In the summer of 2012, an autotuned version of YouTube burger reviewer Daym Drops’ trip to a branch of Five Guys Burgers & Fries posted by musical newsmongers The Gregory Brothers began to catapult the Virginian burger chain to global fame, though those after a taste of the ‘burger with strength’ and the fries that ‘bite back’ were faced with a trip across the Atlantic to any one of the chain’s 1000+ US branches. That was until July, however, when Five Guys opened its first UK store in Covent Garden (which has since been joined by branches in Reading and Islington) and I couldn’t resist a trip to see what all the fuss was about.
Once you have navigated the queue to even enter the restaurant, you are confronted by spartan decor that seems bewilderingly bland for a product of American culture. The white walls are speckled with red tiles and snippets of praise from reviewers and press the world over, and the entrance leads you directly to the counter, bisected by a table covered in bagged potatoes and a box full of complimentary peanuts. Above lies the focused menu (burgers, fries, drinks) with choice of free toppings clearly listed, and I plumped for the flagship sandwich – an ‘all the way’ bacon cheeseburger with regular fries to share. Having collected my brown paper bag filled to the brim with chips and a foil-wrapped burger, I took my seat and prepared my stomach.
On the whole, the meal is worthy of the hype. Though the bun did struggle to stand up to the onslaught of content, the perfectly crisped bacon and juicy burger made for a filling and memorable meal. The award-winning peanut oil-cooked fries, available in regular or cajun-style, are stunning, with crispy coatings, fluffy fillings and preposterously-sized portions. One regular portion, consisting of a filled cup and a scoop straight from the fryer to the bag, comfortably served 3 of us and it would have been a crime to waste a single one. Topping off the meal is the drink, served from a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine with unlimited refills. This machine combines almost every single drink from the Coca-Cola company with almost every flavour in existence, allowing for thousands of combinations of sweetened soft drink nirvana.
Five Guys Burgers & Fries doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. If you want a superb burger experience without the frills, Five Guys will give you that. While not coming in as cheap as conventional fast food outlets (my meal hit £14 in total), this is an experience that needs to be savoured by the burger lovers of the United Kingdom.