The Restaurant: Grillshack, 61-63 Beak Street, London W1F 9SL.
The Hungry Ones:
Gemma and Claire ordered: Buttermilk chicken nuggets with smoked chilli mayonnaise, hamburgers with cheese and bacon, unlimited refills from the soda fountain.
When Grillshack first opened a few months ago, I couldn’t help but think that new burger restaurants of the same ilk were starting to reach their saturation point. As I was about to file it into my ‘one day’ pile, I became intrigued by the revelation that they are the first burger restaurant in London where you order your food by app. And the restaurant is a short walk from both Claire’s office in Mayfair and my office in Portland Place, so I decided to go. I downloaded the app on my phone in advance, thinking I could save some of my precious lunch hour by ordering in advance, only to realise that you could not place an order until you were inside the restaurant. There are also computerised screens inside for those who do not have a phone compatible with the app (which is free to download, by the way). Once seated, we put our order through, paid by card, and within a few minutes at the most, a waitress appeared with two frosted glasses for our drinks. We were instructed to help ourselves from the soda fountain and to revisit as many times as we liked. Who doesn’t love a free refill?
Unfortunately, that was where my love affair with Grillshack ended. First to arrive at our table was a bowl of buttermilk chicken nuggets, which were fine, if a little processed. If there was any smoked chilli in the mayonnaise it would take a more sophisticated palate than mine to detect it. The burgers arrived shortly after and were not up to the same standards as other nearby restaurants offering similar products and charging more-or-less the same. The patties were nicely seasoned and cooked a little rare in the middle, but were quite thin and reminded me a little of McDonalds quarter pounder, and the buns would have been acceptable were they not a little stale. Just as we were about to send the burgers back for not containing any bacon, we found it: a few small chunks nestled under a slick of melted cheese. We could overcome the shock of having no ketchup and mustard as standard as we could fetch some from the ‘help yourself to sauces’ stand, but we could not get past the fact that there were no pickles, either in the burger or as an optional extra. Even McDonalds give you a sodding gherkin.
It’s a shame, as I really like the concept of the place. As far as I’m concerned it has two big selling points: the convenience of the app and the bottomless sodas from a rather snazzy-looking fountain. There is something that gives me the overwhelming feeling that this is a rushed jump on the bandwagon, rather than a serious attempt to add something new and innovative to an already crowded market. People will go as a novelty and, due to its location, it will always attract tourists and passers-by, however it falls far short of its competitors and I would even recommend dining at the Byron across the street instead. Hopefully in time it will improve, but until then, it’s unlikely I will be going back.