It’s been a week since Five Guys opened in the Old Brewery Quarter, Cardiff , attracting attention from both the public and the press. When we visited the new burger restaurant a few days after it opened, it was jam-packed – we were lucky to get a table!
This is the 24th Five Guys restaurant to open in the UK, with two further restaurants opening soon in Greater London and another due to open in Glasgow (Braehead).
The story behind Five Guys
Five Guys began in Washington, DC in 1986 when Jerry and Janie Murrell gave their four young sons a choice: start a business, or go to college. The boys chose the business path and the family opened a takeaway burger joint in Arlington, Virginia. They served only hand-formed burgers, cooking them under a grill and serving them with freshly cut fries cooked in pure peanut oil. The small burger joint grew popular very quickly, with customers voting the burger ‘#1’ in the metro area.
The family continued to improve the restaurant right through to the 1990s, providing customers with an almost endless list of toppings to bulk up their burgers. Then, a fifth brother was born and as the family grew, so did the business; Jerry and Janie opened a further 4 restaurants to cater for customers.
In 2003, Jerry, Janie and the five ‘guys’ began offering franchise opportunities and sold options for over 300 units in less than 18 months.
Today, more than 20 years after Five Guys first opened, there are over 1,000 restaurants worldwide and over 1,500 units in development.
The ordering experience
To order your food, you wait in a queue and pay at a till before collecting a ticket to take to the collection point at the right of the tills. You can also order food online for collection from Five Guys, which is definitely a good idea if you’re visiting the Cardiff restaurant any time soon, as it’s new to the area and tends to get very busy.
The serving staff are really passionate and knowledgeable about the Five Guys brand, including the history of the business and the menu. The menu includes burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, fries, soft drinks (just about every kind you could think of), milkshakes and several alcoholic beverages (namely Budweiser, Brooklyn Lager and Corona). Simple, yet effective.
As you wait to collect your order, you can watch your food being prepared in the open plan kitchen. All food is prepared fresh daily, right down to the beef patties, which are made using only freshly rolled, stamped prime beef. This is why you won’t find any freezers in Five Guys restaurants, only fridges – nothing is ever frozen.
Within about 7 minutes, our order was ready and we went to find somewhere to sit (easier said than done!)
Having found an empty table in the outside dining area, we sat down and eagerly unwrapped our foil-covered burgers, tearing open our brown paper bags to get to our fries.
I ordered a cheeseburger (£8) with regular fries (£4). You can add as many toppings as you like, free of charge; I chose lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, relish and mustard. Wedged between a soft, sesame seed bap were two handmade meaty patties, each with plenty of bite, served with two thick slices of fresh tomato and crisp lettuce leaves.
The patties were cooked to perfection and had that delicious, smoky taste common to grilled food, while the cheese was placed in between each patty, allowing it to melt with the heat of the burger.
However, there was definitely room for improvement. Although the burger tasted fantastic, it looked slightly squashed when I unwrapped it from its foil and by the time I’d finished eating it, the bap was so soggy that it was almost falling apart. This was a little disappointing – if you pay £12 for a cheese burger and fries, you expect it to be amazing.
Meanwhile, the fries were definitely amongst the best I’ve eaten in my entire life – and that is no exaggeration! Fried in peanut oil, they were a deep golden brown in colour and had a crispy coating with a soft, smooth centre.
You can choose to have your fries served either Five Guys Style or Cajun Style – or, like us, ask for a tub of Cajun seasoning so that you can sprinkle some over your fries yourself to see if you like it. We really, really liked it. It was mildly spiced with a rich, aromatic flavour, giving the fries that added kick.
The portion size was reasonable, it’s just a shame the price wasn’t – £4 for a regular portion of fries is extortionate, no matter where they’re from.
My friend James ordered a bacon cheeseburger (£4.75), also with regular fries. This looked just as good as my burger and James was really impressed with both his burger and his fries, commenting that the bacon was deliciously crispy.
To wash down our burger and fries, we each ordered one of Five Guys’ famous milkshakes. These come in 10 different flavours including vanilla, peanut butter, chocolate, malted milk, strawberry, salted caramel, cherry, banana, Oreo cookie pieces and coffee. You can either choose just one, or choose a combination of several flavours, at no extra cost. Then, get this – if you like, you can add bacon to your shake! Yes, really. No, I don’t get it either…
I went for the peanut butter milkshake (on the left in the above photo), which was freezing cold as it contained fresh ice cream. It was smooth and creamy with just the right balance of peanut butter flavouring – not enough for it to taste sickly, but not so little that I could barely taste it either. It really was a lovely milkshake, and there was plenty of it.
Again, however, I’m going to have a rant about the price. £4.75 for a milkshake?! Okay, so it’s freshly made and it tastes out of this world. Personally, I don’t think that justifies charging almost a fiver for it.
As we ate our food, I couldn’t help but wonder how many calories were in our whole meals – burgers, fries and milkshakes. I was unable to find the calorie content for milkshakes on the Five Guys website, but I did manage to work out how many calories were in our burgers and fries. And it was shocking. My cheese burger and regular fries came in at over 1,800 calories, while James’ bacon cheese burger and regular fries amounted to a whopping 2,000+ calories. Including my milkshake, I’d consumed almost two days’ worth of calories (based on my usual allowance) in just one sitting!
James and I absolutely loved our first visit to Five Guys and we both plan on going there again in the future. The food tasted great and you can tell that the staff are happy in their work and passionate about the Five Guys brand.
However, there’s no denying that Five Guys is extremely overpriced and, unfortunately I get the feeling that it’s the brand name you’re paying for when you visit the restaurant, rather than the value of the food itself. For me, Five Guys is too expensive (not to mention calorific!) to dine out at on a regular basis, but it’s the perfect place to go for an occasional treat. Next time I’ll be trying out the bacon cheese dog, which costs £2.50 less than the cheese burger!
Have you been to Five Guys yet? Did it live up to your expectations? Feel free to jot down your thoughts in the comment box below.
The Old Brewery Quarter
St Mary’s Street
(029) 2022 1799
I was invited to Five Guys as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.