Last month, international burger chain ShakeShack opened on the first floor of St David’s 2 shopping centre, Cardiff – the first to open outside of London . Since then, the restaurant’s burgers have become practically famous amongst locals. It seems like almost the whole of Cardiff has fallen in love with ShakeShack’s American patties and crinkle-cut fries.
With a striking black and lime green front, at first impressions this is not your typical burger bar. Born out of a hot dog-cart in New York City’s Madison Square Park, ShakeShack is known for its 100% all-natural Angus beef burgers, griddled-crisp flat-top dogs, frozen custard (dense, frozen custard cream blended at high speeds), crinkle cut fries, beer and wine. This month, it introduced its first chicken burger to American stores in the form of the Chick’n Shack – crispy fried chicken fillet with pickles, lettuce and buttermilk herb mayo; I seriously hope this arrives in UK stores sometime soon!
At the launch party last month, I was lucky enough to sample some of ShakeShack’s menu. Pictured below, the cheeseburger (£5.50 single; £8.75 double) consists of a thick, meaty beef patty topped with melted American cheese, sliced gherkins, tomato, lettuce and onion, all wedged between a soft, fresh potato bread bun. Bacon can be added for £2, while Shack sauce and extra cheese each cost £1.
This was the best burger I’ve had in a long time, although it was a little on the small side. If I was to go again, I’d have to try the ‘shroom burger – a crispy, fried portobello mushroom topped with melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and ShakeShack sauce – this sounds like it could give Locke and Remedy’s infamous mushroom burger a run for its money!
The hot dogs (£4.50) are made using German, all-beef sausage, split and griddled-crisp and served in a soft bread roll, while the crinkle cut fries are deliciously crispy.
The menu is complemented by an extensive craft beer and wine list, featuring local brewers such as the Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. and Celt Experience Brewery, alongside ShakeShack’s own exclusive beer and wines. Pictured below is Tiny Rebel’s ‘Cwtch’, a Welsh pale ale that was recently named the Best Beer in Britain by the Campaign for Real Ale.
If you don’t fancy alcohol, opt for one of ShakeShack’s ‘concretes’ instead – dense, frozen custard blended at high speed with mix-ins. The menu includes three local varieties including the Cardiff Crunch-stellation (featuring Paul A Young chocolate chunks), Welsh Cake Jam (made using Welsh cakes from Fabulous Welshcakes) and Union Shack (containing chocolate brownie from St John Bakery).
- Why did you choose Cardiff as the first destination for a Shake Shack outside London? What I love about Cardiff is that it’s a city, but it has a kind of small-town feel to it. I’ve been here for a few days now and as I walk through the streets they are smaller than most big cities. I see a lot of the same faces through my travels and the city definitely has a nice community feel to it.What we like to do at ShakeShack is to bring people together over delicious, freshly prepared food, and when it’s done right it brings people from all walks of life together and enables them to sit down and connect with each other.
- What makes ShakeShack unique? We opened 11 years ago and we have always wanted to be a real community gathering spot. The burgers are universal and the milkshakes are universal but to be a little more contemporary we also offer our own beer, ShackMeister Ale (£5.50/pint) using a recipe developed with Brooklyn Brewery in New York.The beer was made to pair up with the Shack Burger and the brew caster is a genius. He uses a German hoff that has a bread-like taste to it and he makes a bitter beer because the burger consists of caramelised steak, tomato and somewhat of a sweet bun, so he makes a very bitter beer to complement it. That is actually the main beer for us, by Thornbridge Brewery – who are friends of Brooklyn Brewery – so it’s our recipe being made by our friends at Thornbridge.
- How do you ensure that all of the beef you use is 100% all natural-Aberdeen Angus? We began using 100% Aberdeen Angus when we first opened our restaurant in London three years ago. We could’ve shipped our meat over from the States but we thought, why? Let’s go to Scotland, let’s go to Aberdeen and get some amazing Aberdeen Angus. All of our meat is sourced from there, each animal has its own ‘passport’ to show where it’s come from. We work with an amazing cattle ranch and our butcher is actually the royal butcher, Aubrey Allen, the butcher to the queen, and the butcher used by Heston Blumenthal.What’s unique about our burger is that we actually use the entire steak; instead of taking the trimmings off, we actually use that to add flavour to the meat, especially the inter-muscular fat that’s woven through the steak, that’s what makes an excellent burger. All of the meat is ground fresh daily.
- Where did the idea for the frozen custard – the concretes – come from? Is this a popular dessert in the US? It’s not so much a big thing in the States actually; it comes from a small part in the mid-west, near Chicago. The frozen custard is made using fresh egg, not like ice cream which could be made weeks, months or even years in advance and left to sit in the freezer, hardening and developing ice crystals. It’s ultra rich, ultra creamy, smooth and very yummy… it makes excellent milkshakes. We blend it at a high speed while it’s still frozen with different mix-ins, like caramel sauce or chocolate hazelnut brownie.
- I notice that you do a Welsh Cake Jam concrete. When did you first try a Welsh cake? About a year ago. We started talking about opening a store in Cardiff and I got really excited. At first I tried the bara brith, but when I tried Welsh cakes I realised they had a better texture to stand up to the frozen custard. To keep a hyper local touch, instead of importing our ingredients over from the States, we decided to try and source them locally. We have a brownie on our menu that’s made for us by St John Bakery in Central London. I have a lot of respect for them and their brownies are the best I’ve ever tried in my life, so I thought, how about we take your brownie and sell it to our customers? It was such a success in London that we decided to bring it to Cardiff as well.
- I love that you have a dog’s menu. Does this mean that dogs are allowed in the restaurant and if so, how do other diners tend to react when they see a dog in the restaurant? Our original location in New York City is in Madison Square Park. We noticed that there were a lot of people walking their dogs and so we thought, why don’t we create something for the dogs to eat? It was a huge success, so we wanted to bring that to London. Our first venue in London opened in Covent Garden and so it was popular with people walking their dogs, so the dogs’ menu was successful their too. We do all-natural dog biscuits, it’s all high-quality. We give it to the customer to-go in a doggie bag. It’s all part of Shake Shack’s community nature.
- Does the menu change seasonally? How often do you tend to add new items? We change our menu every three months. We even change our lemonade; right now, we’re serving a cranberry and ginger lemonade to tie in with the holiday season, and then in 2016 we’ll probably switch to mango, and then by the time we get to the summer we’ll probably be doing a strawberry or blueberry lemonade.We do like to change with the seasons and we often develop special menu dishes around particular occasions. We have some very special stuff planned for next year, especially for February – I can tell you that we have some really exciting stuff planned for then! We never want to keep the menu static. My background comes from a fine dining restaurant in New York, so I’m always thinking of ways to make it better. It has to be different, it has to make people smile.
Well I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what ShakeShack have planned for February! Have you been to ShakeShack before? What did you think of it?
First Floor, St Davids 2 Shopping Centre
01923 555 173
I was invited to ShakeShack’s launch party as a guest and my food and drink was provided complimentary. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.