Monday, January 27, 2014

London Guide: NYC in LDN

I spent some unplanned time in Covent Garden last weekend and got to enjoy the best of what New York City has to offer in London.

Living in Twickenham (the 'burbs on the outskirts of London), it's hard to drag me into Central London on the weekends without prior planning.  However, I got a call Saturday to have lunch on short notice at Shake Shack, and I quickly got on the train.

Shake Shack, one of the best fast food burger joints in America (that's a big statement, I know), opened a branch in Covent Garden last summer.  If you're an American expat or are otherwise in need of a bit of 'Merica, head there.

Shake Shake Covent Garden has the classic Shake Shack menu but with locally-sourced, British ingredients.  They've also added a few British-themed Concretes to the menu.  The burgers are everything that you would expect - a substantial, yummy fast food-style burger made with quality ingredients.  The fries are great too - both crispy (crinkled) and soft on the inside.  Shakes - fantastic.  K got the Sticky Toffee Concrete (the poor, British thing thought that the "custard" in "frozen custard" was English custard, not ice cream).  It a ton of syrups and chocolate candy in it and was very sickly, sweet.  Both K and I are serious sweet lovers, and this was just too much.

After lunch, I walked around Covent Garden and did a bit of shopping, before I was in serious need of a coffee.  I thought this was the perfect excuse to try out the Balthazar Boulangerie, another recent New York import to Covent Garden.  Next door to the Balthazar restaurant, the smaller boulangerie offers a variety of sandwiches, soups, breads, pastries, packaged goods and hot drinks.  There are a few seats to have lunch in the shop, as well.

Although it was really tempting to get something that I could eat right away, I ended up taking away two rhubarb, custard and pistachio brioche tarts for after dinner.  They were delicious.  The rhubarb was tart and gave the tart a bit more depth.  My efforts in getting something for later paid off when I received a huge free sample of dark chocolate covered honeycomb (US read: sponge candy).  I'm going to have to exercise some will power to prevent myself from finding excuses to go to Covent Garden just to stop by Balthazar.

Ratings: (numbers out of 10, £ out of 4) 

Shake Shack
Food: 8 (on a scale of similar burgers)
Atmosphere: 7 (simply because you dine on the Covent Garden piazza)
Service: 7
Price: ££
Overall experience: 8

Balthazar Boulangerie
Food: 9
Atmosphere: 9
Service: 9 
Price: ££
Overall experience: 9

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