Homeward Bound, Five Guys, Lakeside, Essex

Outside Five Guys

Outside Five Guys

What I have learnt over the past six years with my other half is that when we go out for dinner, I could money on the fact that he will have a burger. If a burger is on the menu, it is almost as if his gaze is irresistibly drawn there, like a Star Trek style tractor beam, yanking his focus until the only decision is whether he opts for bacon inside his bun or not. When he heard that American haute fast food chain Five Guys was going to be hitting one of our local shopping centres in their food court, there was no question of us not visiting – it was only a matter of when.

Serving just burgers, hot dogs and chips, you know what you are getting when you go to Five Guys. Unpretentious and simplistic, Five Guys takes the classic burger fast food concept, gives it some pizzazz and a slick of cool and then you are left with a retro American diner experience that provides quality fast food – which could be said to be a rarity.

My Little Bacon Cheeseburger

My Little Bacon Cheeseburger

Five Guys screams American as soon as you look at it – the large light box style illuminated letters laid out against the floor at the front showcasing the name of the venue. Completely decorated in bright white tiles and brilliant red accents, it smacks of diners and cafes – casual eateries where you can chill with your mates and take your time over your tucker. Although in the food court area, Five Guys had its own exclusive seating area, adding to its importance. You could choose from traditional circular or square wooden tables surrounded by hard dining chairs, long-legged tables with high stool chairs or even a cosy booth if you fancied, as these were lined up against the back wall. The seating was rather packed in so you could tell how busy it must get during the course of the day – luckily we went later on a Friday evening so it was quite quiet.

When you arrive, the idea is you go to the till counter, order you food and receive a ticket. You then wait for your ticket number to be called before you pick up your ominous brown paper bag laden with meaty scented food. Pretty simple really. I was really looking forward to my meal – I had chosen the Little Bacon Cheeseburger and a bottled water, whilst Dan has a Bacon Cheeseburger and his younger sister went for a Cheeseburger. You can add whatever toppings you want for free, so I made use of this by adding lettuce, cooked onions and ketchup to my meal, whilst Dan and Jade just opted for the ketchup. Chips wise, we decided to share a small Cajun fries and a large Five Guys style. They both also went for the fizzy drinks refill. To be honest, I was staggered by how much our meal cost. Our three burgers, three drinks and two lots of chips came to £38 which sounds pretty extortionate for essentially just burger and chips. Amazed, we took a seat at a round table with hard chairs in the centre of the restaurant.

The cajun fries in the small container and what came from the bag...

The cajun fries in the small container and what came from the bag…

The refill drinks machine was a big hit however and worth Dan’s lighter wallet. He came back to the table proudly showcasing his raspberry coke, while Jade was sipping on a cherry vanilla coke. When they went back for seconds, Dan tried the unique orange coke flavour, while Jade swapped her drink for a vanilla sprite. The machines themselves were pretty dapper too – you could literally go up, add ice to your paper cup and then push a button to get what you wanted. You firstly chose which soft drink you wanted and then the machine displayed all of the flavours available. The novelty factor of the flavours was great fun and they spent ages debating which flavours to sample. Not being a fizzy drink girl myself, I just happily grabbed a straw to put in my water bottle.

When we picked up our brown paper bags, the first thing I noticed was the portion size of the chips. The chips came in cylindrical paper cups, similar to the drinks ones, filled to the brim with the skinny cut fries. However, the entire bottom of the bag was also coated in chips, we literally had chips everywhere. We only ordered a small portion of the Cajun fries, however the amount we had kicking around the bottom of the bad would easily have filled a second small chip cup plus extra, so needless to say, the portions there were very generous. The chips were skin on chips and skinny without being anorexic which was nice. They had a slight greasy texture and taste which oddly only enhanced they flavour rather than detracting from it. I much preferred the Cajun style chips with their vague orange dusting, as they had more flavour, being gently spiced without being overbearing and just having more about them than the normal versions. Although I still tucked into those too…

Inside Five Guys

Inside Five Guys

My burger was divine. The difference between the ‘Little’ burgers and the normal equivalents is that the ‘Little’ ones only have one burger, which sounds like the norm, right? Wrong – a Five Guys normal burger consists of two beef patties, double stacking it at as matter of course rather than a special request. I was glad of my normal sized burger and I loved the extra toppings I had requested, the onions beautifully caramelised while the lettuce added a nice crunch. The bacon wasn’t what I was expecting, but was still tasty. It was wafer thin and crispy in thin strips, like the ones I would expect to see criss crossed elegantly over American pancakes and drenched in maple syrup. The bacon added an extra crunch and a slightly smoky depth of flavour, which worked really well with the dense and wholesome squidge of the burger as well as the oozing layer of cheese.

Funky drinks cups

Funky drinks cups

The cheese layer was thin, and seemed to be a traditional bright yellow slice that you would whip from a packet, although it leaked attractively down the side of my meat. The bun was a normal white sesame seed job that was nice and warm and soft – just how I like my burger buns. The star of the compilation was undoubtedly the burger and you could really taste the quality of the meat. You could tell it was full on beef, cooked properly and wholesomely, with lovely juices mixing with my onions.

The burger was nicely presented as well, coming wrapped in silver paper, aimed to keep the food warm I presume. They had labelled each burger 1, 2 and 3, with the corresponding numbers thoughtfully on the receipt so that we could tell whose food was whose.

Although on the pricey end of the spectrum, we really enjoyed our Five Guys experience. It wasn’t fine dining and the menu is hardly varied but that isn’t what Five Guys is all about. Stripping back the fast food notion and adding a layer of quality and a veneer of good taste has made all the difference, taking inspiration from the American food scene to provide a fun and tasty meal that won’t take you two hours to devour. Perfect after a heavy day shopping, and with a Patisserie Valerie just a few steps away, you could even pick up dessert if you still have space.

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