July 5th 2012.
Verdict: Very high quality at gourmet burger prices.
The Diner is one of a chain of seven around London, each set up to feel like a 1950s American style Diner, albeit a 1950s American style Diner perhaps imagined by some vague historian in a distant dystopian, minimalist, future, sci-fi world. All the elements are there, the booths, the soundtrack, the americana, the garish lighting, the neon. All just sitting in the uncanny valley somewhere between The Fifth Element and IKEA.
That said, the food is really good. Quality ingredients, well prepared an plenty of them. The sides are huge and well cooked. I have honestly never left The Diner in any way hungry. The selection of drinks is wide, from quality micro brewery beer & cider to ‘hard shakes’. Definitely one of the best burger joints around London but at a price just a bit too premium to be regularly visited, save it for special occasions.
Verdict: Quality Fast Food at near Fast Food Prices, except without the ‘Fast’.
“They just opened a Shake Shack on the block and there’s never a line” said Lily in a recent episode of How I Met Your Mother and within days they did open a Shake Shack on the block, well, in Covent Garden Market Piazza. A mere coincidence, a sign from the universe or targeted brand placement during franchise expansion? I guess we will never know, but one thing is certain there is always a line, a queue, a long queue.
It was my third attempt to eat there when I found the queue short enough for my patience. Average wait at peak dining times is around 30 mins to place an order then 10-20 mins for the order to be ready. Between Lunch and Dinner time on a Thursday afternoon was about 5 minutes to place the order and 8 minutes for the order to be ready, so still not as fast as a fast food burger restaurant.
However Shake Shack are not really a fast food joint, although they resemble one, and they are not really a gourmet burger bar either, although the quality of their food is close to that level. The burgers, hot dogs & fries are all flavourful, the meat is certainly top quality, the bread is succulent, the frozen custard dessert is delish. My main criticism about the food would be that the portions are all very small, and indeed scaled to match each other and the bottles etc, so that in photos they appear full size… like a miniature village. The fries are average crinkle cut frozen fries, the cheese sauce is exactly the fake goo you would imagine and again the portion is small, so I think the cheese fries are ridiculously overpriced. However they are probably the only menu item that is so overpriced, everything else comes in at around standard fast food prices. The Kernel Brewery London supply some very nice bottled beers.
Rolling Stones :: Hyde Park :: July 6th, a set on Flickr.
For the past few years I’ve enjoyed the summer concerts in Hyde Park from outside the event fence, usually among a big crowd of people loving the weather and the free music from acts such as The White Stripes, Blur and Daft Punk.
Last Saturday’s show by the Rolling Stones drew the biggest crowd I’ve seen there by far. The PA was a little louder than usual and from the front gate you can see the screens. It is down the west side of the fence where the sound is best this year though, the stage is facing towards the sunset and the speakers are not far from the boundary. The crowd had such a good atmosphere and I would definitely recommend going down this coming Saturday if you want to catch a free Stones gig.
Verdict: Only slightly better than McD/BK at Gourmet Burger prices.
The hype surrounding Five Guys first UK franchise opening is incredible. Touted as being “Obama’s favourite burger” and launched with multiple awards and glowing reviews from stateside, I decided the day after opening to give them a try.
The restaurant itself has a garishly 80’s feel, clean tiles with black and white and red all over. The sound system is very harsh, tinny, unnecessarily loud and prevents conversation with it’s middle of the road, soft rock soundtrack. You have to queue to order the food and then queue again to collect the order.
The food is served in a brown paper bag, the burger wrapped in foil causing the grease from the food to spread everywhere. The burger is good quality meat, hand prepared and the bun is decent quality bread, but it seems excessively greasy and even with a selection of the ‘free toppings’ the burger was bland and almost flavourless. The fries are cooked with their jackets still on in peanut oil, trumpeted as a health benefit, being low in cholesterol. As part of this gimmick they also provide free peanuts to customers. This oil gives the fries an interesting flavour, but I found them to be slightly too salty and although there were a lot of them in the regular portion I still don’t believe they are worth the price.
The main standout feature is in the selection of drinks. The premium beers are from Brew Dog and the soda allows free refills from the machines. There are only two self service soda machines, resulting in queues, but the selection of flavours available on the touch screen are many, including Grape Sprite, Lime Coke and several others that I don’t believe are available elsewhere.
Overall the quality of the food was average and bland, around the level of standard fast food chains except being sold at the price of a gourmet burger restaurant, of which there are many better options in the area. Upon leaving my clothes smelled horribly of cooking burgers and frying peanut oil, something that generally doesn’t occur at any of their rivals.