What is Smashburger?
Smashburger has been a hotly anticipated addition to the burger scene in Brighton; one which, unlike other American burger chains such as Five Guys and Shake Shack, many of us have not tasted or perhaps even come across before now. The brand new restaurant has been teasing us all over the last couple of months with its eye-grabbing signage, allowing glimpses into the open door throughout its fitting along North Street, but not giving away much else.
Only the second to hit the UK, Smashburger promises to bring a fresh approach to burgers in order to help us as a nation “burger better”, smashing beef patties down onto the grill to lock in flavour. So, when an opportunity to try out the new joint for free* arose, I wasn’t going to miss out on a chance to see whether or not Smashburger really mean business.
Like many other fast food chains, you place your order and pay at the till immediately before grabbing your drinks and taking a seat. Unfortunately, as this meal was part of a training exercise ahead of the grand opening, milkshakes were not an option this evening – but I did get to play with the spiffy soda machine and add raspberry syrup to my Sprite (so gross in hindsight).
Compared to some of the UK’s interpretations of an American burger joint, Smashburger has a cool and clean feel to it with sleek red and grey decor, low lighting and exposed brickwork to give an industrial edge to the place. Whilst a theme becoming more and more common with restaurants, it looks smart and it works.
As often happens with Brandon and I, we both ordered the same meal – two regular BBQ bacon and cheddar burgers topped with haystack onions, and two regular sides of Smashfries – fries tossed in olive oil, garlic and rosemary.
Before I go any further, I think I should first point out that both Brandon and I are quite the burger snobs and difficult to please, and of course this is just our opinion. Served on a greaseproof paper-lined tray, the food looks like it means business and the burgers certainly don’t hold back on the haystack onions. But several bites in told me there was nothing special about this burger, with no tenderness in the meat and the overwhelming flavours coming from the bacon and BBQ sauce. The cheddar was a little lost in the bun (no one puts cheddar in the corner) and my haystack onions became a little… congealed.
The fries however were crispy and addictive, I found myself going straight back to this over my burger and ended up abandoning the rest of the bun. It was a huge shame that milkshakes weren’t being served in full size too, as a sample of the vanilla Oreo milkshake told us that the experience could have redeemed a lot more with this. Made with Häagen-Dazs ice cream, these are thick, packed with Oreo cookies and topped with cream – naughty, but so good!
Aside from the tasty fries and promising milkshakes, we weren’t really impressed with Smashburger and I have to say it’s not something I would find myself craving. For us, it’s a no for a third place and I can’t imagine we’ll return unless someone comes to visit and really wants to try it out. Like I said, we are difficult to impress on the burger front so maybe our expectations are a little too high, but I feel like we’d been burgering well enough before Smashburger graced the city.
Something else worth mentioning is the real lack of wow-factor from the team here, which is a shame to say but everyone seemed so disinterested. Having recently experienced MOD Pizza, another US giant to hit the UK, Smashburger’s atmosphere was a little lacking and left us feeling disappointed. After several days into operating, we were expecting much more from Smashburger, but maybe service will improve.
If you’re looking for a new place to try that’s good for all the family, in a sleek setting and central to Brighton, Smashburger could be your third place. It is nice to see a new food contender opening up along North Street at least, and I’m also kinda glad that this place could persuade people to try something other than the all you can eat buffet several doors down.
*This meal was provided for free as a training exercise for the new team – however, all opinions are 100% my own (and some of Brandon’s!).
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