Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack to Open in London’s Covent Garden in 2013? That’s hands down the most exciting restaurant news I’ve heard in months.
Whilst it seems like almost every other day that I get a press release telling me about something new and shiny opening up in Covent Garden: the Chanel Beaute pop up, Opening Ceremony, Laduree, Manhattan’s Balthazar (I used to breakfast there almost every morning when I was at The Wall Street Journal, to the point where I didn’t have to order), and more, it wasn’t always this way.
Between the ages of about eight and eleven we spent hours in Covent Garden poking around the shops in the colonnades – my mother used to get her hair cut at Trevor Sorbie – and so did we (our father was for a period, publisher of Hairdresser’s Journal) but, since I’ve lived in London as an adult, I’ve barely stepped foot in the Market, unless there was a fashion show during LFW in the Opera House, or I was hoofing it through, swiping anorak-clad tourists out of my path, en route to Long Acre on a Whistles mission.
Things are changing: Laduree’s opening was definitely the thin end of the wedge, and now that so many interesting restaurants are all opening up in the heart of Covent Garden, I can guarantee I’ll be haunting the place next year.
Especially with today’s announcement that Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack will be opening in the Market Building in mid-2013, the first-ever restaurant in the UK for his Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG). Mr Meyer is one of New York’s pre-eminent restaurateurs, known for his impeccable sourcing too. Amongst his portfolio are three of the most enduring’s excellent household name restaurants in the city: Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and The Modern. (The latter being one of my favourites in the city.)
But Shake Shack is a different beast altogether.
The first outlet opened in the shadow of skyscrapers and the FlatIron Building, inside the small but perfectly formed green space of Madison Square Park in 2004, and bills itself as a modern day “roadside” burger stand serving all-natural burgers, flat-top dogs, frozen custard, beer, wine and more.
There are now a bunch of Shake Shacks throughout the city – there’s even one at the new Yankees Stadium in The Bronx, which puts a new spin on sports catering, but on a nice day there’s still a mental line at the original Madison Park shack at peak times. (I used to go at 4pm or in the middle of ice-cold winters to ensure no queues.)
I first mentioned Shake Shack on LLG all the way back in 2007 when I wrote my first restaurant review round up of New York City and, checking my archives, it’s been a fairly constant presence in my New York adventures. That’s because, whilst I understand the burgers to be extremely good, I have a laser-guided lust thing with the Shroom Burger.
The Shroom Burger is a puck-shaped, deep fried and breaded portabello mushroom filled with an good inch of molten Muenster & Cheddar cheeses, enclosed with tomato & lettuce in the freshest, softest griddled potato bun. (The first time I bit into one back in 2007 I thought I was getting a bog standard vegeburger. Upon hitting the crispy, mushroom-y, cheesy heaven I actually groaned aloud in pleasure. Sorry, Philip.)
The French fries are crinkle cut for extra fluffy insides & perfectly crispy exteriors and, even having troughed down all those calories, it’s hard to resist the ludicrous Shack Attack: dense frozen chocolate custard blended with Valhrona chocolate pieces, fudge chunks, truffle cookie dough and chocolate sprinkles.
I do hope that they will be bringing over the Pooch-Ini too, as I feel Posetta Baddog would find this more than acceptable on a sunny spring day: Vanilla ice-cream, peanut butter & dog biscuits.
Do hurry up Mr Meyer. I can practically taste that molten cheese…