I like burgers. As a fussy-eating child they were one of the few things I ate happily and my similarly fussy son has also recently discovered a liking for them. They’re pretty simple and so pretty hard to get badly wrong – even a greasy hoof-burger from a stall at a football match is palatable enough if hot (the main problem with these come when they’re served in frozen buns which have disintegrated on defrosting).
So, before going to see Shaun the Sheep over half term, we were both quite excited to stop off at the newish Five Guys branch at the Kirkstall Leisure Complex in Leeds. Five Guys has a “back to basics” ethos – a short menu of burgers and hot dogs, self service soft drinks machines, spartan interiors with little decoration beyond immense numbers of reproduced reviews from various London and US local newspapers and little paper trays you can fill with monkey nuts to occupy yourself while waiting for your order to be cooked and called out. The posters proclaim the freshness of the produce – “these guys don’t even have freezer!”.
After some fun fiddling with the settings on the touch screen drinks dispenser (“yes, you can have peach Coke!”) we didn’t have long between grabbing napkins and ketchup and our order being ready. As for the food, it didn’t disappoint, the burgers were tasty and the meat quality good, the skin on chips were also pretty nice. The thing is, because burgers are fundamentally a simple food, they weren’t amazing. They were just very good burgers (not quite as good as Red’s True Barbecue according to OMB though, and not as good as the ones at the Busan BBQ pop up in Leeds Trinity Kitchen which I had a couple of weeks ago). Comparable to what is on offer (although rather less quickly) across the road at Rosie’s Diner. Rather more substantial and “natural” than those at the McDonald’s a hundred yards further away. But, as Giles Coren recently wrote, how fussy can you be about a burger?
And, for me, that was the real problem. While I can’t fault the food, the price just doesn’t seem worth it. OMB and I each had a “little bacon cheeseburger” (the standard size is a double burger- which was too big for either of us to fancy at the time), shared a regular portion of chips and had a fizzy drink each (free refills, but there’s a limit to how much fizzy pop even an 8 year old can put away – particularly if you want to make sure they don’t have to miss half the film they’re going to for comfort breaks). That came to £22.50. Or, nearly four times what we’d have paid had we gone to McDonald’s. At least if you go to Rosie’s, Red’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron or any one of the other “premium” burger chains that gets you table service and some sense of having gone out for a meal rather than merely refuelled somewhere more starkly utilitarian than a McDonald’s. But, as the place was pretty full in the middle of a gloomy, wet Sunday afternoon by a bowling alley and multiplex, perhaps I’m still a comparatively fussy eater.