Occupying a prime slab of city centre real estate on the first floor of St David’s 2, Shake Shack is brand new- as I write this, it’s been open for less than three hours- and is their first UK branch outside London, extending the narrative of Cardiff as somewhere even star ‘brands’- hello Burger and Lobster, hello Wahaca-see as fertile ground.
They’re clearly keen to get things right, with staff from London and New York in town for the opening. Although the template is recognisably Shake Shack- one of the team told me that the tables here look exactly like his tables in New York- there’s also a sense of place in the menu, of which more later.
Burgers are cooked to order- you are given a choice of medium or well done, which is welcome. You’re issued with a buzzer/beeper/flashing thingy (yes, I clearly am to I.T. what Donald Trump is to political moderation. And good hair.) Our food was ready within six minutes, due to it being cooked to order.
These are good-looking burgers, but won’t win any beauty contests. The look is more ‘dive bar’ or ‘roadside’ burgers, in a simple paper wrap. The roll has that sexy squidgability that is so important; fans of NABB (Not Another Bloody Brioche) will be relieved to hear their house roll is potato bread.
The Smoke Shack (topped with bacon and cheese, £7.50), was a fine handful of food, with the sweetness of diced cherry peppers in the sauce an unusual but welcome addition. The beef is obviously sourced and cooked well, with a policy of using 100% Aberdeen Angus resulting in a well-seasoned patty deep in flavour.
It’s good to see crinkly fries on the menu, too- and they were excellent too, light and crisp. There’s ketchup and mayo and mustard a-plenty nearby to satisfy your dipping requirements.
The Shake Stack (£8.75) answers that age-old dilemma.
The ‘I quite fancy the sound of their veggie option. But am I really going to pass up the chance of beef?’
That one. And it’s solved in glorious fashion by sitting their roasted mushroom, filled with cheese sauce and coated in crumb… on a cheeseburger.
And it tastes pretty damn good, too, with the crispness of that coating holding up very well to the beef and the slathering of sauce. Recommended.
It’s encouraging to see local beers Celt Experience and Tiny Rebel Local brews featuring, though I fancied trying something new so went for a pint of their own beer, Shackmeister Ale.
(Not, as I misheard against the bustle and din of last night’s opening event) ‘Shagmeister’.
That would be something else. Entirely.
The US restaurants are supplied by Brooklyn Brewery- if you’re going to collaborate, do it with someone brilliant. The UK beer is brewed by the highly regarded Thornbridge- their Jaipur IPA is well worth tracking down- and was absolutely on the nail here: the perfect crisp accompaniment to these burgers. The milkshake (£5.25) was exemplary, just thick and thin enough, and with a good amount of peanut butter.
That local element I mentioned earlier? In keeping with tradition, each Shake Shack offers some local variations in its ‘Concretes’, unique to each branch. Nice touch. Here, you might go for Cardiff Crunch-Stellation, but my eye was drawn to Welsh Cake Jam (£5). The ingredients are pretty much what you think they are, but the kicker here is the donation to local homeless charity The Wallich (check out http://www.thewallich.com/about-us/) every time you buy one. Pieces of Welsh cake, made locally, blended with strawberry jam and their thick vanilla ice cream? Why not?
Which brings on to the staff: every person I spoke to last night and this morning seemed excited to be working for this company, proud of what they were offering and full of praise for their training. That’s refreshing to a jaded old hack such as your humble correspondent.
Oh, and they have dog treats on the menu. Yes, you read that right.
Price is an issue. Especially for families; two of us spent £35. Price-wise, Shake Shack is positioning itself squarely between the mass market high street chains, and the likes of Gourmet Burger Kitchen. The burgers will hit the spot, no doubt; the sides are hard to fault. This is burger and fries for grown-ups. It just might be more of an occasional treat, if you’re a family: but taken all in all, this is a welcome opening.
It’s heartening to see an international chain take the time to provide uniquely Welsh touches on its menu: competitors, take note.
Monday – Saturday, 11:00 23:00
Sunday – 11.00 – 21.00
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.