Several years ago now I used to work in the City. In the interests of full disclosure I had nothing to do with finances, nor did I wear a suit. I worked for an event management company that just happened to have an office squirrelled away in the historical back streets area of the City of London.
Whilst in NewYork, I made two rather exciting discoveries. Firstly, that my hotel was located less than 10 minutes walk from the original birth-site of burger-Mecca ‘Shake Shack’ in Madison Square Park. Secondly, that in mid-2013 Shake Shack will be opening its first London branch in Covent Garden’s market building.
Always selflessly preoccupied with doing good deeds for others (ahem!), I decided to take one for the team and try out this famous burger joint, purely in the best interest of my fellow Londoner of course.
Shake Shack was born in Madison Square Park, and what began as a hot-dog cart flogging burgers, has now turned into a 20 site chain, with a big presence in the Middle East, and soon to be opening London branch. Despite its undeniable popularity, the reviews I’d read pre-visit were rather mixed. The best way I could find out how good they were though was to judge for myself. After all, a real American burger was one of the things I was desperate to try whilst in NY, and Shake Shack was certainly ranking up there in the guide league tables.
Warned about the mammoth queues that Shake Shack’s landmark site generates, I headed down there on a Sunday evening around 6pm fully expecting to have to wait at least an hour for my food. What I found was an impeccably oiled machine, where everything is geared towards reducing your wait and making the operation as swift and painless as possible. Imitating a drive-thru, you walk up to the first window, place your order, pay, collect a pager and head off to the ample seating area surrounding the fairy-lit, urban wood and metallic structure. I waited roughly 8mins before my pager burst into life and I headed to the next window to collect my bag of food. Peeking inside I almost let out a squeal of excitement. You see this is what I’d dreamed of – a real life American burger, and it was ALL mine!
I wrapped the bag up tight and began my hurried rush back to my hotel, clutching the food tight to me as I power-walked the 10 blocks back. On arriving back at the hotel, the doorman noticed my bag of plunder and exclaimed that he ‘looooooves Shack Shack’ before he mock chased me to the elevator as if he was going to steal my burger. Yeah, fat chance buddy, I’d like to see him try!
So, back in the privacy of my room I de-robed my supper from its bag and prepared to tuck in. First I tried the crinkle cut fries. If you’re a traditionalist and like your fries to be big chunky lumps of hand-carved potato then these are not going to float your boat I’m afraid. They are 100% ‘fake style chips’ as I call them. Unnaturally crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. And boy they taste heavenly for it! The vanilla milkshake was dreamy also. Not too thick that you risk suffering an embolism trying to suck it up through the straw, but not at all watery and limp in texture. It was just right.
The burger looked an absolute picture. The downside however is that it was swimming in grease. The paper bag that housed it was almost entirely transparent after the walk back, and the soft, sweet bun had soaked up enough grease that it lost its integrity and collapsed on me whilst eating.
Now, I’m not saying that it didn’t have potential. I’m almost certain there was an incredibly delicious burger nestled under that pool of grease it was swimming in, I just had a hard time getting over the fact I was likely accelerating my mortality rate by eating it.
Londoners have become rather big fans of burgers in the last 18months (no doubt a large contributing to Shake Shack’s decision to open up here). However, with that fanaticism has come a rather heavy dose of snobbery. London is now shunning the fast food burger styles for more hearty, mile-high, fresh ingredient options. Just take a look at the popularity of Byron burger and how they seem to be winning over the fast food crowds these days. We like to be asked how we’d like our burgers cooked, we like to see the meat to bread ratio ever decreasing, and we like our selection of cheeses and varying other accompanying burger ingredients to resemble a well-stocked deli counter. In other words, Londoners have become burger aficionados. 5 years ago I imagine we’d have gone utterly nuts for the likes of Shack Shack. Now, I’m not so sure to tell you the truth. If they can tame down the grease factor they may just win round with those fries and milk shakes. I’m seriously tempted to give it another try when they open here just to see how it exports, but I’d be highly unlikely to go back for seconds in NY. I think my inherent gluttony met its match at Shake Shack.
Two weeks ago. I arrived in New York to attend a work conference for a few days. After 36 years, I’d finally made it to New York. Given my ‘delicate condition’ these days I could hardly look forward to long nights spent in penthouse bars necking cocktails until dawn, nor could I locate any disposable income to spend on vast quantities of clothes, as the term ‘disposable income’ ceased to exist to me approximately 6 months ago.
I could however still feed. And feed I did. The next few blog posts will highlight a few of the places I got to try out whilst in NY and in between meetings/conference attending.
We’ll kick off on the Sunday morning I spent in Brooklyn. Fortunately I have friends and family living in NY, so I wasn’t completely at a loss on the non-work days. This particular Sunday I was invited over to Williamsburg by a couple of friends, to meet for brunch (a rather trendy thing to do in that part of town it would seem). I caught the subway over from mid-town and found myself in an area not dissimilar in population to Shoreditch in London. Lots of cool, designer types hanging out drinking coffee and cruising flea markets. It felt like home from home.
