter it along a fault line, it is crisper than Walkers. The burger’s a little dry, though: no fatty ooze, and only the faintest hint of the shake shack sauce.
First bite: this is umami-tastic. The textural contrast is superb – melty cheese, soft, coarse ground, well season, well-charred meat, crunchy bacon, sweet soft brioche and creamy – if slightly too sparse – shake shack sauce. The red peppers didn’t add, for me, what this burger needed – bright, sweet acidity. Give me a pickle, any day. And a couple of dollops more of the shake shack sauce to make up for the dryness of the patty-smash-plus-delivery-travel combo. And… I think a double is not too greedy given the proportion of the burger. But really, all in all, a splendid takeaway burger.
The world underestimates crinkle cut fries. Or maybe it’s just me, too used to having them slightly underdone from a McCain’s bag when I’m rushing cooking supper at home. But well done – as these are – they are beautiful, full of crisp surface area, replete with soft, hot, luscious potato. The ‘herb and bacon [and spring onion]’ build is self-assembly, provided in pots and tipped ingloriously over them, adding creamy sweetness (from the mayo), bright freshness (the spring onion) and crispy crunch (guess from where?). It’s great, though for the price – £7 ish IIRC – the portion is far too small.
The chicken bites were reasonably seasoned, hot, juice, somewhat crisp and fresh. BUT – another £7 or so later – they were hugely erratically sized, the supplied BBQ sauce was saccharine and insipid, and – on the whole – I’d rather have had another burger.
Overall, a great experience. Not the best value small-burger-and-fries you’ll ever have, but an excellent takeaway treat, especially if you are low on salt.
Monkey finger rating
Bun – 4.5/5
Build – 4.5/5
Burger – 4.5/5
Taste – 4.5/5 – just the dryness! And the indeterminate peppers!
Sides – 4/5 – good fries, meh nuggets, overpriced
Value – 3.5/5 – it is a lot of money for an undersized burger and overpriced sides
Burger rating – 4/5 – an excellent, albeit overpriced and every so slightly dry takeaway burger
Most of the restaurants seem to be in London at the moment, but the dark kitchens are more dispersed. So, you know, deliveroo it! A full list of locations can be found here.