I try to avoid writing disparaging commentary about restaurants, so when I had a disappointing experience in Miami a few months ago — I fancied a burger, a friend recommended a chain with a high reputation, I went there and was decidedly unimpressed — I decided to just let it go.
But now I've discovered that this US burger chain is opening up in London. So I can no longer remain silent.
The chain is called Five Guys and they've just opened a branch in Covent Garden. I paid them a visit — the place was bustling, busy and obviously already a considerable success — and asked the pleasant and helpful staff there about their cooking policy, which it turns out is the same as in the States. So I can confidently assure you the end result will be the same as I experienced in Miami. And it was not good.
There are many things to commend Five Guys. The restaurants are inviting, nice design, friendly service, the chips are tasty, the toppings are free... but my praise ends there. The burgers are not, in my humble and purely personal opinion, worth eating.
Because they insist on cooking them well done. The customer doesn't get any other options. It's well done or no burger. And the result?
A tasteless, colourless, overcooked slab of dry meat at the centre of your bun. You have to stuff the damn thing with those free toppings in a desperate attempt to get some moisture into your meal. But it's no use...
Why boast of your "certified stamped prime fresh beef" if you're just going to cremate the stuff? I know some people prefer their burgers well done, and some go even further, way beyond the Five Guys burger, and devour it burnt (but isn't burnt food a potential health risk?) However, many other people don't want a cremation-burger. Give us rare, medium rare, or medium...
It's also true that in some places, burger joints have to cook their meat well done by law. Luckily, in the UK, that isn't a nation-wide situation.
And that being the case, Five Guys doesn't stand a chance as far as my taste buds are concerned. Not when there are other burger joints like Byron or the mighty wonderful GBK out there.
Make mine medium rare, please.
(Image credit: The — admittedly delicious looking — burger & fries shot is from Battle of California's post about Five Guys versus another US burger chain. The fries pic is from a review on the blog Ink and Paper (Napkins).)