On their recommendation we headed to Enid’s for something to eat. We had originally intended to eat at Heath Ledger’s place (the name escapes me), but sadly it seemed so had most of NY. The approx hour long wait we were quoted left us less than inspired, so the call was made to go to Enid’s instead. A decision I was to grow exceptionally grateful to them for.
Although a half hour wait awaited us at Enid’s, at least there was a bar area where we could comfortably perch ourselves and have a few drinks whilst we waited. The kitchsy, dark wood interior felt familiar, as did the teams of young, cool folks digging into pancake stacks and poached eggs. When we finally sat at our table I had seen enough plates pass me by to have built up a furious appetite. The menu at Enid’s suddenly distinguished it from it’s Shoreditch cousins over the sea. The selection of dishes looked exciting, enticing and utterly steps ahead of brunch menus in most of London.
I opted for a twist on eggs benedict which was two poached eggs served atop pulled pork resting on grilled corn-bread wedges, served with a side of rice and beans. One of my friends opted for the same whilst the other chose the smoked catfish cakes with eggs, smoked American bacon and tartar sauce. It was, without doubt one of the best brunches I have ever eaten. My plate was bursting with flavour and really hit the spot with me.
I had sauntered in there, arrogantly predicting that this was to be a meal I would easily be able to find somewhere in the twin district of Shoreditch, but I left surprised, delighted and with my tail firmly stuck between my legs. Oh Enid’s how I wish I could have visited you this morning…and then tomorrow…and the next day.
Enid’s is open for Sunday brunch from 10am – 4pm and is located at 560 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn.
P.S – If you happen to make it to Enid’s, I’m confidently assured that their burgers are up there with the absolute best you can find. Almost worth booking a flight back out for…
Those of you who have read previous posts on here will know that I’m rather a big fan of pizza. Sadly I wasn’t born one of those people who crave fresh fruit, or soy beans, or broccoli. My cross to bear is my constant craving for doughy bases smothered in delicious sauces, piles of cheese and a variety of meats and vegetables. Granted, broccoli may well be one of them…
Given my obsession, and my good fortune with having spent time feeding my face with pizza in Naples, I am somewhat fussy when it comes to the pizza I’ll indulge in. I’m a big fan of places like Datte Foco in Stoke Newington and Santa Maria in Ealing, and now, The Oak in Westbourne Park.
I’ve been reading some really great things about The Thatched House in Hammersmith lately. Firstly, Hot Dinners rated it as one of the best local places to eat in West London, Chris Pople added it to his foodie tube map as the place to visit in Hammersmith, and I read on their website that food writer and now emerging chef extraordinare Rocket & Squash was taking over the kitchen for a night recently. All in all, by my estimations, these factors contribute to a fairly strong recommedation to head down there and see what it’s all about. So, last night we pitched up for a Sunday supper.
It’s been far too long since I last did a blog post and I have missed it. The main reason for this being the recent discovery that there’s a mini feeder on its way, and as a result I have been in a state of perpetual tiredness over the past couple of months and have not ventured out so much to restaurants. For once my belly is not expanding rapidly as a primary result of eating too much.
Hopefully now however, as I regain a bit more energy, I’ll be getting out more frequently.
To kick things off I dragged some friends along to Bone Daddies last night. On recommendation from another friend who knows a thing or two about Japanese food, I decided we’d head there. What better way to deal with a dark and dank wintery Tuesday evening than to dive (head-first) into a steaming bowl of ramen?
The answer? Something quick and easy, yet tasty.
Although my trip to Boston was a great success, my flight home was not. An overnight flight where I had the grand total of 0 mins sleep, followed by a full day’s work meant that by tea-time on Friday my head was orbiting somewhere around 20,000ft above the rest of my body. I knew I needed to eat but couldn’t figure out how on earth to cook. Pasta is always my go-to ingredient when I need something quick and delicious, as it’s so easy to make something that tastes good.
And it doesn’t get much simpler, or delicious, than this…
Last week I was back over in Boston for business. Fortunately on this visit I had more opportunity to explore the variety of feeding holes this fine city has to offer. I am completely and utterly smitten with Boston. Although it’s not know for its fine dining necessarily, the city has a lot of good food to offer, as well as being very clean, cool and friendly.
I don’t know about you, but fish and chips is one of those meals that I crave on a fairly regular basis. Maybe it’s deep rooted in my personal history – I grew up close to the seaside where armies of chip eating Londoners would retreat to whenever the sun came out, so there were plenty of fish and chip shops around as I grew up. Or maybe it’s just that the aroma of salt and vinegar has a spell-binding effect on most people, young and old, and convinces us that we must fill our bellies full of deep-fried foods immediately.
I’m conscious that I’m liable to make myself even more unpopular than I already am with this particular review, as Upstairs at The Ten Bells has been proving so popular of late. However, in an effort to provide an unbiased view, I feel I’ve got to be honest.