There are some really great burgers these days in London yet Five Guys feels to us another instance of clever marketing over a decent product. The menu has a section dedicated to media quotes saying how great Five Guys is, the walls are decorated with more quotes (or possibly the same quotes) telling you how great Five Guys is: they clearly don't believe in the old literary rule of 'show don't tell'. The problem is however that after all these quotes pumping up the product, the final outcome seems even more disappointing as a result. Clearly they don't believe in managing expectations either. More likely though, they actually believe it and we understand that they are rolling out Five Guys across the UK over the course of the year so soon, regardless of where you are, you'll be able to decide for yourself.
The menu here is simpler than Shake Shack, there's not even a milk shake on it, instead, it's just burgers, a couple of veggie sandwiches, fries and drinks. Burgers can be 'little' or 'regular' but even this somewhat fooled us. Expecting the 'little cheeseburger' to be a slider or something similar, it turns out that 'little' is what we would call normal (or a single patty burger) and their regular hamburger is actually a double patty affair. I presume this is a quirk that every Five Guys fan knows and loves, but we felt it was a typical corporate mugging to get the first time customer (currently about 58 million Brits) to spend several quid more than they would if they actually understood what they were actually ordering (nowhere did we see it explained). The result is that while Five Guys appears to be a premium priced burger compared to Shake Shack, it actually costs only a little more. Single Shake Shack cheeseburger, £4.75, Five Guys 'Little cheeseburger' £5.50. Shake Shack double cheeseburger £7.25, Five Guys regular (read double) cheeseburger £8.
When you collect, the burgers wrapped in foil go in the bag, so does a styrofoam cup of fries, and then a second tray of fries is emptied on top, worth knowing when you ravenously tear open the bag at your table. On the subject of the fries, they felt tired though given how busy it is, they couldn't possibly be old, surely, but they lacked crunch and presence and we couldn't have eaten more than ten between us.
When I opened my burger, I was shocked, it looked like five guys had sat on it before they wrapped it and served it to me. This mostly seems the norm though (looking at other bloggers' photos also), meaning that the bun is compact and dense, not airy and fluffy. I'm immediately put off. The patties have something on Shake Shack's however, with texture and flavour so it's overall a better burger. It's still not great however. And look, clearly the double burger is Five Guys signature thing, but it's harder to cook two thin burgers well than a single plump one. With a dense roll also, at the half way stage, it simply felt like hard work rather than something enjoyable. Relief washed over me as I decided not to finish the final third. It felt like just another corporate burger, lacking the love that is so readily apparent in owner driven outlets like Patty & Bun.
There are no desserts here, so that's it. We headed home with a sense of disbelief, is this really what all the fuss is about? Clearly Five Guys is a big thing in America but if the offering here is comparable to there, the UK has bought into a fantasy that the US is some kind of burger utopia when in reality, we're already doing it better right here. As we strolled back, we put the question out there: between Shake Shack, Five Guys and McDonalds, which would you go to (if you had to). The answer: whichever is closest.