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Introducing 'fast casual' - quick, simple, all American hamburgers
To be America’s fastest growing burger chain is impressive, for obvious reasons. Now, as Five Guys breaks the UK, it’s begun by infiltrating the discernible South East – with all its ‘artisan’ vans and local meat sourcing.
After seeing its Covent Garden flagship fry its way to success, openings in the likes of Islington, Guildford, and now Bluewater have followed. The Dartford mall's arrived on April 14.
It’s difficult to place Five Guys. What I see as ‘fast food’ is described as ‘fast casual’ by the company. Indeed, its burgers are made with fresh, grain-fed beef; fries are cooked in peanut oil; there are no freezers at all, everything is prepared each morning.
All that, when feeding a country nearly as ravenous for such cuisine as those in its native land, is notable – but of course would be rendered wholly pointless were it not to improve taste.
I don’t eat at obvious competitors Burger King, or McDonald’s, but it’s clear Five Guys offers a more sophisticated and cleaner premise. The likes of upmarket burger chains such as Byron and Gourmet Burger Kitchen meanwhile are playing a different game; so too are independent joints producing the ‘dirty’ hipster stuff.
It seems the brand can celebrate its separation from the pack then, resulting, evidently, in establishing a solid foundation to do as well here as across the pond.
At the launch earlier this month my dining partner and I visited Bluewater for the first time. Evading the overpriced chocolate eggs and getting distracted by a flavoured vodka stall (too sweet, low alcohol, disgusting), we were happy to find Five Guys.
We had two ‘little hamburgers’ – just one patty rather than two! – two ‘small fries’, one in Cajun seasoning, and a couple of beers, which were Brooklyn Lager, pleasingly.
Firstly, any burger allowing inordinate variations of toppings at no extra cost will peak my affections. I went for pretty much everything, too many to list – but pickles, hot sauce, grilled onions, and fried mushrooms featured.
The beef, cooked in the traditional American way, was ‘well-done and glistening’, yet retained some moisture in between its cushioning buns. And the chips were soft inside and nicely golden. I wasn’t bothered by our greed-fuelled hot dog, particularly. But then I’ve always preferred a proper English sausage completely destroyed on a BBQ in the rain.
Anyway, if Bluewater is anything to go by Five Guys will soon spread further. It’s generous, flexible, and isn’t as painful on the calorie count as you might expect.
Most important for me though is it does ‘fast casual’ very well – whatever that is. As far as I know 'fast casual' is Five Guys, which for me simply satisfies with an old-style American hamburger for under £5. There’s no risk, which is often not the case when trying something cooked by a bearded guy in a beanie.
Our bill, with two beers, two burgers, two fries, and a hot dog, was just over £26.00
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